Trump Calls Stimulus Payments a Disgrace as Government Shut-Down Looms

Rose Bak

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I never in my life thought I would ever write these words but…I agree with President Trump.

This week Congress approved a $900 billion stimulus bill that Trump calls “a disgrace”. He’s not wrong.

Congress approved a laughable stimulus bill that mostly helps everyone but hardworking Americans. The bill includes a lot of money to fund special Congressional “pork” projects that have little to do with helping the U.S. economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating economic effects.

In his recorded video address, Trump echoed the thoughts of millions of people in this country: a $600 stimulus check is an insult.

“I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill,” Trump said.

He specifically requested that Congress send him a bill that includes direct payments of $2,000 to each adult.

Congress originally was going to be the ultimate Scrooge by skipping direct payments to the public altogether. Fortunately, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders worked across the aisle in a last-ditch bipartisan effort to get at least some help to suffering Americans.

The $600 amount is said to be what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin agreed to as part of that negotiation, seemingly speaking on behalf of the President

“I am pleased that Congress has passed on an overwhelming bipartisan basis additional critical economic relief for American workers, families and businesses,” Mnuchin tweeted.

Trump’s outrage at the $600 amount now calls into question exactly how much Mnuchin and other advisors briefed the President before agreeing to it. Within hours of Mnuchin’s enthusiastic tweet, Trump released the video criticizing the bill.

Democrats were quick to point out that they had tried to do something more generous for Americans and were shot down by Republicans in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, noted:

“We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks, but Republicans blocked it…Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need. Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again.”

Whatever happened between him and Mnuchin, Trump indicated that he would not sign the stimulus bill until the changes were made, putting the country at risk of shutdown if the issues cannot be resolved by the time temporary government funding bills expired on December 29th.

Currently ongoing government funding is in the same bill as the stimulus plan. The final bill that Congress approved this week after months of negotiation is over 5,500 pages long, and analysts have been pouring over it and crafting analysis.

According to Barron’s and numerous other news outlets, the proposed package currently includes:

  • $300 a week in enhanced unemployment payments – but only through March 2021. (Note: this is only three more months)
  • Renewal of Paycheck Protection Program funding for businesses
  • Money for COVID vaccine rollouts
  • Money for schools
  • $25 billion for rent assistance
  • Direct cash payments to Americans at around the $600 level

It notably excludes any assistance for state or local governments which have been impacted by the pandemic.

The $600 direct payments make up about $167 billion of the $900 billion package. Economist Ernie Tedechi estimated that increasing the payments to $2000 per adult would add another $370 billion to the cost of the bill, assuming no changes were made to reduce costs in other areas of the bill.

Irate Republicans criticized the administration for “conflating” the stimulus bill with the omnibus funding bill that is attached to it.

Rep. Adam Kingzinger, a Republic from Illinois, tweeted:

“HIS TEAM negotiatiated [sic] this, and blessed combining the two! But since twitter erupted, he erupted.”

Republicans noted that many of the funding items that the President criticized were part of the omnibus government funding portion of the bill, not the stimulus itself.

In response to the President’s call for larger stimulus benefits, Congressional Democrats introduced a bill on Christmas Eve to raise the payments. This was promptly blocked by Republicans, setting up the unusual dynamics of Democrats coming out in support of the President’s wishes and his own party Republicans shutting it down.

With Congress going into Christmas recess, at the time of this writing it is unclear what the fate of the stimulus will be.

Meanwhile, Americans have been wondering for months when – or if – they would ever get more support from the federal government to help them meet rising bills.

For those who have lost track, this pandemic has been going on for nine months now. Most Americans – about 80 million of us -- got one single payment of $1,200 last spring. That’s it, other than a letter signed by President Trump that came separately.

That single $1200 payment didn’t go very far for most of us. According to an analysis completed by Statistica, the average rent in the U.S. is $1,468. The U.S. Census Bureau last reported that the average mortgage payment in the United States is $1,500.

A $600 will pay rent – basically nowhere. But zero is even worse.

It might be noted that while politicians in Washington hold benefits hostage, most of them make enough money that they wouldn’t qualify for the stimulus anyway. The average person in Congress earns $174,000 per year from their government service, and I use the term “service” with some irony. That’s not including money they earn from other sources.

A $600 payment to Americans probably seems generous when you are making so much money. It’s not.

According to Zip Recruiter the average salary for workers in this country is just over $74,000. It’s hard to tell how much someone like Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, both worth billions, brings up that average.

It might be more helpful to consider that the average minimum wage worker earns just $11.80 per hour, or $24,544 per year.

The average senior citizen is receiving just $1503 per month in benefits, assuming that social security is their only income.

People are struggling across the country. There is a looming eviction crisis. Food banks are reporting record numbers of people looking for help feeding their families. People are stressed out, worried about money, and hoping the government will help them.

And for the most part, they are hoping to see help that’s more than a measly $600.

Compare this to other countries. According to the Business Insider,

  • Canada offered citizens $2000 Canadian (about $1500 American) per month
  • Spain set up a basic income amount for its poorest residents
  • Germany offered grants of over $5,000 for freelancers and small business owners
  • The Netherlands offered 90% of salary payments to stay home and quarantine
  • Denmark reimbursed employers 70-90% of their workers’ salaries to keep them on the payroll
  • The United Kingdom paid 80% of workers’ salaries
  • France paid their citizens up to $1600

The United States can do better. It should do better.

If you want to get really angry, check out this list of the ridiculous things that Congress has in the stimulus bill. Ask yourself why Congress is more worried about fish or illegally streaming movies than they are about you.

Then contact your Congressional representatives and tell them you need help. Tell them to do their job.

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

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