The great William F. Buckley said: “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” Capitol Hill is, in theory, supposed to represent the very best the nation has to offer. Intellect, decorum, maturity, and respect – these are the attributes we expect our elected representatives in the nation’s capital to possess. And yet, Republicans and Democrats behave like adolescent siblings who blame each other for the broken plate on the kitchen floor.
Considering the nature of government – as well as the enormous division in Washington – can you expect anything different? At least the American people are given entertaining political theatrics worthy of a bucket of popcorn while they see their bank accounts dwindle and their businesses close because of the state’s hysterical response to the coronavirus.
With only days until the 2020 presidential election, the fun game of finger-pointing has intensified on Capitol Hill, one that will further polarize the nation heading into Election Day.
The Finger Poke of Doom
For the last few months, monitoring the negotiations over additional coronavirus stimulus and relief spending has been like watching a professional wrestling match. The Republicans and Democrats are engaged in theatrical drama as the two sides battle over a few hundred billion dollars. But you know that the first-blood match will elicit a last-minute pact that would send the country deeper into debt. President Donald Trump put the kibosh on talks and, shortly thereafter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) established a 48-hour deadline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to commit to a pre-election vote, and millions of Americans are waiting for a lifeline from the corridors of power.
So, what is being proposed by the warring factions?
Pelosi and the Democrats are calling for a $2.2 trillion package. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, McConnell, and many Republicans want a $1.8 trillion piece of legislation. President Trump has requested a basic bill that consists of the bare bones, mainly direct support payments to Americans. Despite the federal government posting a $3.1 trillion budget deficit and a $28 trillion national debt, the children famous for kicking the can down the road are squabbling over $400 billion. That is rich.
Even if both sides of the aisle have a kumbaya moment, you should not anticipate relief before the general election. The leaders have conceded that the bill still needs to be written, approved, and enacted, all of which happens at a snail’s pace. Pelosi pointed the finger at Trump and McConnell over the impasse. At the same time, McConnell averred that GOP lawmakers already had a spending package large enough to respond to the coronavirus-induced economic downturn.
President Trump believes Pelosi is taking her time “because she thinks it will help her politically.” He told moderator Kristen Welker during the second and final presidential debate:
“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to approve it. I do. That’s one of the reasons I think we’re going to take over the House, because of her. Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to approve anything – Nancy Pelosi does not want to approve it. We are ready, willing and able to do something. Don’t forget, we’ve already approved three plans. This one she doesn’t want. It’s near the election, because she thinks it helps her politically. I think it hurts her politically.”
How could the situation be summarized? The Republicans are pretending to be fiscally conservative again, the Democrats are pretending they are looking out for the interests of the American people while trying to score political points, and President Trump wants to avoid the theatrics with straight-up income-support checks.
Will It Ever Be Enough?
Even when, not if, this stimulus package is approved, will it be enough? The Federal Reserve has urged Congress to support the economic rebound with permanent expansive fiscal policy measures. The financial markets and the broader economy have signaled they need the training wheels to stay on the path toward recovery. Whether it is Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden – whoever declares victory in a couple of weeks – Washington will continually embark upon deficit-financed spending. The only difference will be a couple of hundred billion dollars, which, at this point, is chicken feed.
Read more from Andrew Moran.