Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: Accusation: The Democrats are using the pandemic to reward political allies

By Arlene Violet
Posted 3/12/21

Congressional Republicans are objecting to the $1.9 trillion legislation being pushed by the president and the Democrats to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic fallout. They …

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Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: Accusation: The Democrats are using the pandemic to reward political allies

Posted

Congressional Republicans are objecting to the $1.9 trillion legislation being pushed by the president and the Democrats to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic fallout. They argue that less than 9 percent of the entire total spending actually puts shots in the arms. While there is accuracy to the accusation the bill also addresses economic fallout, not just vaccination, so the attack is far too narrow. So the real analysis involves the difference between the “necessary” $1.9 trillion tab and the Republican projection.

Both sides have valid points. Take the Republican talking point that if the package was about opening schools why is less than 5 percent of all spending on schools only being spent in 2021. The Democrats counter that there is a hiatus between additional funding availability and spending because of local school allocation spending. That assertion also has an element of truth but it is hard to argue that with $71 billion already allocated in past legislation, which is still unspent, that the Republicans are wrong. Also, the designation of another $129 billion should wait the unfolding of the economy to see if it is necessary. Score a point for the Republicans.

The Republicans argue that the Democrats have changed the allocation formula per state. The old metric in the past 2 pieces of legislation was based only on population. In the present legislation passed by the House, population and unemployment are the formula, thereby giving California (Pelosi) more than $5 billion more and New York (Schumer) $2 billion more than the old formula. While arguments can be made for the respective projects which will be funded in the Speaker’s state and that of the Senate Majority Leader, those projects, nonetheless, are pork. Score another point to the Republicans.

The Republicans, along with some moderate Democrats, thought that the stimulus payment eligibility for the new round of $1400 is too high. President Joseph Biden agreed to scale back full payment for individuals who earned under $75,000 and couples earning under $150,000 with the benefit disappearing over $80,000 and $160,000 respectively (instead of $100,000 and $200,000). The Democrats now appear to be on board with this carving out of 9 million recipients. Further, the tax credit for children and students for qualifying people who are filing their income tax also provide disposable funds. The Republicans score another point.

Yet, the Republican effort to make the legislation better will ultimately come back to haunt them in the 2022 elections if they continue to grouse about it. Further, more like 85 percent of the stimulus package has a reasonable nexus with fighting the effects of the pandemic on health, education, welfare and the economy. Coupled with the reality that overwhelmingly voters support the stimulus package, a raft of attack ads during the midterm will portray the Republicans as willing to slash taxes for the wealthy while chiseling checks for people who are struggling during a national crisis. Tactics like insisting that the Bill be read aloud (taking 11 hours) will backfire. With the modest victories the Republicans have achieved they need to hop off the cheapskates’ bandwagon right now or risk disaster. Right isn’t always might.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.