Biden’s American Rescue Plan: Democrats’ first big win

The $1.9 trillion covid relief package that passed the Senate this weekend is a major legislative victory just 6 weeks into Biden’s term. The American Rescue Plan will give his Presidency and Democrats in the 117th session of Congress a huge boost — in enacting more of Biden’s agenda, in the economy, in replenishing strained state and local coffers, and in giving the Democrats 100% of the credit for the hope, the recovery, and the return to normalcy for hundreds of millions of Americans. Senator Sanders called it the “most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” — and he’s a tough one to please!

Of course, the right wing is churning out its usual disinformation machine around the contents of the bill. Zero Republicans voted for it, which puts them on record indelibly forever as voting against relief checks, against pandemic assistance, against schools reopening, against… everything of most relevance to most people at this time, according to the majority of Americans polled who favor it (62%). Let’s take a look at all the urgent relief that’s actually in the bill.

What’s in the American Rescue Plan

  • $1400 direct checks
  • $300/week unemployment extension through September
  • Increased child tax credit to $3000-$3600 in 2021 and made it fully refundable
  • Extending COBRA benefits and health benefits
  • $170 billion for safely reopening schools
  • $20 billion for vaccination programs
  • $30 billion for PPE
  • $350 billion for state and local governments devastated and depleted from the pandemic
  • Funding for covid testing, contact tracing, and forecasting
  • Relief for restaurants, small businesses, and farmers
  • Child care and child nutrition funds
  • Tax credits for sick leave and family leave
  • Funding for community health, mental health, and the opioid crisis
  • Emergency rental assistance, rural housing, homelessness relief
  • FEMA funding
  • Funeral assistance
  • Relief to airlines, airports, and aviation manufacturing
  • Extend benefits to rail workers
  • VA funding

Public education makes us all smarter

The state has an interest in educating its citizens. There are a number of reasons a nation could benefit from attending to the education of its citizens, creating a state interest in public education. Many of them are economic, and contribute to the growth of industry and health of communities:

  • More people generating more value increases GDP, compounded over time
  • Increased entrepreneurship
  • Increased innovation, and dynamism in the economy along with it
  • Improved public health and saving cost on health care
  • Longer life spans means more working years at greater seniority levels, contributing a lot of surplus value to the economy
  • Increased incomes provide more free time to contribute to civic life and be informed voters
  • Decreasing the number of “Lost Einsteins” — talented individuals who do not get a chance to shine their lights and contribute their gifts

We all have an interest in investing in the development of our human capital, because it is rational to do so. It will pay many dividends over time, both directly and indirectly.

Mass death is actually a bad thing for the economy

This past week we had a serious, unironic “debate” about whether or not senicide is a reasonable “plan” for handling the coronavirus crisis. This under the pretense that the other course of action — following the advice of medical professionals and epidemiologists to stay home and socially distance ourselves to curb the spread of covid-19 — is tantamount to shutting down the economy, which is tantamount to killing more people than the virus will.

Meanwhile, Congress passed a $2 trillion relief package, one quarter of which will go to the billionaire class with precious little oversight as to how it can be spent — and still apparently no one seems to have the slightest bit of confidence that the world’s richest economy can possibly weather the storms of depressed consumer demand for even several weeks much less the potentially many months this pandemic will rage across the planet. Perhaps this reveals that The Economy simply isn’t as robust as we tell ourselves it is during better times.

Dead Men Pay No Taxes

The proposed Sophie’s Choice between weeks or months of physical separation and allowing many people to die all around us is a false frame.

Millions of people dying is bad for The Economy in a very similar way to how having ICE eject millions of people from the economy is bad for The Economy. Insofar as economies require a labor force, and insofar as governments require revenue from taxation to pay for the infrastructure upon which The Economy rests, having millions of people depart from them is not a pathway to improving the economy — it is the opposite.

However, perhaps The Economy itself has become a contested concept. There may be a class-based and/or ideologically-based difference of opinion on what this concept means. Perhaps there is now:

  • the economy: the traditionally-held view of economies as markets in which individuals labor and contribute value, and trade assets in mutually beneficial ways to allocate resources efficiently
  • The Economy: a sort of shell game played by the right-wing authoritarian cohort in which the Plebes are starved of infrastructure and resources to the point of being mired inside an Eternal Present — in which we lurch from crisis to crisis — that brokers no hope for the future and no actual policy being made, other than the “policies” which continue to print money from the Federal Treasury for the purposes of propping up the precariously fragile billionaire class whose claims of meritocratic supremacy are stretched thinner and thinner each time the shells are moved yet again

Starving the Beast kills it: Feature or bug?

On paper, “Starving the Beast” is passed off as deeply held ideological libertarianism regarding the fundamental goodness of small government. In practice, starving beasts tend to die of preventable causes — and if governments are to retain the kind of power needed to be a check and balance on a growing hypercapitalist economy, they must indeed grow as well.

But beyond the general case, our specific circumstances of global pandemic lead us to a reasonable question: if laissez-faire capitalism and the free hand of the market is supposedly both sufficient to solve all human problems and vastly superior than the socialist hand of government at doing these things, then why are we in such a pickle? Why hasn’t the Invisible Hand managed to come up with its own solution to the mass death we are currently experiencing?

Or is the answer we might hear one that is too grim to bear — having been provided a clue this week in the grumbling of sacrificing the old to save the young — that a certain part of the political spectrum believe this is the market working as intended. That mass death is an acceptable “negative externality” of laissez-faire capitalism and that we bleeding-heart liberals ought to suck it up and grow thicker skin, rather than demand that governments step in to prevent preventable human atrocity.

Not only am I afraid of the answer — I’m afraid we’ll never get a straight answer in the world of political ketman we seem to have blundered into. In this world, right-wing elites including numerous elected officials continue to give lip service to a democracy that has been systematically hollowed out since the redoubling of the conservative movement in the 1970s to present, to currently resemble a geopolitical reality closer to that of modern Russia than to anything James Madison or Alexander Hamilton would have recognized.

It is technically possible that psychologically speaking, they themselves are actually unaware of this seismic shift in ideological views from that of democratic power and Constitutional authority to one of authoritarian rule and total technocratic control — but I think it’s more likely they’re simply not saying it out loud.