At least you can say this about Republicans: they are consistent.
Faced with the reality of the coronavirus spreading across the United States, infecting thousands and bringing a halt to regular daily life, Sen. Chuck Grassley has a solution: tax cuts.
“While we continue to assess the economic impacts, Chairman Grassley is exploring the possibility of targeted tax relief measures that could provide a timely and effective response to the coronavirus,” a spokesman for Grassley said yesterday. “Several options within the committee’s jurisdiction are being considered as we learn more about the effects on specific industries and the overall economy.”
To be fair, Grassley is saying this as the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and that’s one of the tools they can move on, but it’s not like we’re getting more creative ideas from other Republicans.
President Donald Trump floated this week passing a large payroll tax cut. They’re also working with health insurance companies today to make coronavirus testing free, but so much of Republicans’ focus seems set on helping the stock market than helping actual people. And it’s doubtful these ideas would even help the economy given the real challenge we face.
Look, tax cuts are not going to save us from this pandemic. And the idea that it could is so unbelievably removed from what real Americans are worried about as the coronavirus spreads.
They’re stressed out about what they’ll do if their children’s schools shut down. They’re concerned about the choice of staying home if they’re feeling sick when their employer offers no sick leave. They’re worried about their older relatives and whether they’ll be able to see or help them. And most of all, they’re wondering how to make ends meet if they work in any number of jobs where you can’t simply work from home.
Getting a little bit more in your take-home pay in your paycheck means nothing if you’re not getting paid at all. And it certainly won’t help service industry workers whose income comes largely through tips, who already face added burdens during a pandemic like this.
“A temporary cut in the payroll tax can help workers who are still drawing a paycheck, but if you’re idled due to the virus and don’t have paid leave, it doesn’t help you,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Joe Biden.
If you’re a well-off, white-collar worker who can work remotely, a major payroll tax cut could add up for you nicely over the course of the year, but what even are you going to spend it on to help the economy if you’re stuck at home all day?
Small and large businesses are certainly going to struggle during this time if the economy tanks, their workers can’t show up and no one is buying things. Some tax relief for them might be nice, but again, reducing your tax burden means little if you’re bringing in much less business income from a slowdown.
Democrats are pushing for mandated sick leave (something Joni Ernst was arguing against as recently as Friday, though not in the coronavirus context), expanding unemployment insurance, anti-price gouging measures and more.
But I suppose for Republicans when all you have is hammer…
Other countries around the world seem to be coming up with much more creative and ambitious ideas to fight the spread of coronavirus, as well as care for their people during this massive disruption.
In Italy, where the entire country was placed on lock-down yesterday, the government will suspend mortgage payments for individuals. Has Grassley and other Republicans thought through what happens if millions of Americans stop getting their paychecks and can’t pay their month-to-month bills? Or do they only know and think about the well-off people who can survive those things?
In Germany, there’s growing use of drive-through testing clinics. Instead of people who are exhibiting possible signs of infection going straight to the hospital, which can put other patients and health care workers at risk, medical workers in protective gear swab people in their cars. Some localities in the United States are starting to test it out, but it doesn’t appear to be widespread yet or pushed by national leaders.
To handle the stress on hospital beds that China was experiencing with so many sick people, they literally built a 1,000-bed and a 1,600-bed hospital in Wuhan in ten days. Does anyone think our country is up for something like that?
There’s many much more creative approaches to handle this unprecedented situation. It’s very frustrating to see our elected leaders just go back to the same old well of limited ideas they use for literally everything else.
by Pat Rynard