Republican lawmakers have continually downplayed the severity of the coronavirus while offering their largesse to major corporations and barely helping average U.S. citizens. Now, they are jumping the line to get the Pfizer vaccine ahead of frontline medical workers and whipping 60,000 pennies at each of our heads.
As these dead-enders pat themselves on the backs for slashing the individual stimulus benefit to $600 while negotiating the new $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, workers and voters of this nation owe these inhumane skinflints a lesson on how little the federal government is doing for them.
by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press
Last August, a pre-eviction flyer distributed by a southwest Oklahoma City apartment complex hit social media. Titled “Guess Who’s Moving? You!!!,” it illustrated what it is like when renters lose income and the worst kind of landlords start salivating at the prospect of other people’s misery.
“Rent is due on the 1st of the month NOT whenever!” read the flyer, which was received in July by a tenant in that complex and featured a pointing and laughing emoji. “I have sent you several letters and you have ignored all of them. Eviction has been filed and additional fees ($330.00) have been added. BRING IN YOUR OUTSTANDING BALANCE OR YOUR KEYS. THIS IS NOT FREE HOUSING.”
The new stimulus package arrives just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal moratorium on evictions ends Dec. 31 and extends that moratorium to Jan. 31. So, if you are a worker in the service industry who was furloughed due to social distancing and mask mandates and you pay between $500 and $850 every month to live in the above complex, that COVID-19 aid check will go entirely to the amoral predator who distributed that flyer. Thanks to the $330 in additional fees tacked on for sheer meanness’ sake, it will not be remotely sufficient, and then the utilities and other household expenses are not going to pay themselves.
People are mad about this stimulus because it falls so short of even being a half-measured response to the growing crisis in America. On Dec. 16, The Washington Post reported that 7.8 million Americans fell into poverty between June and November. That is the largest increase in a single year since the government began tracking poverty in the 1960s, and according to WaPo, it doubles the second-highest number, which occurred during the 1970s energy crisis.
A $600 one-time stimulus check during these circumstances feels like a violation of trust between the government and its taxpayers, like insurance that does not cover anything.
And this is all because Republicans let outgoing President Donald Trump increase the deficit in this country by 74 percent in four years, but now as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, suddenly they are all interested in balanced books.
We certainly heard that sentiment from U.S. Senator James Lankford, who was still talking up the emaciated $500 million package to his new friends at Newsmax earlier this month that did not include any direct stimulus money for Americans. He is a senator for Oklahoma’s ruling class of petroleum oligarchs, but Lankford does not care about the 1 in 5 children going hungry in this state or the parents who became unemployed or underemployed in the wake of the pandemic.
This callousness is the result of a nation that largely treats capitalism like a religion, one that should be followed with a fundamentalist’s eye for the theological details.
Most Western nations are paying sizable percentages of income to keep families afloat, having reached a compromise in which social programs mind the gap between haves and have nots, but the U.S. still uses cowboy terms like “bootstraps” when telling its citizens how to feed and house themselves. COVID-19, in essence, revealed the dangers of religiously practicing capitalism.
One more month of eviction moratorium takes the sting out of New Year’s Day 2021 for many of these renters and the $600 checks will not hurt, but these short-term measures just kick the can down the road. People in Oklahoma and throughout this country deserve a government that takes real and substantive action in times of crisis, the kind that anticipates future crises and builds frameworks to address them.
We needed a plan to heal this economy. McConnell and the Republicans gave each of us $600 to go away and stop bothering them.
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Feature photo: United States Senator and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. By Gage Skidmore.