Nancy LeTourneau writes about Mitch McConnell, who says he feels no “urgency” to enact another stimulus measure to address the economic fallout of the pandemic:
I have no idea what it would take for McConnell to feel a sense of urgency, but on a national level, the U.S. is fast approaching the marker of 100,000 people dead from COVID-19, with over 30 million people unemployed. Closer to McConnell’s home, a recent White House report named Central City, KY as one of the nation’s new hot spots, with a 650 percent increase in the number of coronavirus cases. …
… He refuses to take up the bill passed by the House that, among other things, would authorize another stimulus check for workers and extend the expanded unemployment insurance. McConnell dismissed provisions like that as nothing more than a grab bag of “pet priorities.” Apparently the only thing McConnell views as urgent is his desire to grant immunity protections to businesses that are reopening.
A few days ago I wrote about Kentucky and its economic vulnerabilities. Kentucky is among the poorest and least educated states in the Union. It’s also about 88 percent white. It shouldn’t surprise you that Trump is currently running 16 points ahead of Biden in the most recent polling of Kentucky. Poor, ignorant, and white = Trump voter, more often than not. I have found no current polling for the Kentucky Senate race, alas.
Kentucky’s unemployment rate for April was 15.4 percent. I understand that Kentucky is running out of unemployment benefit funds, in spite of the fact that tens of thousands of Kentuckians are still trying to get benefits they applied for in March and April. And 47,000 new unemployment claims were filed in Kentucky last week. The Associated Press reported on May 13:
Kentucky has enough in its unemployment insurance trust fund until summer to meet the unprecedented demand for benefits but will eventually need a cash infusion, Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday in urging another round of federal assistance to states …
…The state’s unemployment trust fund has gone through massive amounts of money as record numbers of Kentuckians request jobless assistance during the pandemic.
Mitch McConnell has been a United States Senator from Kentucky since bleeping 1985. It’s not clear to me that he still remembers where Kentucky is, although one assumes he shows up to campaign there occasionally. I guess he thinks that if the state runs out of money Kentucky can just declare bankruptcy, although I don’t know how that’s going to get the unemployment benefits paid this summer.
A Democratic U.S. Senator for Hawaii tweeted:
90 thousand dead and Depression-level unemployment across the country, and Mcconnell has no COVID19 related legislation on the Senate Floor this week, last week, or the week before. He says he doesn’t feel a sense of urgency. Elections have consequences.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) May 19, 2020
It seems to me that the upcoming senatorial election in Kentucky is a real test of representative democracy. If Kentuckians re-elect McConnell in spite of the fact that he hasn’t represented their interests in decades, does representative democracy even work in the U.S. any more? Or have we evolved into little more than a nation of primitive warring tribes, albeit with better technology?
Not all Republicans are quite that oblivious. Fox News reports that several Republican senators are pushing Mitch into enacting more stimulus measures no later than June. Two senators featured prominently in this reporting are Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado, both currently in danger of losing their Senate seats in November.
The latest weekly employment figures, released Thursday, show the magnitude of this economic catastrophe: Another 2.4 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total to 38.6 million over nine weeks. Analysts are now predicting that the unemployment rate will soon top 30 percent. The highest it reached during the Great Depression was 25.6 percent.
And what’s on the minds of the Republican leadership? They’re worried that we’re coddling the unemployed:
At issue is the enhanced unemployment aid Congress approved in late March, which includes an extra $600 in weekly payments to out-of-work Americans. On Tuesday, President Trump articulated his reluctance to extend those benefits during a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans, many of whom share his concern that the expanded federal payments deter people from returning to work. The enhanced benefits expire in July. …
… But the problem right now is that there aren’t any jobs. It’s not like millions of businesses can’t operate because no one’s answering their help wanted ads. That extra money is keeping people afloat, and is quickly recirculated into the economy, multiplying its beneficial impact.
So this is the position of the president and the Republican leadership in Congress: What we really have to worry about now is that Americans are being lazy, and what we need to get them out there reviving the economy is some good old-fashioned deprivation.
Yep; that’s the Republican Party, representing the lords instead of the serfs.
Yet at the same time, there are cracks showing in the GOP’s resistance to further economic rescue. With the election only 5½ months away, some in the party are questioning whether having Democrats demand that the government take action to help struggling Americans while Republicans say no is a brilliant strategy.
Even so, Waldman writes, even the Republicans who want to enact more stimulus bills in June are resistant to sending money directly to people, either as unemployment benefits or cash payments. Someone might explain to them that Steve Mnuchin is sitting on nearly a half a trillion dollars in funds allocated for businesses last March that he hasn’t gotten around to disbursing yet. And maybe actually spending that money would do some good, even if it’s not going directly to people who need it most.
But I think that if people continue to be denied unemployment benefits when there are no jobs, and if small businesses continue to be denied relief money because big businesses gobbled it all up, ordinary people will notice. Mitch McConnell might not, but regular folks will.
Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump together have been able to consolidate power in Washington so that nothing much happens without their approval. But Trump is a profoundly stupid man whose only bright idea is just to ignore the pandemic and make everyone go back to work. Mitch is not that stupid, and it’s hard to know exactly what his issue is. He is either so lost in the world of money and power that he wouldn’t recognize a regular voter if he tripped over one; or, he has decided Trump is going to lose, so we might as well totally wreck the economy so that Democrats can be blamed for the depression to come. Mitch is thinking ahead to the 2022 midterms, in other words.
Are you paying attention, Kentucky?