The GOP coronavirus relief package is a dream for big corporations, and a nightmare for struggling Americans

donald trump mitch mcconnell

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Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell

  • While the President says he wants to help Americans workers through the coronavirus, behind the scenes his party is crafting legislation that would leave the least fortunate behind.
  • Republicans are working on an aide package that would send cash payments of up to $1,200 to some workers. But to Americans who don't pay, or pay very little income tax payments would decrease to as low as $600. Some Republicans are actively lobbying against cash payments entirely.
  • This is appalling. The bill features a bunch of dreams-come-true for big corporations too.
  • This isn't just cruel, it's bad economics. The more people have to pay bills and spend as normally as they can now, the easier it will be to get the economy rolling again with this is over.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

At a press conference on Thursday, President Donald Trump reiterated that his administration wants to put workers first in its efforts to mitigate the economic devastation caused by the spread of coronavirus.

And while that is ideal, his party is crafting legislation that does just the opposite.
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The administration on Tuesday said they were crafting a rescue package of at least $1 trillion which included plans to send checks to Americans "in about 2 weeks," according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

But Mnuchin's two weeks turned into "before the end of April" in a meeting with Senate Republicans immediately following the press conference. After that it went back to early April, but the payment - at least for poor Americans - became less generous.

According to a bill released Thursday, Republicans are now talking about prioritizing money for "taxpayers" (by which they mean only income tax, not things like sales tax which all Americans pay). Under this plan, Americans who make less than $75,000 would get up to $1,200 while poor families who pay less in taxes would get $600.
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It's also been reported that GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and soon-to-be White House Chief of Staff Rep. Mark Meadows are actively trying to convince Trump to reject these cash payments all together.

This idea is ludicrous, stingy, and harmful to our economy and society in crisis.In fact there are a bunch of ideas in this bill that would do nothing to help struggling Americans:
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  • The bill waives nutrition requirements for meals for senior citizens - the population most likely to get sick and end up needing care.
  • The bill offers a pathetic $10 million for minority businesses, which Business Insider's small business reporter Dominick Reuter roughly calculated, could round out to about $2 a business.
  • And of course, in the Senate Republican bill big corporations get a huge tax cut. In fact, they would pay far less tax on their foreign entities. Making them bring cash home from abroad was one of the selling points of the GOP tax cut that was passed at the end of 2017. Corporate lobbyists have been working against it ever since. Now, in the middle of a crisis, they got it.

All of that is stomach churning, but the worst part is what will happen to low income families. Punishing Americas poorest at a time like this is not only callous, but would slow our economy's recovery. If there's anything we've learned from China's experience with coronavirus, it's that you want to keep the economy as going as normally as possible while people are practicing social distancing. That means ensuring that people can pay as many bills as possible and that, when the social distancing period is over, people have money in their pockets to spend again.

We need to be generous to *everyone right now. It's the only way we're going to get through this with minimal damage. Unemployment claims are about to explode, with data from only 15 states putting them somewhere around 600,000 and the possibility that as many as a million people could file for unemployment insurance over the next week. Wall Street is now coming to terms with the idea that this could be the worst global recession since WWII.

House Democrats are trying to put together a more generous plan, offering Americans $2,000 a month with an additional $1,000 for every child until the crisis is over. This is more like it. But all of this needs to move faster. We don't have time for callous proposals, we have to do right by Americans right now.
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Trump's party should put our money where his mouth is and actually help all American workers through this calamity, not grandstand on ideology to hurt the poor.

*Except companies that spent all their cashflow on stock buybacks during boom times and are now asking for a bailout. The President said on Thursday that they should be treated differently from companies that invested their money. I agree. They shouldn't be allowed to do stock buybacks if they accept taxpayer money, and their executive compensation should be regulated.
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This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
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