Coronavirus Relief: Congress’ Rescue Plan Looks Like a Mess

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Congress should be passing a coronavirus rescue package, not a Nancy Pelosi wish-list plan, not a faux stimulus plan, and not a plan that incentivizes more Americans to rely on the government. They should have passed it last week. And yet here we are.

The first phase of any rescue plan would have been best served focusing primarily on saving companies forced to close by the government. Obviously there would be populist blowback, but corporations are best positioned to withstand this kind of temporary shock, and not only keep people employed but also allow them to continue their health care plans and retirement plans, etc. From what we can tell, though, large parts of the bill are now excessively complicated and counterproductive.

Why is Congress using 2018 tax returns to decide who gets a government check today? Why means test aid by income rather than loss from the virus? What evidence is there that employed Americans are going to spend that $1,200 check—or whatever it ends up being—to stimulate economic growth? Most Americans probably aren’t inclined to do more than pay their bills and shop for necessities. You can try and shame people into ordering a thousand dollars in takeout, but instinctively, they’re far more likely to bank government checks in anticipation of future difficulties. That’s completely rational and predictable behavior for people who are seeing massive instability in the economy. I’d rather we gave bigger checks to those who need it.

That doesn’t mean we should be incentivizing low-wage unemployed and furloughed workers to avoid looking for jobs. Yet, that’s what the Senate is doing by creating unemployment benefits that can exceed — sometimes significantly — worker salaries. Those who want to hire those workers will have to offer more than prevailing wages, hurting themselves. Some companies might not hire at all.  The bill might let others quit their jobs and claim benefits, decoupling employers and employees when we need the stick together. The unemployment system, already overrun with workers who have no place to turn, will be further taxed by those who could be looking for jobs sooner. It makes no sense.

Obviously Americans need aid now, but this all should have been a lot simpler, and a lot quicker.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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