House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced another $3 trillion in spending as the Democrats’ latest response to the coronavirus pandemic. At more than 1,800 pages, the mammoth legislation is a cynical left-wing wish not rooted in reality. It demonstrates that the Democrats are irresponsible and unfitted to govern at a time of crisis.
Some $2.9 trillion in spending already out the door means that by next year, the federal debt is likely to be higher than the record set in World War II — a milestone that wasn’t supposed to be reached until more than a decade from now.
Now, Pelosi wants to pile on another $3 trillion on top of that record profligacy. For that amount of money, Washington could simply send out a $10,000 check to every person in the United States or $23,000 checks to every household. Either of those plans would be simpler and more effective than what Pelosi has in mind.
This bill includes a $1 trillion bailout for state and local governments with no consideration for how responsible those states were in managing finances before the coronavirus hit. The bill would also funnel money to rescue union pension funds that were already failing and would almost certainly use their sudden solvency to go back to the irresponsible ways that necessitated their rescue.
The bill also proposes extending the weekly $600 in enhanced unemployment payments on top of existing unemployment through next January — a surefire way to keep people unemployed through the election. Already, businesses are struggling to rehire workers who now find themselves better off financially if they remain unemployed. It is one thing to enhance payments temporarily to help people pay bills. That was the purpose of providing relief. But a policy that leaves workers perpetually better off without jobs would create a sustained disincentive to work, crippling efforts to reopen the economy. It will also keep people detached from employers for a longer period of time, making it harder for the economy to recover. That is presumably the cynical goal that Pelosi has in mind.
In addition to enhanced unemployment benefits, the bill would hand out another round of $1,200 checks and would spend another $175 billion providing housing relief. But isn’t the whole point of the checks and enhanced unemployment to make sure people can pay rent and mortgages? Either checks or enhanced benefits would do the job, but there is no need for both. The Pelosi bill would also increase food stamp benefits, channel money into the U.S. Postal Service, and support voting by mail.
Democrats naturally loaded up the bill with their broader social justice agenda, including having banking regulators release an “annual diversity and inclusion report.” The legislation would allow cannabis businesses to have more access to loans and banking. By Democrats’ own description, the bill “also requires reports to Congress on access to financial services and barriers to marketplace entry for potential and existing minority-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”
Perhaps most egregiously, Pelosi tried to sneak in a provision that would restore the state and local tax deduction for two years that was capped by the 2017 tax reform bill. The SALT deduction was always an atrocious policy for wealthy high-income earners in high-tax, Democrat-run states. More than half of the benefit of restoring SALT would go to the top 1%, and 96% of it would go to the top one-fifth of earners. Democrats were never sincere when they talked about making the rich pay their fair share of taxes — only the rich not living in blue states.
It’s difficult to imagine a policy that would provide less relief to those affected by the coronavirus than one that targets the cash of wealthy people living in big homes with high property taxes. But that would be a huge benefit for Pelosi’s California and other districts filled with rich Democratic donors.
We supported previous efforts to cushion the blow for workers and businesses because the pandemic was a unique situation during which temporary government action obstructed commerce for the sake of public health. But this crisis should not be a blank check for Pelosi and her party to advance a liberal agenda that was stalled. For her to treat it that way evinces a deep unseriousness and irresponsibility.