The Democrats are moving toward passing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill through reconciliation. This process allows them to pass the bill through the Senate with no Republican support through a simple majority, which Vice President Kamala Harris can provide if the Senate Democrats are unanimous. The bill contains several provisions that have nothing to with assisting Americans who are out of work due to the pandemic or helping small businesses.
Even the plan to distribute stimulus checks using different income levels lacks an understanding of who may be affected. It seems we could provide more aid to fewer people if the government took the time to understand which Americans remain out of work. States are in various reopening stages, and not every governor killed his or her state’s economy like Governor Gavin Newsom in California and Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York.
Speaking of California and New York, taxpayers’ children and grandchildren in other states will be footing the bill to bail these states out, but not from COVID-19-related costs or losses. Instead, the Democrats’ bill will pay off the deficits these states have accumulated due to poor union contracts, and years of mismanagement will be cleared under the guise of pandemic relief. States that have maintained balanced budgets and rainy-day funds will pay for the financial irresponsibility of those that have none.
A $15 minimum wage, which has been a long-time progressive priority, is also included in the Democrat version of the bill. According to the CBO, this will increase Medicaid and Medicare costs due to higher unemployment and higher cost of care due to artificially inflated wages. Prices of other goods and services would also rise due to a higher cost of labor. Eventually, this would increase Social Security costs due to higher average wages. These entitlement programs are already severely in need of reform, and their costs will only go up.
Perhaps the most concerning issue is not just the number of jobs that will be lost, but who will be losing them. By 2025, the CBO says that the cumulative employment impact would be a loss of 1.4 million jobs to technology or workforce reduction. Half of these individuals will drop out of the workforce, which means they would no longer be counted in unemployment statistics. This reduction in employment will affect young, less-educated Americans disproportionately. We are already seeing some disturbing signs that people in this age group are frustrated and angry with the apparent income equality and power differentials in our society. Increasing employment challenges will increase the likelihood this gets worse.
The report does say that the increase will lift some workers who remain employed out of poverty. However, even if fewer people receive benefits, those benefit costs will rise due to overall cost increases in programs like SNAP. Increased costs could offset any savings from the decreased number of participants. There will be no increase in total income. The cost will just be moved around through the government creation of winners and losers.
The most frustrating part of this, aside from bankrupting future generations by accumulating more debt, is that it is unnecessary. On February 1st, the CBO predicted that GDP will reach its previous peak in mid-2021 without the COVID-19 relief bill. The civilian labor force is expected to recover in 2022. The unemployment rate will not reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024. The report notes that we will experience inflation and rising interest rates. However, these are a natural consequence of the spending we have already done and the amount of money added to the supply. Adding more will compound the problem, making it more difficult for working families.
Obviously, people will still need support over the next few years. Where we can, we should use and possibly augment existing programs to fill those gaps. However, our leaders should be passing a much smaller and more targeted relief package that helps those who actually need it now, not another behemoth bill with giveaways and misdirected funds to pet projects. And certainly not social legislation like a minimum wage hike that can’t get through the legislative process any other way.