2 critiques of Biden’s ‘Rescue Amerika’ plan

First: ‘Biden stimulus bill: What will it take to really ‘Rescue America?’, Jordan Woll, January 21, 2021, liberationnews.org  (CC w/ attribution)


Joe Biden’s recently-announced pandemic relief package, the so-called American Rescue Plan, is the new administration’s top legislative priority. With the bar set tragically low by the Trump government, any action at all by the Biden administration may feel like a welcome improvement. But the severity of the pandemic in the country and the threat of emerging, highly-transmissible new strains of the virus requires radical solutions to address the urgent daily needs of working and poor people.

The Democrats control both houses of Congress and the executive branch. The filibuster that requires 60 Senators to vote in favor of closing debate on a measure is not a law, but an internal Senate rule that the Democratic majority can simply decide to do away with. But despite having the power to pass laws without any Republican support, the Biden administration has introduced another bill that fails to measure up to the scale of the crisis facing the working class.

If the United States had just inaugurated a socialist government instead of a pro-corporate Democratic Party administration, it would move to immediately cancel all rent and mortgage payments along with any debt accumulated to landlords and banks. Everyone would be guaranteed a dignified income that allows them to stay home and contain the pandemic. The insurance industry would be abolished and the pharmaceutical giants expropriated to ensure universal access to healthcare, including the vaccine. Despite the eye-catching $1.9 trillion price tag on Biden’s proposal, it does not contain any of these or other sweeping measures necessary to resolve the public health and economic crisis gripping the country.

Healthcare, housing and food

Opinion polling has consistently shown high levels of support for a universal healthcare system along the lines of Medicare for All. Rather than using this historic moment of suffering to put into place what would be an incredibly popular and much-needed reorganization of the U.S. healthcare system away from the for-profit model, Biden refuses to ditch the parasitic insurance companies. The administration’s proposal is to continue to rely on the patchwork system of private insurance markets, but cap premiums at 8.5 percent of one’s income.

Tens of thousands of families have been kicked out of their homes since September 2020 despite the Centers for Disease Control’s national moratorium on evictions issued that month. Biden’s plan calls for an extension of this measure through September 2021 and additionally creates a pool of funds for states and localities to use to assist those who are at risk of homelessness. It remains unclear how Biden’s rental assistance funds would be distributed, except that a minimum of $200 million will be guaranteed to each state and that money in excess of this minimum will be based on population rather than specific need for rental assistance in a state.

This could lead to insufficient assistance in very rental-dense, high-cost areas like the major cities of the country. Also of concern is the fact that funds are intended to be paid directly to landlords, which suggests that it may be difficult for renters to figure out if their back rent or future rent is being covered by the program. States will develop their own application processes and may add restrictions, leading to another patchwork, hard-to-navigate response to this urgent national problem.

Approximately 50 million Americans experienced “food insecurity” — meaning hunger — in 2020, including one in four children. This grave crisis will not be remedied by the bill’s proposal to boost the already-gutted, means-tested food stamp program (SNAP) by 15 percent. Right now most states are issuing the maximum SNAP benefit amount as an emergency measure in response to COVID-19, and the proposed 15 percent increase would result in about $100 extra for an average household of four. But some research has found that especially single-adult households may need more than $100 extra per week in excess of the maximum SNAP benefit to meet basic nutritional needs. Furthermore, increases in emergency federal unemployment assistance will continue to count as income in SNAP eligibility testing, meaning that individuals may find themselves losing their food benefit as a result.

Direct and indirect payments

Biden has faced criticism even from more liberal members of his own party for promising $2,000 direct payments and then really proposing $1,400 checks — which would equal $2,000 when added to the Trump administration’s final direct payout of $600.

Federal unemployment aid could be raised by $100 per week to a total of $400 under Biden’s plan. This figure is less than the $600 per week that the Trump government offered in mid-2020. The enhancement to unemployment benefits would expire in September — unless dramatic improvements are made to the so far shambolic vaccination drive it is highly unlikely the crisis will be over by then.

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Federal assistance to state and local governments — amounting to $350 billion under Biden’s proposal — could help large numbers of public sector workers keep their jobs. The same could be true of increased funding for small business assistance programs. But strict oversight will be necessary to ensure that government entities and businesses that receive aid do not find backdoor ways to conduct layoffs, or that highly profitable companies do not exploit loopholes to access aid meant for struggling small businesses.

The new President’s plan to address the needs of children and the deeply impoverished is not to offer direct payments or guaranteed income and employment. Instead, Biden will extend and increase individual tax credits. This will delay the receipt of aid that is needed right now, ensure the disqualification of many undocumented workers, and create barriers to access what is necessary for people whom the capitalist system has failed or excluded.”

Next: ‘Biden’s ‘rescue America’ plan is big. How its trillions could help both Wall Street and Main Street’, 16, 2021, marketwatch.com

“As Americans hunker down and wait to get vaccinated, the toll of the coronavirus pandemic keeps rising.

Its costs, both in lives and livelihood, prompted President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday to propose another $1.9 trillion “first step” spending package to help combat the carnage of the pandemic, even before he takes office next week.

But as Washington gears up to debate another big relief initiative, hand-wringing on Wall Street has already begun as investors worry the bull-market for stocks could be threatened by an economy that might overheat and cause borrowing costs to rise, while also potentially saddling the U.S. with unsustainable debts.”  […]

“If passed, total spending from Congress in the past year on coronavirus aid would reach $4.8 trillion, plus the Federal Reserve’s huge monetary stimulus and bond- buying program that’s expanded its balance sheet to about $7.3 trillion from $4.2 trillion as of last February, writes MarketWatch columnist Michael Brush.

“On the one hand, you have investors worrying about the Fed pulling back from stimulus, while the Biden administration wants to throw a ton more stimulus at the pandemic,” Doty told MarketWatch. “But the more Biden’s stimulus packs a punch, the sooner the Fed will start pulling back.”

And yes, Sergeant Dow Jones is at 30,996 ! today, a week ago at 31, 176 !

Michael Hudson:

“Well, the pandemic’s been a bonanza for the stock market and for the wealthiest one percent. They’ve gained a trillion dollars since the start of the pandemic. Amazon stock is going through the roof. And with 70 percent of restaurants in New York City going bankrupt, this is made Doordash and other Internet firms make a fortune by essentially wiping out the restaurants, taking 30 percent of the receipts and the charge for the restaurant menu. Essentially, this puts most restaurants in America out of business.

That means that it’s a bonanza for the really big companies to pick up all the slack now that you’re wiping out the middle class. It’s a great prospect for private capital real estate companies like Blackstone, because they can buy a huge number of foreclosed properties and empty properties that can’t be rented out and Blackstone can pick up these homes that are defaulted on, buy them out, turn them into rental property and make a fortune by raising the cost of housing in the United States, all increasing the rent by the people who have lost the jobs. And it’s great prospects for the big restaurant chains, McDonald’s and the others. The big chains can survive, whereas the small individual restaurants have basically been driven out of business. So if you’re a billionaire, it’s been just a wonderful year.”

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A brief PSA:

If you receive an envelope that says in RED:

‘Not a bill or an advertisement.  Important information

about your Economic Impact Payment’:

Don’t throw it away!  It may be that it contains a plastic debit card for your $600 per person you’re receiving from the US Treasury under the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020.  Discover more here at Business Insider, but no, only half of the Treasury Dept. logo can be seen through the opaque window in the return address position.  Visa?  WTF?  Does one really have to get online to sign the user agreement?

 

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