KISS My . . .


marie antoinette 0420
It could be “fake news” that Marie Antoinette said anything along the lines of “Let them eat cake” or even “Let them eat brioche,” but the attitude behind it was nonetheless there — and it proved very costly for her and her husband.

Representative Pramila Jayapal is a Democrat from the state of Washington. Senator Josh Hawley is a Republican from Missouri. While they are not yet on the same page, they are both in the same book, and from way down here, it seems like their way is the only really viable option forward. Which means, I suppose, that it will be the last one considered in Congress.

Rep. Jayapal and Sen. Hawley are both proposing a very European solution to the tanking of our economy that has dumped 22 million people into unemployment in one month: all these unemployed go back to their jobs, whether they can actually work or not, and their employer will pay some small portion of their wages while the federal government pays the rest.

The devil is always in the details, of course, and Rep. Jayapal is proposing that the government pay 100 percent of the wages, while Sen. Hawley is at a more European 80 percent. I imagine hundreds of their colleagues are at 0 percent, but we should all be on our phones encouraging our elected officials at the national level to undertake this.

We may be closing the barn door as the horse is squeezing through, but we need, as a country, to recognize that everything undertaken so far was a bad, bad idea, and stop those failed and failing ideas in their tracks.

Let us think for a minute. We sneer at European socialism, countries whose citizens all remain employed and don’t have to rely on any certain job for health insurance. So then we implement American socialism, which is piecemeal, haphazard, and seems to always result in the rich getting richer at poor peoples’ expense. (You don’t need to believe me; you can look at wealth distribution facts yourself.)

The CARES Act focused $90 billion on “closing a loophole” that left real estate developers out of the rich-people money grab of 2017, and while $150 billion was intended to keep hotel workers on the payroll, the hotels don’t want to pay people to not work and want instead to funnel that money up the corporate chains. The $349 billion intended to keep every small business payroll intact (through the Paycheck Protection Program) ran completely out of money in two weeks, weeks in which a lot of businesses couldn’t even get an application through.

All these billions, and 22 million are still unemployed, fighting against a man named Scalia (Eugene this time, son of Antonin), who is the head of the Labor Department and completely uninterested in the strife of poor (and newly poor) people. Instead of implementing programs Congress intended to help the unemployed, he is pushing as hard as he can to keep from paying unemployment benefits to people who can’t afford food or their rent because their job vaporized in a viral mist.

Obviously, no one in the current administration is any sort of student of history, and these people with their silver spoons dangling have no clue what happens when people become hungry and angry.

This was just all so avoidable! (Maybe; we’ll have to see how long this goes on and if Europeans can hold up any better than Americans under staggering debt load. But for now, most Europeans remain employed.)

Had Rep. Jayapal or Sen. Hawley come up with their proposed legislation earlier, and had Congress immediately embraced them (I realize we are freewheeling in Fantasyland here), do you know what the unemployment rate today would be? Less than 5%. Do you know how many people would have been dumped off their health insurance right as they are more likely to need it? Very few.

Do you know how many people would be behind in their rent? Only the ones who were already there. Or credit cards, car payments, or mortgages, or any other kind of loan?

Do you know who would be at the food pantries? Mostly just the people who were already there, which frankly is way too many people in this “Land of Plenty” but far, far fewer than the engorged numbers turning up now.

The government would still be out trillions of dollars, but the human infrastructure would be in place, ready to go as soon as it was deemed safe. This unrest, which is currently manifesting itself in angry Tea Partiers storming statehouses, is just going to get bigger and uglier as they are joined by people of all political stripes who can’t eat, can’t pay rent and can’t afford health care.

You would not have business owners trying to figure out if the PPP, assuming it was at all available, could be spent on A but not B and only C in the case of D; you would not have people calling unemployment offices literally hundreds of times a day, trying to get through; you would not have Wall Street getting rich at Main Street’s expense. (Who am I kidding? We’ll always have that.)

I don’t know how reversible any of this is, assuming Congress found any will to act on these horrendously expensive proposals with the expediency necessary. (I should just laugh at myself now.) People would have to be recalled off unemployment and put back to “work,” which in many cases would still mean remaining home; I have no idea if you cancel the PPP and other CARES funds already expended, or consider that an advancement on the Hawley-Jayapal Employment Retention Act (there: I’ve solved one congressional issue, what to call it).

I doubt either the representative or the senator are going to gain much traction with their proposals, because it’s the most obvious way forward, much harder to ladle pork into, and their compatriots are going to argue it’s too late.

So I suppose we’ll do what we have made an art form of: argue and name-call, dig in our partisan heels and refuse to budge. In the meantime, extreme, angry conservatives will blame the “hoax” for their every misfortune (encouraged by their president), and people who have been told to “defer” rent they’re never going to be able to repay will start literally hitting the streets.

The virus will not be contained; neither will anger; and Congress will have spent trillions scarred by machinations and gyrations that solved none of the problems at hand and in fact made them worse, and it all seems rather stupid and pointless when there are people, at least two of them (one from either party), standing there with proposals that could have avoided much of this. And maybe still can.

Right about the time American patriots (the original tea partiers, although we’ve really lost the meaning along the way) were agitating against the English king, the working class in France was starving. When told the poor could no longer afford bread, the queen offered this glib solution: “Let them eat cake.” Ultimately, it was an attitude that caused her to literally lose her head. Congress, and the administration, ought to take note. But probably won’t. Brioche, anyone?

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