On March 27th, 2020, the CARES Act was enacted into law by President Trump after passing both government chambers. This legislation, which is nearly two and a half times larger than the global recession stimulus package, authorises the government to spend two trillion dollars in various ways to ‘aid’ the country amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Provisions in the act range from relaxing tax and loan requirements to allocating funds for small businesses, the medical industry, and others deemed important with controls. However, it also allows the Secretary of the Treasury to make economic decisions of lending and guarantees to various groups. With at least $500b being allocated for corporate assistance and the President claiming he could block attempts to investigate aspects of spending, many critics have justifiably labelled this as a terrible corporate bailout bill.
The most vocal opposition to this third bill in the House, Congressman Thomas Massie, attempted unsuccessfully to block its passage by requesting a recorded vote. Opposed to many of the details and the unconstitutionality of the process, he was obfuscated by both parties who recalled members to ensure a quorum for a voice vote. Widely condemned by various leaders, Speaker Pelosi claiming he was a “dangerous nuisance” and Trump wanting to kick him out of the Republican Party, Massie argued it was unfair Congress had to be dragged to do its job while ‘essential’ workers continued to work during the pandemic. In a series of tweets the following day, Massie further criticised the process by highlighting the lack of transparency in the inclusion of provisions, many by Democrats, for non-emergency funding of programmes, the arbitrary nature of allowing the Federal Reserve to print money thus gradually increasing debt without oversight, and the fact that most of the trillions won’t go to the struggling households who could barely make ends meet before this event. Despite criticism from the President (and previously a call requesting that he would not ‘delay’ the bill), Massie believed he helped Trump in negotiating further stimuluses as his opposition would make Democrats cautious in slipping unnecessary things in while preventing a precedent of passing consequential bills without any vote.
Politics aside, the creation of this stimulus bill reveals and projects an extremely unimaginative and dire situation for the United States moving forward. As I’ve previously written about, the country is not in a good way financially and adding to the already incomprehensible debt of $23.8 trillion through further deficit spending will not have any positive outcome regardless how bad COVID-19 impacts upon life in the end. That does not mean the government should do nothing, but the United States’ spending addiction was a reliable indicator to how badly the country would deal with a health crisis. This same argument could be made for several responses by the government for solving major crises since the turn of the century. The ‘War on Terror’ seemed reasonable to most government representatives until it ballooned into the Iraq War and other military misadventures. Similarly, the last bailout response during the global recession and the sustained repression of economic forces, to prevent future instability, has meant because of this pandemic that all those responses too are failures. This latest response to prop up the economy will not matter if industries like that of air travel fail to recover and need another bailout in two years. The end impact will be increasing the already great societal disharmony present (from the other mistakes this century and the last) in that this is “the biggest transfer of wealth in human history” without any accountability to who voted for it as Massie rightly argued against this bill.
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