Tuesday Congress sent a lump of coal to American taxpayers (and some who don’t pay taxes) in the form of $600 payouts to certain qualifying people.
They call it stimulus – as in money to stimulate an economy beaten down by the decisions of elected officials due to the spread of COVID-19. I call it sit down (not at a restaurant or with your family) and shut up money.
The legislation that included the stimulus bill also included Happy New Year’s gifts for all their favorite boys and girls in Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Georgia (the country), Ukraine, and Latin America – here’s a couple hundred million for you, and you and you.
Typical year-end budget stuff that’s been going on forever but apparently was finally noticed by the everyday working stiffs footing the bill because they were drooling over the prospect of another cash handout and thus finally paying close attention to the process in the swamp.
It was an eye opener for some.
It’s been over 11 months since a Washington state resident became the first person in the United States with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and just about 10 months since Congress passed the CARES Act – a $2.2 trillion stimulus package meant to keep Americans financially afloat through the shut-downs and slowed economic activity the spread of virus and attempts to control it have triggered.
That package included money for small businesses and direct payments of $1,200 per person meant to stimulate the economy.
Unfortunately, many of the small businesses that needed help the most failed to collect a dime of that money after the fund was depleted almost instantly thanks to raids by several big businesses posing as mom-and-pop shops. And a lot of people who qualified for the direct payment still haven’t gotten that either (it is well documented).
Since March, there hasn’t been one more red cent of financial relief offered - not even a penny of U.S. tax dollars has been used to save the thousands of businesses that have gone under, or to help put food on the shelves of unemployed workers in the service industry who have found themselves out of work through no fault of their own.
What there has been is a lot of political maneuvering, posturing and posing.
Everyone in Washington D.C. – from the president down to greenest member of Congress – has been utterly useless for the better part of a year.
Talk about fiddling while watching Rome burn.
Hundreds of thousands of people remain out of work, depressed, lonely, broke and increasingly pessimistic about their futures and in Washington D.C. this week – business as usual and plenty of self-high fives after passing that pathetic excuse of a $900 billion stimulus package.
Adding insult to injury, the director payment of $600 isn’t based on need or proof of financial burden or loss of wages brought on by the pandemic. It’s based on tax returns from 2019 - when COVID wasn’t an issue. Individuals or couples who can show an Adjusted Gross Income of under $75,000 ($150,000 for a married couple) from that year score some cash.
The rest of you? Tough luck.
And once they reach those financial thresholds, the amount they may receive goes down until it is phased out at about $87,000 for an individual and $174,000 for a married couple. That’s down from $99,000 and $198,000 (for a couple).
Just before Christmas President Donald Trump, who has appeared disengaged from the process of being president since November, snapped back into reality for a moment and demanded Congress up the payoff to $2,000 a person and trim the fat in the rest of the legislation.
This week the House, controlled by Democrats took him up on that but the Senate, led by one of the most deeply entrenched swamp dwellers in existence – Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell – said no, and since the legislation is basically veto-proof, the final result was the original package.
That’s an insult to every person who has sacrificed so much this year to help stop the spread of a virus that won’t stop spreading.
A $600 direct payment – and for some $300 per week extra in unemployment - aren’t really worth the paper they are printed on when you’re a waiter or waitress who has been out of work for months on end and groceries for a family of four costs at least $300 a week.
It also doesn’t help with a mortgage payment or rent or a car payment or anything else really.
Unfortunately, the concept of living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t register with the career politicians we blindly follow and, in many cases, overwhelmingly re-elect to Congress year after year.
They don’t live in the world you and I inhabit and thus they can’t possibly understand the real world.
How out-of-touch are the most influential leaders of the U.S. House and Senate?
Take House Speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi for example. While she makes $223,500 a year as speaker (a tidy sum by anyone’s standards), and hasn’t missed a paycheck in 2020, she also has a net worth of $100 million according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Center is a Washington-based non-profit, non-partisan organization that collects, analyzes, and publishes millions of financial records concerning campaign contributions that was formed years ago by former Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho and former Republican U.S. Rep. and Sen. Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania.
Its OpenSecrets.org website shows campaign contributions by major industries, corporations, top individual donors, and advocacy organizations to every candidate in every federal election, and to every member of Congress. Based on this information, the Center develops reports and data visualizations that demonstrate who funds campaigns, who benefits from contributions, and how these donations affect legislative action.
While Pelosi is living high off the hog (with investments, interestingly enough, of nearly $500,000 in Facebook and $100,000 in Walt Disney, both contributors to her campaigns) she isn’t at the top of the list of earners in Congress.
That honor goes to Mark Warner, a Democratic Senator from Virginia, who has a net worth of $214,092,575.
Net worth is assets minus liabilities. In other words, you take the value of all the things you own and any money you have in your savings or investments and subtract things you owe money on like your house, car, college loans, credit cards and so forth and so on.
I’m willing to bet 98% of the people reading this at this very moment have a negative in front of their net worth unlike the men and women bickering over whether or not you deserve your $600.
Meanwhile, instead of getting angry and doing something about it, we all stand with bowls in hand and meekly say to our masters: “Please sir, I want some more.”
Or we just point a crooked finger at Trump instead of focusing our attention on the real evil in Washington D.C.