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Republican, Trump pandemic relief plan shows GOP living in fantasy land

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  • The GOP will reportedly open negotiations for another coronavirus aid package with a bill based on a fantasy — the fantasy that the coronavirus is going away soon.
  • It’s not. And without legislation that takes a long view of this crisis, the US economy will still be grappling with significant uncertainty.
  • The GOP’s bill reportedly scales down the extra $600 in unemployment benefits. It does not give cash-starved states relief. It does not do anything for frontline workers.
  • It may, however, include a tax cut that largely benefits the wealthy though, so at least the GOP is staying true to its brand.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If their latest attempt at coronavirus aid legislation is any indication (and it is) the GOP is living in a fantasy world.

It’s a fantasy world where the country isn’t seeing record coronavirus case numbers every day, hobbling economic activity in huge states like Texas and California. It’s a fantasy world where states no longer desperately need more money to keep services going and people employed. It’s a world where more than one million Americans every week are not applying for unemployment benefits, and record numbers are not late on mortgage payments.

In summation, it’s a nice world but it’s not the one we’re living in. The GOP’s next aid package is expected to come in around $1 trillion total, way short of the $3 trillion in aid proposed by Democrats and the roughly $2 trillion that was included in the previous relief bill, the CARES Act.

The GOP plan only allocates money to states for reopening schools. There’s been no mention of extra benefits for frontline workers. And Republicans want to make the $600 boost to unemployment benefits that has been keeping our economy together for months much less generous — if we keep it at all. 

Yes, some Americans can expect a check in the mail (though potentially a smaller one than the $1,200 check they received months ago), and there’s increased funding for coronavirus testing. But aside from that the only real winners here are rich Americans who would benefit most from the payroll tax cut and employers who would no longer have to worry about liability if they open their businesses too early and get their employees sick.

Right now the US is logging over 65,000 coronavirus cases a day, and this bill is less generous than the bill the GOP put forward back in March when the country was only logging around 12,000 a day. It’s as if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes the coronavirus is over. But if the states that are on the verge of shutting down are any indication, our trial is still in its beginnings.

Injecting uncertainty

If you, like me, occasionally find yourself watching the captains of American business on television waxing philosophically about the economy, you’ll know that they often use the word “uncertainty” to describe unstable political or economic conditions.

Usually this word is used to complain about potential tax increases or something equally banal compared to our current situation. But there is no uncertainty like the uncertainty coronavirus brings — the kind of uncertainty that means one day a major economic center could be open, and the next it could be completely shut down.

The GOP bill does nothing to mitigate this huge problem for our economy. In fact, it just injects more uncertainty into the picture.

If you’re part of a family in, say, California that has been depending on that extra $600 in an unemployment check to keep things together you’re about to find yourself in a dire situation. Without more funding from the federal government, your locked down state can’t help you either — not by offering you a new job or in the way of public services.

This is why Democratic proposals that tie aid to the unemployment rate would be so much more beneficial to the economy. They would ensure that Americans are kept afloat for as long as this crisis persists and give people the type of certainty that could stabilize the economy. People wouldn’t have to worry about paying their bills and feeding their families on top of worrying about social distancing and keeping vulnerable people safe.

Instead, the only people who will find relief in the GOP’s bill are employers, especially those big enough to feel the impact of a payroll tax cut. It would also give them a pool of desperate workers looking for jobs and would make sure they wouldn’t be liable for those workers getting sick either, since Republicans plan to include measures to prevent employees who get COVID on the job from suing their employer.

If this sounds ludicrous to you, that’s because it is. If this sounds like an abdication of responsibility, that’s because it is. For the economy to hum along smoothly for the duration of this crisis — for people to pay their bills and keep spending money normally — Americans need to be certain that their government has their back. Instead the GOP plan so far is a slap in the face.

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This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email [email protected] and tell us your story.

Get the latest coronavirus business & economic impact analysis from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is affecting industries.

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