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Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer postponed lawmakers’ return to Washington DC, citing concerns about coronavirus transmission. Congress should stay out of Washington DC a lot longer. Even until next year.
The primary reason isn’t because they, like health-care workers or truckers or grocery store employees or pastors, might catch coronavirus doing their jobs. The primary reason is that when they “do something,” Congress usually hurts the country far worse than if they just took naps in the closet or played cards all day, like my husband’s coworkers at a union-run former workplace.
The nation should have learned this from activist responses to the Great Depression, which we now know made the depression longer and harder. It also created expectations, institutions, and ways of life that have upended our exceptional system of self-government. Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is as determined as President Franklin D. Roosevelt to exploit this crisis for political gain, on the well-founded calculation that if Democrats ask Republicans to unleash a horde of locusts, they’ll agree to half the locusts. Maybe even three-quarters!
Despite failing so far to use the pandemic to get race and sex quotas for corporate boards, insane emissions requirements on airlines, more money for Democrat politicking funneled through unions, student loan bailouts, and bigger tax credits for solar panels, Democrats have already commandeered it to send pork to the Kennedy Center, bail out the U.S. Postal Service, get raises for Congress as 26 million Americans filed for unemployment, fund PBS stations, and upcharge for refugee resettlement.
And they’re just getting started. Pelosi has started talking about moving beyond blanketing the nation with deficit-funded checks into a “guaranteed income.” Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) propose to “fund a portion of a company’s payroll costs, up to $90,000 per worker who has been laid off or furloughed.”
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has proposed a similar idea. “Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) has proposed a bill that would cover 100 percent of salaries for at least three months.” Shifting American workers to federal welfare akin to the make-work Civilian Conservation Corps of Roosevelt’s day (but without the bridges) could cost another trillion dollars. At least, initially. Since the small business bailout fund has been replenished twice and counting, we shouldn’t expect Congress to turn off the firehose any time soon. It’s a national emergency, you see.
“The political Left and the ruling class which it leads sees the pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to break ordinary people’s resistance to its power,” notes Claremont Institute Senior Fellow Andrew Codevilla.
Democrats say they want future taxpayers to also bail out states and local governments, many of which have grossly mismanaged their finances for decades despite unpredecented economic growth since World War II. It’s fundamentally immoral to make Kansas, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, and Indiana bail out California, New York, and Illinois, the latter of whom’s impending fiscal apocalypse was clearly laid out long before the Chinese government started pretending coronavirus didn’t exist.
A bailout would also reward the states that keep their citizens out of work longer regardless of what local disease transmission rates look like. As always, paying people to be laid off will mean more people getting laid off. California and New York’s governors will have no compunction about forcing their entire states to stay out of work for months and months, even in the majority of areas where hospitals are empty, especially if they expect Congress will make the rest of us pay their citizens not to work.
Make no mistake: Nancy Pelosi has got state Democrats’ backs. It’s doubtful Republicans have everyone else’s.
“Hoyer said the House would not return until they are ready to take up the Democrats’ next major coronavirus relief package, CARES 2,” Politico reported. “There will not be a[nother] bill without state and local” bailouts, Pelosi told reporters. “There will be a bill, and it will be expensive.”
Nobody should expect Republicans to resist tossing loads of freshly printed deficit dollars out of helicopter windows, either. If the last century of political experience hasn’t taught us that, just note how they’re talking and acting about the lockdown.
“Every Republican including the president of the United States has stated very clearly to people like Schumer and Pelosi that there’s probably going to have to be a ‘Phase 4’ [bailout],” senior Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “Grassley theorized that if conditions were to improve, President Trump’s ‘infrastructure program’ would be ‘something that’s legitimate to talk about not directly related to the economy the way it is right now.’”
President Trump told reporters he’s open to state and local bailouts despite concerns states like “New York and New Jersey were in a lot of trouble long before the plague came.” He also floated a trial balloon on Twitter:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of the few Republicans who has so far suggested not accelerating the federal money printer, directing states and municipalities to the fiscally more prudent path of bankruptcy that will motivate them to avoid imprudent spending, but it’s not clear he’ll stand firm.
“This is Mitch McConnell, who said on the floor of the Senate there is no way we will do anything but the $250 billion” in additional small business bailouts, Pelosi retorted, “Now, we are up to $480” billion in this week’s bill.”
Meanwhile, out here in the real world, financial analysts are noting that the protracted economic shutdown for a hospital surge that isn’t happening will cause an recession up to three times worse than President Obama’s. Because every government bailout cent comes from future workers, shifting private workers onto taxpayers’ balance sheets is economic cannibalism. And Congress is gorging itself on us.
“During the last two months, Congress has passed $3.6 trillion in stimulus spending, with more probably on the way,” writes Yahoo! finance columnist Rick Newman. Atop increasing the federal deficit — or the gap between what Congress takes in taxes and spends in just one year — to $4.2 trillion, the coronavirus helicopter cash so far is “is projected to add nearly $8 trillion to the national debt, pushing the debt held by the public to $41 trillion within a decade, or 128% of the economy. This would exceed the national debt at the height of World War II,” according to a new Manhattan Institute estimate.
All in three months, while the United States engaged WWII for five years plus our postwar reconstruction of the entire world. More than 400,000 Americans died in that war, many multiples what are now estimated to die here from coronavirus.
Government debt and deficits are not a mere money issue. Human lives depend on them. Sixty-four million Americans get taxpayer-subsidized old-age health care from Medicare. Sixty-nine million Americans are subsidized by taxpayers on Social Security. Americans pay for the health care of 64 million Americans through Medicaid.
These three massive welfare programs are by far the major drivers of state and federal spending, debt, and deficits. Pre-coronavirus, Medicaid was projected to begin running out of funds to pay its expenses by 2026. Social Security was projected to do the same by the mid-2030s. Now, that will happen much faster.
“The $8 trillion coronavirus tab represents as much new borrowing as Washington had been projected to cover in the next six years,” the Manhattan Institute analysis says. “That essentially moves up the previous projections of the federal debt by six years and gives lawmakers six years less to avert a potential debt crisis in which rising debt and interest costs would overwhelm Washington’s ability to tax or borrow.”
Hundreds of millions of Americans get essential health care from these programs that Congress is effectively cannibalizing for the coronavirus panic. That’s to say nothing of the pressure these bailouts put on every other dollar federal and state governments spend, on things like education and infrastructure. The kids need the best education they can get to pay off all the debt Congress has put on their shoulders, not to be kicked out of school indefinitely while their parents are put on the dole. These bailouts are simply not sustainable. To act like they can continue is a massive failure of leadership.
In the name of keeping our nation safe, Congress is not only firebombing the engines that produce the revenue that sustains all government spending — commerce and working-age Americans — the lockdowns are firebombing our health infrastructure. Health-care layoffs have driven the mass unemployment in the services sector that lockdown has hit hardest: “Nearly half of all medical practices have temporarily furloughed staff, while 22% have laid people off permanently.”
While the rest of us get back to work and spend decades mopping up their spending binge, Congress should stay furloughed for as long as possible. Any more of their kind of “help,” and we’ll never recover.