By John F Di Leo -
What should a proper Covid-19 stimulus bill look like?
Well, the one thing we know for sure is that the current one isn’t it. After nine to ten months of partial to complete shutdowns, $600 per person isn’t enough to provide much help.
President Trump is right to press Congress for a higher figure. Government caused this problem, so it makes sense for government to do something to help solve it.
That being said, however, what is the right “something”, both short term and long term?
Short term, an infusion of cash in the form of a tax credit for individual Americans does make sense. But how much should it be?
First, consider it from the recipient’s perspective. $600 is different to every American. For some, it represents a month’s rent. For others, it’s just a quarter of a month’s rent. For others, it’s just a tenth of a month’s mortgage-plus-property-tax payment. It is therefore quite a significant amount for some people, an amount so low it’s not even a drop in the bucket to others.
It’s similar to the ongoing debate about the idea of a national minimum wage. With rent, utilities, tax rates, and transportation costs so varied from coast to coast, and from city to country, a single national number cannot possibly do, across the board, what the minimum wage activists desire. What $10 or $15 per hour can buy in a small town in southern Illinois is completely different from what that same wage can buy in the city of Chicago.
So too, a $600 check in the hands of those two residents represents a different level of aid. And it’s not just geographical. The person who lost a minimum wage job did not lose as much in the shutdown as the entrepreneurs or other small businessmen whose whole businesses were radically shrunken or even destroyed by the shutdowns. Many small businessmen had worked for decades to build their stores, restaurants, or service businesses, and were wiped out by these months of unconstitutional closures.
For every person who lost a few thousand dollars in income this year, there are others who lost hundreds of thousands or even millions. There are businesses that used to not only provide for the owners and their families, but also for many employees and their families, all of whom are now wiped out.
When the economy is reopened, many of these businesses will not, having lost too much to ever open their doors again. That means these men and women will never be able to rehire the hostesses and cooks, or the laborers and salesmen, or the buyers and managers who used to populate their businesses. They will all be out of work, because the lockdowns destroyed their sponsor, the courageous entrepreneur who had employed them all before.
What would be a fair stimulus check for them? Think of the restaurant or karaoke bar that can’t just pivot to the carry-out model. Think of the retail store that can’t just pivot to the mail-order model. What’s the right check to send the small business that used to pay thirty thousand a month in rent and utilities, and hundreds of thousands a month in salaries and taxes for its staff? The family that owned that business has now lost it all. Is a $600 check anything but a slap in the face to them? What should it be?
But we should also look at it from the perspective of the federal government. What can we afford? If we’re going to write checks out of the federal treasury, how much money do we have in there to split up? Well… as we should all know by now… there’s nothing in there to split up. Nothing at all. The federal government is in debt up to our eyeballs. The federal government has already promised away its full income for the next hundred years. We have a national debt, when unfunded obligations are included, in the hundreds of trillions of dollars.
There is no stack of cash in the safe to divvy up between worthy Americans. No matter how much they may deserve it, the US government is broke.
So, yes, we’re going to write some checks. Yes, we will be sending out a stimulus. That's the political reality of it all. But we must never forget where that check comes from: it’s being drawn on the future earnings of our children and grandchildren. That $600 – or $1200 or $2000 or whatever it ends up to be – is coming straight out of your future grandchild’s future shredded paycheck.
Spend it wisely.
What we ought to do is move beyond the dollar figure and think about its causes, because that IS something that the federal and state governments can do something about, if they have a spine.
Government did this to us, so government should make amends. This much is true. But as we’ve seen, it’s impossible for government to make amends properly and fairly by direct cash payments.
So what else can government do?
Well, one thing is to look at the cause of the virus itself. It was developed in Chinese labs and got out somehow – we're still not 100% sure how, whether it was a careless or intentional release, whether it was expected to stay local and got out of hand, or if it was intended to get out all along, and how many people and agencies were involved in the original coverup, the original suppression of the news about it. Was it just a local bioweapon laboratory in Wuhan that bears the full responsibility? Or the politburo in Beijing too? Frankly, we know the World Health Organization (WHO) provided considerable cover for China in those early months. How much? And how much damage – in both human lives and economic wreckage – can be laid at the feet of the Chinese government’s and the WHO’s decision to keep the news as secret as possible until after the Chinese New Year?
A real stimulus package would therefore include some kind of retribution against these two major foreign actors – the government of Mainland China and the non-governmental organization (NGO) known as WHO. How much retribution? What kind of penalty would be appropriate? That’s a matter for a national debate.
Next, we should recognize what did the damage, besides the virus itself. The Wuhan Flu (or Covid-19, or China Virus, whatever you choose to call it for political reasons) has been devastating in terms of direct human damage, killing tens of thousands of Americans and injuring (through severe reactions and ongoing, possibly permanent health problems) hundreds of thousands more. But the virus didn’t do all the damage.
The overreaction to the virus has clearly caused far more damage than the virus itself did. The overreaction – from cities mandating the public and private wearing of next-to-useless masks to whole states shutting down their restaurants, theaters, schools and factories, even churches and sports arenas, off and on, month after month, from March to the present and likely beyond.
It is not the virus alone, but the overreaction to it that threw millions out of work, destroyed businesses that people had spent lifetimes to build, robbed a nation of a whole year of their lives. What will we do about that?
A real stimulus package would take into account the fact that there is no such thing as a “pandemic clause” in the Constitution: governments otherwise banned from tyranny cannot practice it anytime they want just by identifying a virus and declaring “Pandemic!” the way a medieval criminal might grab hold of a nearby church’s doorway or altar and shout “Sanctuary!”
We have seen governors – from California to Michigan, from Illinois to New York – make up executive powers out of thin air and issue mindless, devastating orders to throw their own constituents out of work, to cost a whole class of Americans the businesses that they and their forefathers worked so hard to build, often over generations of work. We have seen them use this excuse to do everything from close down productive, law-abiding employers, to building illegal mail-in and ballot-harvesting tools into their elections so that corrupt party hacks could more easily, and more blatantly, steal the 2020 election.
A real stimulus package would use the 14th Amendment to reiterate a too-often-forgotten fact: that the Bill of Rights applies to the states as well. It’s not just Congress that’s banned from taking your guns, closing your churches, denying freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. All levels of government must respect the principles of liberty that our Founding Fathers won for us. It’s time we reminded the petty dictators of our state capitols and city halls of that fundamental fact.
In short, a real stimulus package would reopen America, Now.
And it would set a path forward to prosecuting the tyrants who have exceeded their authority in implementing unconstitutional orders, all over the country.
And perhaps most of all, a real stimulus package would put new protections in place for the American people, so that no “health crisis” – or environmental crisis, or psychological crisis, for that matter – is every able to be used for such corrupt purposes again.
This would require a national debate. Yes.
And it’s one that we do desperately need to have.
Copyright 2020 John F Di Leo
John F Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer, writer and actor. A former vice president of the Illinois Small Business Men’s Association and a one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Organization, his columns have been regularly found in Illinois Review since 2009. John is the author of The Tales of Little Pavel, a collection of his semi-fictional articles exploring vote fraud in America that originally ran in Illinois Review (the stories are fiction; the subject matter of each story, each one a different type of vote fraud, are all too real).
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