All of our vital products might be made in China, but all of the GOP policy decisions are now made by Nancy Pelosi. Not only do Republicans, including the president, give in to every Pelosi spending bill, they are now allowing her to use a public health crisis to increase spending on welfare even more without getting anything in return to address the underlying security problems with China that have caused this crisis in the first place.
It’s truly shocking how Democrats are able to consistently get nearly 100 percent of what they want in any critical legislative fight, even though they only control the House. Late on Friday, all but 55 Republicans supported the Pelosi bill, which increases spending on food stamps, unemployment benefits, and Medicaid and requires businesses to provide paid family leave (but only certain companies). This is on top of suspending student loan interest “until further notice” aka indefinitely and the Federal Reserve pumping more monetary morphine into the economy. There is no CBO score estimating how much this will cost nor any idea how this will help save lives and heal the economy while dealing with the source of the China virus problem.
At some point, if Republicans can’t provide a bold alternative, we need to ask: Why even have a Republican Party? Republicans talk tough against the Democrats whenever it doesn’t matter, but every time the ball is actually in play to pass major legislation during our most challenging moments, they sign on to whatever the Democrats want.
Which leads us to the most salient question in this debate. It seem like Democrats, congressional Republicans, and President Trump all agree that spending and debt are risk-free and that it’s great for the economy and will somehow solve a biological problem. So why stop at this price tag? Why not pass a trillion-dollar bill? A two-trillion-dollar bill? Why not mail a $10,000 check to every American family? They are telling us the debt is somehow not a problem, so why not spend even more for an even greater “stimulus”?
What is so bizarre about this “stimulus” bill is that this is not even like the 2008 financial crisis. This is a logistical problem because cities are shutting down all public gatherings. Kids are off school, so even those whose places of employment are still operational cannot go to work. It’s a matter of getting rid of the virus, and more importantly, the fear surrounding it, and then the economy will go back to normal over time. At that point we can assess the damage done by these weeks of curtailed economic activity. But until then, paying people to stay home will only incentivize and draw out the problem.
Also, any response to this crisis should be universal, focusing on the needs of the whole of the people in terms of health care access and access to the supply chain of food and provisions. Thus, it should focus on de-regulation, not just welfare or provisions for certain businesses. The Democrat bill would give the USDA $1 billion on top of record funding for major food programs to increase monthly food stamp benefits. It would also put in place plans to fund and deliver school breakfast and lunch, day-care meals, and summer food programs during school cancellations. The bill also adds $500 million to the already-record funding levels of the WIC program.
Real leadership would provide federal legislation that would replicate what Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is doing in his state by easing trucking regulations, to ensure that supplies can be delivered to the stores quicker, and health care regulations, to ensure we optimize all of the medical staff we have. The focus should be on ensuring universal access to provisions, not just free stuff for some, a perennial goal that liberals bring out so as not to let a crisis go to waste.
The Pelosi pander bill also creates a mandate requiring businesses with 50-500 employees to offer 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who stay home to quarantine. Part of the reason why it’s so dumb to pass something like this so early, even if one is sympathetic to sending people money for time off, is because they haven’t thought through the unintended consequences. For example, in their haste to virtue-signal over helping “small businesses” with under 50 employees, many companies near that cutoff will be incentivized just to lay people off to cut costs.
Then, ironically, the bill drops the mandate for paid leave once a company is larger than 500 employees. So, they exempt the biggest companies but not the small to mid-sized ones, the exact opposite of what Democrats are messaging. The goal of any relief is to keep these small businesses running, yet they are ensuring that there will be no jobs from which to take leave! These are the very companies that have gotten hit by Obamacare spiking the cost of employer-provided insurance plans.
It’s clear that Senate Republicans will pass this bill with just as much panic-driven pandering as House Republicans. But once you are giving the Democrats more welfare spending, why not also demand provisions that actually address the China virus itself? For example, our immigration policies that make us vulnerable to Chinese nationals spreading the virus here like they did in northern Italy, where over 300,000 transient Chinese nationals reside. We must also address what has led to the outsourcing problem that allows China to control our entire supply chain of medicines and other vital goods. Finally, what about working with other countries to punish China for lying about coronavirus and covering up the problem until it was too late?
To that end, Republicans in the Senate should amend the bill as follows:
If Democrats are going to use this crisis to promote welfare spending they’ve always sought, then Republicans should use this crisis to promote deregulation of supply lines and immigration policies that directly speak to the issue at hand. Also, if we are going to spend all this money, why not cut spending elsewhere? Sen. Rand Paul has a prudent idea of using cuts to foreign aid to aid our own country in a time of need.
Finally, this crisis is a great reminder of why we need to actually cut spending and welfare when the economy is robust, rather than running up the credit card. Public funds need to be conserved for exactly this sort of situation.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.