Morris Pearl: Senate Republicans' COVID-19 bill 'heals' nothing
It's the end of July, and we're five months into a lethal pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on millions of lives and livelihoods. 30 million workers are unemployed, and 40 million renters face eviction in the next few months. Tens of millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, are at risk of falling into poverty by the end of 2020 — unless the federal government acts swiftly and decisively.
With so much on the line, Republicans in the Senate just revealed their plan to save America: cut aid to unemployed Americans by two-thirds, protect businesses from getting sued when they make their workers sick, and let CEOs deduct 100 percent of their three-martini work lunches.
With their reveal of the HEALS Act, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Senate GOP just made clear exactly how uninterested they are in even trying to effectively govern. They refuse to acknowledge the scale of the crisis unfolding before them, and are sticking with the same tired playbook of protecting their wealthy donors and cutting government spending at all costs.
Republicans want no money to ensure our elections in November can occur safely and smoothly, no money to support struggling state and local governments, and no protection for the tens of millions of people who are at risk of being evicted from their homes and apartments.
But the HEALS Act doesn't just fail to include things that this country will need moving forward. It also gets rid of some of the only programs that have kept us afloat for the last few months.
Things are just as bad now as they ever were, yet the HEALS Act rolls back some of the most important and successful programs the government has put in place to respond to the pandemic, like the $600 weekly supplement to unemployment insurance in Congress' last COVID bill, the CARES Act. This extra assistance not only kept millions financially secure, it also kept countless small businesses afloat, by giving laid-off customers enough money to be able to afford their goods and services.
Congress passed these extraordinary measures at the beginning of this crisis in recognition of the federal government's responsibility to provide life-saving help to their constituents in a catastrophe. But while the only real difference between now and March is that more bodies have piled up and the Senate Republicans somehow seem to care less about helping ordinary working Americans pull through this unprecedented, awful time than they did earlier in the year. Even though nothing about the pandemic has changed, the GOP has decided that these benefits are too generous, and that we need to get the American people back to work.
The need for those extraordinary measures hasn't stopped simply because they're tired of the pandemic and would like to get back to normal. It's still dangerous for people to go back to work, and no amount of punishing unemployed people is going to get them to go back to jobs that don't exist.
There are four unemployed Americans for every one job opening, and if anything, the economy has been getting worse over the last few weeks, not better. Say every single one of those openings are filled — what are those other three workers supposed to do?
We know that Senate Republicans aren't actually opposed to spending government money — after all, they included billions of dollars for military equipment in the HEALS bill for some reason — they just don't want to spend it helping poor people. But if life is ever going to get back to normal for all of us, the federal government is going to have to spend money to support the millions of people who need help.
The HEALS Act does not do enough. It is just another self-serving power grab from the Senate GOP that does nothing to protect ordinary Americans. It is a disgrace of a bill, and one that has no business ever becoming law.
Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, is the former managing director of BlackRock Inc. The Patriotic Millionaires are high-net worth Americans, business leaders, and investors who are united in their concern about the destabilizing concentration of wealth and power in America.
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