President Trump joined the chorus ripping the bad COVID “relief” bill apart Tuesday night. He aired many grievances against the awful bill, but his overarching complaint — shared by millions, including this writer — is that while the bill has been branded and ballyhooed as a COVID relief bill, most of it has nothing to do with COVID or relief at all. What does sending millions to Pakistan for gender programs have to do with making sure Americans who can’t work because government shuttered their business can pay their rent? Nothing. What does spending millions on cars for overseas HIV/AIDS workers have to do with making sure California and New York restaurant workers and owners can put food on their own tables? Nothing. What does building a pair of new Smithsonian Museums have to do with helping struggling Americans keep their heat on this winter? Nothing.
That’s among the very many things that make it a bad bill. Trump called on Congress to fix it and rip out all the non-COVID spending, and up the ante for struggling Americans who will not be able to get by on the paltry $600 the bill offers in individual crumbs of relief. Pelosi jumped to agree with him, but she’s surely holding another knife behind her back while she flashes her Botox rictus at the nation.
Charitably, packing the bill with hundreds of billions in non-COVID relief spending makes it a Trojan horse for all kinds of congressional mischief and wrecks the idea of transparent, accountable government. Honestly, all that extra stuff makes the bill a huge, expensive lie that undermines what’s left of faith in government. Most of it’s not about COVID, as the president pointed out.
You’d have to be pretty tone-deaf to the suffering of millions of Americans to praise any of the non-COVID spending in the bill. Or you’d have to have policy goals that you know you can’t sell to the American public, and that you might not even be able to sell to a very cooperative media full of left-wing operatives sporting bylines.
Enter Democrat pundit Jonathan Chait. Writing at MSNBC (naturally), he praises whoever slipped some Green New Deal stuff into the COVID bill.
But the amount of good climate policy in this bill is shocking, especially given the fact that it is about to be signed by Donald J. Trump. The major provisions include: a 35 billion dollar investment in new zero-emission energy technology (including solar, wind, nuclear, and carbon-capture storage); an extension of tax credits for wind and solar energy, which were set to expire; and, most significantly, a plan for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, a small but extremely potent greenhouse gas used as a coolant.
None of that has anything to do with helping Americans who are suffering from the economic effects of Democrats shuttering whole economies allegedly to fight the virus that originated in Wuhan, China.
That’s not a bug, it’s a feature in Chait’s world.
The larger lesson here is that, in the modern era, constructive legislation is still possible — as long as the issue stays below the radar. High-profile policy fights tend to become grist for right-wing media, and once Fox News is on the case, there is no such thing as a compromise reasonable enough that it won’t be presented to conservative viewers as a socialist plot. But negotiating issues privately, dumping them into a giant must-pass bill, and passing the whole thing within hours short-circuits the demagoguery cycle. Indeed, it’s unlikely Trump himself has more than a passing familiarity with the broad contours of the bill he is going to sign.
Chait obviously wrote this before Trump stepped in front of the cameras and detailed some of the most shocking spending tucked into the monstrous bill as he called on Congress to fix it. He also aired this before Trump signed it, giving the president further justification to veto it. He’s also giving the game away on how he and his fellow operatives intend to function in a Biden administration. It will all be sleight-of-hand, forcing questionable-to-awful policy on unsuspecting Americans and demanding they pay for it at gunpoint. When they object, he’ll vilify them as Democrats have done to Trump and his supporters for years, and as they’ve done to every Republican president in my lifetime. That’s how they worked during the Obama years, and it’s how they’ll work during the Obama II: Senile Sequel to come.
it’s a recipe for bad governance and for a citizenry that will continue to bleed out faith in government overall. Chait probably hadn’t thought of that.
To me, it’s pretty simple. Any COVID relief bill should be about COVID relief for Americans suffering from the economic impacts of the pandemic. Nothing else. No museums. No funding for agencies or other programs. Just relief for Americans who need it. Period. It should be a one or two-page bill outlining who gets relief, why, and how much. That’s it.
And it could have been done months ago, not held up and politicized so Pelosi et al. could make sure their votes in effect count more than the rest of ours. She deliberately allowed millions of our countrymen to continue suffering so she could get her preferred candidate into the White House. That’s unspeakably shameful.
Debates over how our government spends our money should and must be open and transparent — not hidden away in the backroom deals Chait praises.