Partisan politics again seem to dictate the intentions of those “representing” everyday Americans as members of Congress conveniently reached an agreement on relief a short time after the election. The massive 5,593 page bill was delivered to members of Congress with only hours to review before a vote and provides $900 billion in funding for “Covid relief,” making it the second-largest spending bill passed by Congress behind the CARES Act from the spring of this year.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle voiced concerns with the bill over its length, allocation of funding, fiscal and economic irresponsibility, and lack of substantial support for everyday Americans affected by the pandemic and government shutdowns. We would be wise to remember the words of James Madison, who warned “it will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood” (Federalist, #62).
What Are the Positives for the American People?
Simply stating that struggling Americans are only getting $600 checks is an oversight of the full support offered within the bill. Yes, each individual will receive a flat out check, but there’s also “enhanced federal unemployment benefits, and money for small businesses, schools and child care, as well as for vaccine distribution.”
The federal unemployment benefits add an additional $300 a week through March 2021 and don’t even include additional unemployment benefits or insurance covered by individual states. Other protections include $284 billion for the forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), $25 billion in emergency assistance for renters, and a moratorium on evictions through January 31, 2021. All these provisions directly help the American people beyond the $600 stimulus check and still don’t include the $82 billion in funding for schools, $10 billion for child care assistance, or $29 billion for transit programs across the country.
Elements of the Bill That Allocate Additional Funding
The spending in the bill is utterly massive. Although it’s difficult to even conceptualize such dollar amounts, it’s essential to remember that these are in fact real price tags that have to be settled by someone at some point in the future. The national debt is currently at $27 trillion and constantly rising, and comes out to over $220,000 per tax-paying individual.
The bill includes millions in bailouts for airline and entertainment industries, additional financial protections for members of Congress, federal financial aid reforms, climate change measures, border wall funding, restrictions on online streaming services, allocation for a new presidential library, new museums honoring minorities, and additional funding for the nation’s universities.
The government isn’t “stimulating” anything; they’re not a money-making entity outside of charging their constituents taxes.
The idea that the money is just being used for “Covid relief” is a complete fallacy. This practice has unfortunately become the norm for passing legislation as lengthy bills are packed with hidden spending and agenda items that have nothing to do with the current issue at hand. These ideas and policies can’t be reached alone, so Congress writes them into ridiculously huge spending packages that politically and logistically absolutely have to get passed.
The Economics of “Stimulus”
It would appear that based on the way our legislators operate that they have little to no understanding of basic economic principles. After all, James Madison famously said that unfortunately, “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” The reality is that for many Americans, the $600 check they’re about to get is going to be paid for by...themselves.
Money doesn’t grow on trees, and money that comes from governments is no different. Printing money yourself is a crime, but when the government does so it’s perfectly acceptable, if not outrightly celebrated. Words matter, and the false connotation behind the “stimulus” is important to recognize. The government isn’t “stimulating” anything; they’re not a money-making entity outside of charging their constituents taxes. Eventually, the bill has to be paid for, and more often than not, wild government spending only leads to rapid inflation (which, as Milton Freidman points out, is only EVER created by governments). In extreme, but not uncommon circumstances, this massive inflation and irresponsible spending lead to a complete societal crisis.
Relying on the Government To Solve Problems
The ultimate farce of all of this lies in the notion that the government both can and will solve your problems. Belief in bureaucratic solutions implies that there are answers that lie in the hands of the few in power, and that those few in power would actually implement a solution that works for everyone. Prioritizing the collective over the individual and giving those decisions to elected officials is impractical, naive, and directly contrary to the founding principles of this country. This latest spending bill proves that months into a crisis, a few hundred dollars is the best support the government can offer to a hurting people, many of whom have been hurt by the same government now purporting to extend a “helping hand.”
Prioritizing the collective over the individual and giving those decisions to elected officials is impractical and naive.
The reality is that the party in power, no matter who they are, will work primarily for what they want, not what the majority of average Americans want. The Founding Fathers knew this, and intentionally envisioned a country that would hopefully prevent such practices. “Complaints are everywhere heard […] that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority” (James Madison, Federalist 10).
We, as citizens, are watching in real-time as we allow and give over power to those supposedly making decisions in our best interests. The reality, and the beauty of America, is that we personally know and, most importantly, have the right to decide what works best for ourselves, our families, our businesses, and our immediate communities.
Closing Thoughts: It’s Time To Prioritize People and Principles over Politics
In a whopping four pages, our Constitution has provided the framework for the most successful country in human history — 5,589 pages fewer than the details of this current spending and regulation spree. Our Founding Fathers are likely rolling over in their graves knowing the current ways the U.S. government is functioning. As a people, it’s high time we think about the principles that guarantee our freedoms, and who we choose to put in power to protect those freedoms and decide what’s best for us and our families.