Coronavirus Stimulus: Democracy or Oligarchy?

After months of debate and arguing, Congress has finally agreed to vote on another Coronavirus stimulus bill. In this relief package, there are individual payments, unemployment additions, money for small businesses, and more. The bill is extremely dense (5000+ pages!), but, put simply, every American that makes under $100,000 or is currently unemployed will be receive some relief funding. What else is hidden in the legislation? Here are some facts about the bill:

  1. The bill is expected to be voted on by end of day Monday, December 21. Members of Congress have not been able to read it until after 3 PM ET Monday. It is 5,000 pages.
  2. The bill is an omnibus spending bill, meaning it sets the budget for the next fiscal year of Congress. This means that there is a lot more than Coronavirus spending in it.
  3. When the news says that “Congressional Leaders have agreed to…”, they mean Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and maybe Kevin McCarthy. No other members of Congress have a say into what this bill contains.

No one has time to read the entire bill, either. Not even members of congress! In fact, several members of Congress (both right and left) have spoken out:

By the time this article is published, Congress will have voted and likely approved the stimulus bill. Let’s take a look at what actually is inside of it, though.

Foreign Aid

Included in the budget is all of the foreign aid for the next year being sent abroad. Some highlights of foreign aid include (screenshots from the bill are included):

  • $700 million to Sudan for “Economic Support Fund”.
  • $500 million to Israel for various defense programs.
  • $135 million to Burma for “Bilateral Economic Assistance”.
  • $1.4 billion for “Asia Reassurance Initiative Act”. A general fund for “promoting U.S. security and economic interests and values in the Indo-Pacific region”.
  • A separate $81 million for Laos.
  • $130 million to Nepal for “Foreign Military Financing.

And the list goes on. Given the length of the bill and the amount of time since its release, it is impossible to read the entire thing and find every detail. However, it is clear that the government made it a priority to continue giving foreign assistance endlessly abroad. No mainstream media news source mentions these points, however they are clearly in the bill.

One Time Payment

The most direct payment is going to be a one time payment of $600 for every member of your family, including adults and children. This payment, however, is dependent on how much an individual earned in 2019. The amount slowly decreases for earners over $75,000, and is completely eliminated for those that earned more than $99,000 on their 2019 tax return.

Many have been critical of the stimulus checks for multiple reasons. For one, $600 is hardly enough to cover monthly expenses for most Americans. Earlier this year, Congress and the President agreed to a single $1,200 stimulus payment. This amount is half of that and comes nearly 8 whole months later. Additionally, the amount one receives is based on their 2019 tax return. A majority of Americans did not start feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic until March 2020. So, for those that earned over $99,000 in 2019, but have been out of work in 2020, they will not receive this one time payment.

In this bill, the United States is giving billions to foreign nations for unclear “aid”. But to the American citizens, suffering from lockdowns, here is $600.

Additional Coronavirus Stimulus

In addition to the $600 payment, further measures are being added to the bill:

  • Additional $300 a week added to states’ unemployment programs. This will run from December 27, 2020 to March 14th, 2021.
  • $25 billion for renter assistance and an extension on the eviction moratorium.
  • $82 billion for HVAC upgrades in school to improve air filtration to decrease infection risk. An additional $10 billion is being set aside for childcare.

Paycheck Protection Program

Finally, one of the largest aspects of the bill is the Paycheck Protection Program. A whopping $284 billion is being provided for another round of forgivable PPP loans. Read about the first and second rounds here.

Some highlights from this round of PPP loans includes:

  • Allow borrowers with one PPP loan to receive another forgivable loan
  • Caps the size of a second loan at $2MM
  • Expands eligibility to more nonprofits and for-profit industries
  • Simplified forgiveness application for borrowers with loans under $150,000.

Overall, the response to this new round of PPP is generally positive. There have been a number of changes to encourage more banks to participate, and the simplifications on the forgiveness process should make it easier for small businesses to get approved.

Problematic Governing

The title- Oligarchy or Democracy- is referring to the voting process of bills. This $2.5 trillion coronavirus stimulus budget is one of the largest in US History, and yet representatives have had only a few hours to read a 5,000 page bill. There is no time for debate, amendments, or discussion, as it must pass by midnight to avoid a government shutdown.

With so many Americans hurting from government shutdowns, it is ironic that so much unrelated government spending, like foreign aid, was added to the bill. This is not a partisan issue, either. The GOP calls for limited coronavirus aid because of budget deficit concerns, but adds funding for other projects that seem far more wasteful. Similarly, the Democratic party will call Republicans heartless for not allowing more coronavirus spending, but agrees to even more spending in unrelated projects.

It feels as if much of the gridlock and back and forth was political theater for the masses, and at the end of the day our leaders always planned on leaving us in the dark. The expedient nature of a 5,000 page bill, the amount of spending that benefits no Americans, and the secrecy that not even Junior Members of Congress can navigate show that we may not live in a true Republic after all.

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