Even if we are shuddering at the numbers, most Americans likely support the coronavirus rescue bill as warranted.
Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel writes that the Senate “did something good” in passing the bill (now before the House) “to inject liquidity into a virus-ravaged economy.”
However, in a must-read column this morning, Strassel further states that the bill does “something dangerous, requiring the public to be on guard.”
Called the Care Act, the bill does provide much-needed assistance for hospitals, front line agencies, such as the CDC, and businesses that employ Americans. However:
Missing from their list [of beneficiaries] is an important category, which underlines an inescapable fact: Government mostly “Cares” for government. Bills that hand out money are written by appropriators. And appropriators never miss an opportunity to expand departments, agencies, bureaus and commissions.
A rough calculation suggests the single biggest recipient of taxpayer dollars in this legislation—far in excess of $600 billion—is government itself. This legislation may prove the biggest one-day expansion of government power ever.
. . .
Put aside the $260 billion for unemployment benefits, potentially necessary in light of record jobless claims. The bill throws $25 billion more at food stamps and child nutrition; $12 billion at housing; $3.5 billion to states for child care; $32 billion at education; $900 million at low-income heating assistance; $50 million at legal services for the poor and so on. This is a massive expansion of the welfare state, seemingly with no regard to the actual length of this crisis.
There’s also the money appropriators threw at government for no purpose other than the throwing. Every outpost gets dollars, most for nothing more than the general command “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” NASA gets $60 million.
Has the virus infected the sun’s corona? The National Archives gets $8 million. Will it put the virus on display? Many departments get cash for research, regardless of their relevance to today’s medical crisis. Perhaps the Energy Department will use its additional $99 million in “science” to gauge how the virus responds in a nuclear reactor.
There is also a lot of “outright pork.” Couldn’t $75 million to the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities have waited for a normal time when it could be more carefully debated? And what about $78, 000 for the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development?
And we don’t quite know when some of these “emergency” expenditures will end:
The bill’s real failure is that it makes no distinctions between temporary and permanent expansion of government. The state has a role in short-term crises, and lawmakers have an obligation to allocate the resources to respond.
But Democrats successfully exploited the crisis to expand the power of government overall—perhaps for the long term.
That’s especially perverse, given it was government that imposed the restrictions that shut down the economy, necessitating this rescue bill in the first place.
Read the entire column.