Last week and this week, the major political parties held their conventions to formally nominate their candidates for President. While the professional politician class of both parties are preparing to spend record amounts on political campaigns this year, a large part of the rest of American is suffering.
The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetimes (and that last 100 years for that matter). And in the United States, lock downs led to the economy contracting 33% in the second quarter—a third of the economy simply disappeared. Businesses have shuttered, many for good. Small businesses, making up almost half of the economy have been especially hard hit, but even some large household names have filed for bankruptcy. In human terms, all that led to an official unemployment rate of 15%, the highest since the 1970’s. Since the official rate only counts those looking for jobs, not those that have been temporarily furloughed, the actual number of people without jobs was closer to 24%,, a quarter of the workforce in the country.
To help with this, Congress passed a law that provided for supplemental unemployment benefits for laid off workers, and assistance to business if they would keep workers on their payrolls. And the government put a hold on all evictions for people not able to pay their mortgage or rent. At the time, we didn’t know how long the pandemic would last and so these provisions expired on July 31.
But we are still battling the pandemic and the economy is still suffering. Though as lock downs have eased in many places, some business has picked up but the economy is still suffering. And so are people. New applications for unemployment benefits are hovering around 1 million a week. Think about that: a million more people a week are losing their jobs.
And there is no new relief bill that has been passed. Everyone knew that these stop gaps were due to expire on July 31, yet our leaders have gotten nothing done.
As a sitting President, for Trump to not have a package ready to go when previous pandemic relief measures expired is inexcusable (the President did not release his proposal until after July, after unemployment and business assistance measures expired).
As Speaker of the House, for Nancy Pelosi to declare a recess (read ‘vacation’) and go home without having anything in place is inexcusable. Oh, Nancy Pelosi called Representatives back to Washington last week to find $25 billion for the Post Office for the next several years, but to find money to help unemployed workers trying to pay the mortgage? No, she wouldn’t do that.
Not all the money ($2 trillion) from the initial relief package was spent. So President Trump did issue an executive order to take the money left and continue some benefits. (His order is likely unconstitutional, as the President can’t spend money by himself without Congress. But since it’s an election year, it looks like no one will challenge it.) But because of the administrative problems with an executive order, the money is still not getting to the people who need it a month later, and people are suffering at the hands of the very governments that ordered the closures and lock downs Additionally, the money is estimated to run out within 3-4 weeks and so by the time that states are able to ‘catch up’ any supplemental unemployment benefits, there will again by no money.
And all of this while politicians are projected to spend more on political campaigns this year than ever before. (As an aside, that is one indicator that it is the lower income, those that can least afford it, which have been hardest hit in the pandemic.) Politicians of both parties say they want to help people, but it has become clear that’s just talk.
Pelosi and Trump need to be in a room until this is hammered out. Yeah, they can’t stand each other, I get it. Which is one reason they should be locked in so that maybe their mutual dislike will force them to get a deal just to get away from each other.
From the people’s perspective, the Trump Administration has a lower dollar amount saying that there is money left from the original bill that can be spent first. Pelosi wants a higher dollar amount to bail out state and local governments, as well. Bottom line is that they both can agree on at least a lower number and then argue about the rest later. But that’s not the Washington way. And that’s one good reason we should have term limits so that we can change ‘the Washington way’ every few years.