Sunday, January 31, 2021

My God, How the Money Stays In!

The "next post" I promised on Friday was going to be about Joe Biden's January 4 pledge to voters in the Georgia runoff election that

you can make an immediate difference in your own lives, the lives of people all across this country because their election will put an end to the block in Washington on that $2,000 stimulus check, that money that will go out the door immediately to people who are in real trouble.

That pledge has not been kept, and while there may be valid reasons for the delay, such as Republican obstructionism, Biden and Congressional Democrats are walking back the promise themselves.  As David Sirota reported on January 25,

Biden is pushing $1,400 checks, rather than using his election mandate to demand new, full $2,000 checks.

Democrats are now suggesting that it could take at least until March to even pass the legislation, even as the economic crisis worsens.

Biden is now responding to threats of Republican obstructionism by floating the idea of reducing the number of people who would even get the checks. Reuters reports that “he is open to negotiating the eligibility requirements of his proposed $1,400 COVID stimulus check, a nod to lawmakers who have said they should be more targeted.”

The signals of retreat are happening even as new polling data show that the original promise for a full $2,000 survival check is wildly popular.

I temporized for a day before writing about this because there were signs of (much as I hate to use the word) hope.  Bernie Sanders has been talking about using "reconciliation" to push Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill through, which requires only 51 votes rather than the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.  (Indeed, Minority Leader McConnell backed down on his demand that the Democrats promise not to abolish the filibuster - Majority Leader Schumer, almost incredibly, stood firm against him.)   Biden himself told reporters that the bill had to go through whether Republicans liked it or not.  Josh Marshall keeps comparing the Republicans to Lucy pulling away the football from Charlie Brown, but it's really Democrats who have a long history of promising progressive action and then backing away from it at the last minute.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans have offered their version of compromise, a $600-billion-dollar bill that I'm sure they're willing to lower even more in the interests of bipartisanship and fiscal responsibility.  Numerous commenters have seen this as surrender, effectively telling the Dems "You guys go on without me."  I have no doubt that President Obama would have accepted their compromise, but we live in unprecedented times.

The reason the stimulus payment matters is not only the necessity of the assistance will give to people who are on the ropes financially, but the political price of breaking a high-profile promise to the majority of Americans.  Biden and the Democrats have a very small majority in Congress, and they can't afford to lose a single seat in 2022, especially in the Senate.  I've seen a number of Very Smart liberals/progressives saying that the dumb voters won't remember such a broken promise, but I think it's obvious they're wrong.  Voters in 1994 and 2010 remembered Bill Clinton's and Barack Obama's decisions to side with the rich against working people, and yet those wise men learned nothing from those consequences.  My concern is not with them or Biden, or with Democratic elites, but with the millions of non-elites who are suffering and will continue to suffer if meaningful action isn't taken.  It's the Very Smart Brunch Liberals who have short memories.

Naturally, Biden/Harris trolls are busy attacking anyone who criticizes Biden on the stimulus payment.  They say it should have been obvious to the stupid voters that by "immediately" Biden meant by summer of 2021, and by $2000 he meant $1400 or less, means-tested to create more jobs for the means-testers. And don't forget the Republican obstructionism -- if only the dumb voters understood how government works!  Maybe it should have been obvious, but Biden's statement was not likely phrased without trying it out on focus groups in advance: he and his team knew exactly how voters would understand it.  If anyone was ignoring Republican obstructionism, it was Biden.  It's been suggested that Biden didn't expect Ossoff and Warnock to win the runoffs, so he wouldn't have to deliver, but it's not the voters' fault if Biden stepped on his dick again.

It's also worth remembering that, as Sirota's article reminded me, the House of Representatives not only wrote and passed a clean and simple $2000 stimulus bill immediately after Trump endorsed the idea.  The GOP blocked it in the Senate, of course, but now that the GOP no longer controls the Senate, it should be easy enough to get the same bill through.  (Maybe through reconciliation?)  Make the Senate GOP oppose it, including the majority who are still loyal to Trump.  Yell it to the press every damn day until it passes and is signed and the money goes out.

I might be wrong about this, but bear with me: So far I haven't seen anyone post that they spend hours each weekend in a line for a food bank, that they haven't been able to pay their rent or utilities for six months, and they still haven't received the last $600 stimulus -- but they nevertheless understand why POTUS can't deliver on his promise of $2K and will be happy to wait until the end of March for $1400 or whatever he decides is good enough for them.  The Democrats presently defending the delay are not those who are suffering.  I'm not suffering for lack of another payment either, but it's not about me, it's about us.

Maybe I'll have to retract this later on.  If Biden & Co. deliver meaningful relief to Americans, I'll be happy to acknowledge it.  They have to prove they can be trusted, however.