The Republicans have drawn a red line — protect employers from legal liability from COVID. The Democrats have not put in any red lines in place. After seeing the Republican plan, multiple red lines are needed.
The failed bi-partisan state is unable to pass legislation in time to prevent foreclosures and in time for the shrinkage in unemployment benefit. These will be devastating to an economy that shrank at a record 32.9% annual pace in the second quarter, the largest since records have been kept since 1947. The GDP had never shrunk by more than 10% on an annualized basis in any quarter since the government began keeping track shortly after World War Two. Jobless claims increased for the second week in a row with 1.4 million new people seeing unemployment benefits with continuing claims rising to 17.06 million and more than 35 million losing their jobs since March. In the face of these depression-era numbers, neither the Democrats or Republicans are planning enough spending to rebuild the economy.
The so-called HEAL Act produced by the Republicans will spread the pandemic and deepen the economic collapse. The COVID Relief Package needs a complete redrafting and a major increase in funding. There are some critical red lines that must be drawn:
- Ensure the November Election: This morning Trump tweeted “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” While he does not have the power to change the date of the election, this still requires the Congress to pass funding for full mail-in voting as well as necessary funding for the Post Office. The pandemic will be raging in the Fall and people will need to vote by mail.
- Do Not Make Schools Super Spreaders for More Illness: The Republican proposal pushes schools to open by trying increased federal funding to the reopening of schools.This will make schools hotspots for the spread of the virus to students, teachers, school employees, their families and their communities. Instead, funding for schools should be increased because of the challenges of the pandemic and the lack of state and local funding for schools, including teacher salaries. Funding should be available to facilitate web-based learning, this should include hiring hundreds of thousands of tutors to work with students of all ages. With 35 million unemployed, especially recent graduates, there are many people qualified to work one-on-one with students.
- Protect Workers and Employers: The Repubican plan seeks to push workers to work in unsafe conditions and then provides them with no legal recourse for irresponsible employers. A red line should be a safe workplace for both employers and employees. This requires stringent standards for workplaces to re-open, massive funding of rapid testing so every workplace could be as safe as the White House, increased funding for OSHA for workplace inspections and investigations of inadequate safety. Employers who meet the standards for a safe workplace should have legal protection for frivolous lawsuits but employees should have the right to easily sue if workplaces do not meet safety standards.
- Stop the Pandemic: The United States is seven months into the COVID virus which has now killed more than 150,000 people and infected 4.5 million with 70,000 new cases daily. The COVID relief package should include a massive investment in making rapid testing available across the country. Funding should be made available to hire 500,000 trackers nationwide so that those who have been exposed to COVID can be tracked to prevent further spread of the pandemic. Twenty-eight million people in the US were without health insurance before COVID, 5.4. million workers lost their insurance with the economic collapse leaving them and millions of more family members without insurance. This is the largest decline in health insurance coverage in US history. Medicare should be expanded to provide COVID testing and treatment to everyone in the United States. The economic collapse shows why healthcare should not be tied to employment and why we need improved Medicare for All. Businesses and schools will not be able to re-open safely until this is put in place.
- Stop Job Loss and Business Destruction: The United States has lost more than 35 million jobs. The Republican proposal will add to this job loss. Two principal red lines on jobs are the need to fund state and local governments with a $1 trillion dollar investment. More than 20 million people work for state and local governments and the Economic Policy Institute estimates 5.3 million jobs will be lost if funding is not made available to states immediately. The decrease in unemployment benefits will further shrink an economy that already has shrunk by record levels. The Economic Policy Institute finds that 3.4 million jobs will be lost by decreasing unemployment benefits. The $600 COVID unemployment supplement should remain. In addition, direct funding to businesses to keep their employees and pay their rents, as well as an increase in direct funding to individuals of $2,000 per person for those earning less than $150,000 is needed. The moratorium on evictions in federally-subsidized housing must be extended. The federal government should cover rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the emergency. This investment will save businesses, prevent homelessness and poverty, and begin to restart the economy.
The Republican program is an open program of class warfare. The funding of a 100% tax deduction for business lunches while cutting unemployment and not preventing evictions and foreclosures highlights this class war. By not funding state and local governments, Republicans are defunding police, fire, schools, transit, and other essential workers and destroying public unions.
The COVID pandemic and economic collapse are an opportunity to remake the economy. It requires both urgent action and long-term planning. We have put forward a plan for COVID and the economic crisis in a series of posts since April, see: The Moment of Truth is Now for COVID and Economic Relief (July 20, 2020), COVID-19 Crisis: Time For The Green Party To Step Into The Political Vacuum (May 21, 2020), Hawkins/Walker Calls On Congress to Enact the Green New Deal in Response to COVID-19 (May 15, 2020), and The Fifth Coronavirus Relief Package We Need, (April 26, 2020)