What is it with all these conservatives who are chiseling away at Biden's COVID rescue package, including, perhaps Biden? On CNN Sunday, the new Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen indicated that she and Biden are open to lowering the eligibility from people making less than $75,000 to something less than that, like perhaps $60,000. Republicans want it to be $40,000, which they could then point to and say "See, the Democrats don't care about the middle class."
Biden has already agreed to cut the promised one-time $2,000 checks down to $1,400, making the spurious claim that the $600 check last year + this one that may come someday will equal the promised $2,000. What an idiot to screw people over so badly for no reason at all. Bernie:
Pramila also tried heading this off at the pass yesterday with a Twitter thread, which I've put in narrative form:
We promised people that if we won the Senate, we would send out $2,000 survival checks. They delivered us to victory-- and now we MUST deliver. “Targeting” checks to a smaller group fails to do that. People need help like never before, and we must put money in their pockets. “Targeting” checks isn’t just bad for people, it’s bad policy too! It’s not humane, it's not smart, it’s not effective, and it’s not even fiscally responsible. Not to mention that it doesn't meet the scale of this crisis. Help me spread the word about 4 obvious reasons why:
1- The survival checks often use 2019 tax data to measure someone’s income. Millions lost their jobs in 2020 due to COVID-- that’s the whole point of this relief!-- and therefore their income from 1 or 2 years ago is no longer accurate. They need help now and we must provide it. Even if someone isn’t one of the nearly 1 million additional people losing their job EVERY single week, they likely lost hours and therefore had their overall income significantly reduced. By “targeting,” we cut out people who are desperately in need of help.
2- The data from people who filed for unemployment shows that more than 20% of those earning between $50k and $70k were still food insecure. That's up 16% from 2019-- and it's why food banks have such long lines. We need to put money in their pockets so they can feed their family.
3- Only 24% of those who lost work have received unemployment. Why? Because many don’t qualify. Who? Parents who stayed home for childcare. People who didn’t feel safe going to work. Young adults who didn’t have a job. Survival checks are their only lifeline. Don't take it away.
4- There are massive racial and ethnic disparities in all of this. “Targeting” further increases those disparities-- and will further increase income inequality. Democrats should NOT be the party that cuts survival checks. People need money in their pockets and we must be the party that delivers it. If we're really the party that's #ForThePeople, then let's get it together and send these survival checks at the level we promised-- NO LESS.
Like Bernie and Pramila, Colin Byrd, the mayor of the legendary Greenbelt, Maryland and 2022 congressional candidate, isn't buying giving people short shrift. He told me today that he agrees "that it would be 'ideal' if the next covid-19 relief package were to be passed in a bipartisan manner, but I don’t think that that means that Congress should block people who make $50k or $75k from getting the direct payments. Their need to help the American people should outweigh their desire for a 'show of bipartisanship' that would involve reducing the size of the payments and/or cutting more Americans out of the payments. Granted, people making $75k may not necessarily be in dire poverty, but they are far from rich, especially when they make that money in districts like mine, which is home to many people who live in more costly areas near DC. That said, while I am concerned about who gets the checks, I am also very concerned about the amounts on the checks themselves, as well as the frequency of the checks. I would note that the president proposed one time $1,400 checks, but I think they should be at least monthly $2,000 checks. People who are struggling to make ends meet know the difference that an ‘extra’ $600 can make in their lives. They know the pandemic’s economic devastation is not projected to suddenly end tomorrow. And they know that most of their bills are not ‘one time’ bills. Their bills are recurring, so the survival checks should be recurring as well, rather than ‘one off’ things. At the very least, the promise of $2,000 checks was made, and that promise should be kept rather than broken.
North Carolina state Senator Erica Smith is running for the open U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina. You don't have to guess about where she stands on the issues. This afternoon she told me that "Americans were promised $2,000 checks by the Democrats. Now it's time to deliver on that promise. Lowering the eligibility in the midst of an economic crisis, one in which Wall St. and corporations have already received hundreds of billions, is politically and morally reckless. These are survival checks, both for individuals and for our economy. Use 2020 income numbers (not 2019 as they're trying to do) with the same income thresholds as the initial checks. We cannot try to nickel and dime working people on this relief bill."
Shervin Aazami is a progressive congressional candidate taking on Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley. He doesn't pull any punches and told me today that "It's absurd that conservative Democrats are trying to means-test relief for working class families. When was the last time Congress means-tested corporate bailouts? Here in Los Angeles we have the highest unemployment rate in the state at roughly 12%. We've experienced massive job losses that have fallen disproportionately on Black and Latinx small-business owners and families, and new reports document that the number of unhoused across LA County will likely double as a result of COVID-19. Biden and Democrats quite literally ran on $2,000 checks and a $15 minimum wage. And within a month of assuming the majority, both of those bailouts of working people are on the chopping block. Why? When will we stop shafting working people? My goodness can someone explain to these conservative Democrats that the cost of living in rural Arizona is not the same as Los Angeles? The Fed pumped $1.5 trillion into financial markets last March to quell the anxiety of investors and no one (especially these same conservative Democrats) batted an eye, but a $2,000 check for working people after nearly a year of intense suffering is 'untargeted' and will 'raise the deficit?' It's absurd, it's morally bankrupt, and it's an abdication of duty to the American people. We need RECURRING $2,000 checks and unemployment benefits for the duration of the pandemic, and a federal $15 minimum wage. And then we need to get to work on dismantling this exploitative, capitalist system that drives such immense wealth inequality. Democrats weren't elected to be bipartisan-- they were elected to serve the people and provide direct relief."
The newest candidate for Congress-- Ally Dalsimer in the DC suburbs in northern Virginia, who declared today-- wasn't shy about jumping right into the debate and letting voters know where she stands: "The fact that some members of Congress think holding up relief funds over whether $50K or $75K constitutes a 'living wage' just demonstrates how completely out of touch they are with what's going on in the country at large. Rent for a single bedroom apartment in Northern Virginia is about $2K/mo x 12 for the year, and that doesn't include food, clothing, heat, electricity, transit, medicines/doctor visits (since we don't actually have universal healthcare!). Plus, they're using two-year old tax data to figure out who 'needs' $1400 to feed and care for their families. Adam Christensen said it best when he said we need to send out the checks NOW and worry about who didn't need the money later, when folks with money file their 2021 tax returns."