Friday, May 15, 2020

States Need a Bailout from Mitch McConnell and His Morally Bankrupt GOP

If we want to continue to get care when we’re sick, give our children education, and have police and firefighters to protect us, we’re going to need a federal bailout that devotes real money to real people, as opposed to corporations. It seems like common sense, but common sense seems to be the least common of all the senses.

In NYC, where I work, it took decades to recover from the teacher shortage that followed 1975 layoffs. Students sat in classes of 50 or more. We now know that class size is not merely an educational priority, but also a health priority. Can you imagine trying to social distance 50 students in a classroom?

Not everyone considers that worth worrying about. According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, we may or may not get federal aid for actual working people in states and communities. Evidently, before we consider such frivolities, we need to protect businesses that compel people to work during a pandemic. Perish forbid, says McConnell, they should be held responsible when their employees get sick or die. This notwithstanding, Americans who worked their whole lives in expectation of a pension are not a priority for McConnell. This is a curious value.

I’m not at all sure why business takes priority over people. We’ve bailed out big airlines and big hotels. Evidently McConnell and his BFFs need to travel and stay somewhere, and roadside inns just won’t do. Even as tens of millions of Americans find themselves newly without jobs or health insurance, we’ve made sure Wall St. didn’t feel too much pain.

McConnell himself need not worry. Aside from whatever money he’s accrued during his Senate career, he’ll be getting a fixed pension of $139,200 a year, courtesy of US taxpayers. .I’ve yet to hear him say that Congressional pensions ought to be cut or rescinded, despite massive red ink in the federal budget. So why, then, is he so hard on states having trouble meeting their obligations? 

The answer, of course, is that these states are blue states. The GOP Senate appears to believe states that didn’t vote for them don’t deserve to be helped. Therefore it’s okay for them to go bankrupt. Then they won’t have to bother with unimportant things like paying pensions or providing health service for unimportant people who don’t add value to Wall St. We’re talking about, teachers, cops, firefighters, nurses, among others who seem to matter not at all to McConnell.

Of course, red states need a bailout too, up to and including McConnell’s home state, Kentucky. One might conclude it’s more important for McConnell to trash blue states than help his constituents. Ironically, his own state is largely propped up by blue state cash, and that doesn’t matter either. The important things are to help those who least need help, and stoke up hatred against the most vulnerable among us. The President, for example, is sick and tired of sanctuary cities like NYC, and wants us to buy into his anti-immigrant agenda before granting us aid.

Democratic governors are calling for one trillion dollars of “direct and flexible relief.” Yet the GOP, which voted a 1.5 trillion tax break for those who least needed it, says we ought not to bail out blue states. This is ironic, since blue states regularly support red states as a matter of course. For McConnell and Trump, though, people who live and work in blue states are of no consequence. They aren’t worried, because if we go bankrupt, their good buds will determine how we spend our money. 

We can’t allow that to happen. 

We urgently need aid for states, red or blue, that are suffering under this pandemic. It’s unconscionable that we decide whether or not to help Americans based on how they voted in the last election, or any election. Of course I’m focused on NY, my state, which is at the epicenter of this crisis, but we need to help everyone. 

While governors may want flexible relief, we’re also going to need money specifically earmarked for education, health care, law enforcement and firefighting, among other things. We can’t have fanatical ideologues picking off this and that for their pet projects, e.g. walls, or cages for young humans. 

I hope my brothers and sisters in red states join us in imploring our legislators to take action. It’s time for all of us, red, blue, purple or whatever, to demand that our government serve our immediate needs, as opposed to the caprices of highest corporate bidders. It used to be, in times of national crisis, that we put aside partisan bickering and came to the aid of those who most needed it. 

If ever there’s a time to return to that tradition, it’s right now.
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