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The Covid-19 Christmas Tree Bill

Supporters of President Biden’s pandemic relief package like to cite the polling data—a survey by Morning Consult/Politico finds that 76 percent of voters support the plan.

Frankly, with $1.9 trillion spread over 591 pages of appropriations, I am surprised approval isn’t at 100 percent since there must be something for everyone in this cash-laden Christmas tree of a bill.

Estimates and opinions vary on how much of the money is specifically targeted toward Covid relief.  The Wall Street Journal editorial board put the number at $825 billion.

The bill includes funding for some things that most in Congress can agree to, even if they differ on the amounts–$1,400 cash payments to low and moderate income Americans, renewal of the paycheck protection program, an extension of the additional $400-a-week unemployment benefit, an expansion of the child tax credit.

Okay, but where is the rest of the money going?  The answer is toward pretty much anything that can be connected, even in a tangential way, to the pandemic.   Here are just a few examples:

–$30 billion in grants to transit systems through fiscal year 2024.

–$50 million in funding for EPA “environmental justice” grants.

–$86 billion to bail out pension plans insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

–$1.5 billon for Amtrak, which is sitting on roughly $1 billion in unspent aid.

–$34 billion to expand the subsidies for those buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

–$200 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

–$800 million in additional dollars for foreign food aid.

–And this whopper: $350 billion to state and local governments despite less than expected declines in overall revenue last year and an economic rebound this year.

The bill also includes a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.  That should be debated and voted upon on its own merits and not tied to this bill.  (The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that inclusion of the minimum age increase violates Senate rules.).

This number is not in the bill, but it should be noted here: The federal debt is rapidly approaching $28 trillion (and this bill will add to it). That is the equivalent of $84,000 for every person in America.  The interest payment alone on the debt is about $1 billion a day!

While we are fantasizing about wish lists, one wonders what could be accomplished if the federal government had another $365 billion at its disposal very year? It would make a sizable down payment on upgrading the country’s crumbling infrastructure, for example.

Sure, most Americans approve of the Covid relief bill.  Who doesn’t like free stuff?  The problem, of course, is that there is no such thing as a free lunch, or in this case, a lavish buffet where everybody can stuff themselves.




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