Months after direct coronavirus stimulus checks were sent and spent, Donald Trump is getting around to thinking another set of checks would be a good thing for his reelection prospects (because you know he’s not thinking about the well-being of individual Americans). First he’s going to have to convince Republicans in Congress and members of his own administration. Three people “aware of internal administration deliberations” tell The Washington Post that Trump thinks it will boost the economy and thus his reelection prospects.
For once, Trump agrees with the smart people. More than 140 of the nation’s top economists—and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell—have argued for massive spending, including directly to the people, of as much as $16 trillion, the amount that the Congressional Budget Office projects the economy to lose over the next decade. The House re-upped the $1,200 payments people received from the CARES Act that passed in March in their follow-up bill, the HEROES Act, which the House passed more than a month ago. While another one-time $1,200 payment isn’t nearly enough to save families, much less the economy, it would be something. But it’s too much for Senate Republicans and some of Trump’s advisers.
They want people back at their jobs, no matter how dangerous that might be for just about everybody who ever has to leave their house in this pandemic. “A lot of the stimulus checks that have gone out right now—people have been saving money and putting it into their savings accounts,” Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, said. Isn’t that cute? He thinks lots of people have savings accounts. Makes you wonder whether he’s ever talked to a normal person. “For me,” he says, “let’s get people back to work. I think that’s a better way.” Spoken like someone who never has to experience being face-to-face with the public.
Sen. Mitt Romney reminds us of his previous greatest hit, that old video when he claimed President Obama had a built-in advantage because “there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.” Ah, the good old days. Romney doesn’t want people to get the help; he wants their bosses to get it in the form of more Paycheck Protection Program money going out in loans to businesses that may or may not be able to keep people employed.
A few Republicans aren’t completely opposed to the idea as long as they can figure out how to make people jump through hoops and prove how humiliatingly destitute they are. Sen. Thom Tillis from North Carolina said he could support a hacked back version of the CARES payments—if they were targeted for “the people who are hurting the most.” (How that would be quantified isn’t clear. Like only having one meal per day as opposed to two?)
It all depends on how much Trump wants it, and if he can make Sen. Mitch McConnell agree to it. Thus far, McConnell has rejected most calls for any more assistance to people, even including enhanced unemployment payments. He’s continuing to feel no urgency about saving the nation from this ongoing nightmare he’s created with Trump.