Republicans introduced a $1 trillion “me too” coronavirus stimulus package yesterday after months of claiming that another stimulus was unnecessary following the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) they and their Democrat buddies passed a few short months ago — a bailout so large it left Bush and Obama in the dust when it comes to Washington’s spending addiction.
But the CARES Act failed, and there’s an election coming up where Trump and his re-branded Republican Party are likely to be washed away by a Blue Tsunami bigger than the one they experienced in 2018. So, in an act of sheer desperation to save their political backsides, Republicans are playing the “If we can’t earn their vote, we’ll buy their vote” card.
Last week, I documented how Republicans were ready to meet Nancy Pelosi’s demands for more coronavirus stimulus spending after the House passed the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), despite declarations by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell that her request for more money was “dead on arrival.”
With coronavirus still making headlines, the economy bleeding millions of jobs every week, four years of lies and broken promises, the Blue Tsunami I mentioned above, and Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, dismissing concerns about how coronavirus stimulus spending was exploding the national debt, Republican capitulation to Pelosi is as certain as America’s future bankruptcy.
In an obvious attempt to distract voters, Republicans are spinning their $1 trillion coronavirus bailout plan as a fiscally responsible alternative to Pelosi’s $3 trillion demand.
For example, Republicans have refused to renew the “temporary” $600 weekly unemployment bribes they overwhelmingly supported when they helped pass the CARES Act because it incentivized people to stay unemployed. However, they aren’t really refusing to renew it, they’re just modifying it by reducing the incentive to $200 weekly. Not to worry though, the lower payout is “temporary” as well and will be used as a “bridge” to give states time to transition to a new system based on a person’s previous wages.
Now, what could possibly be wrong with that? Plenty, based on information found in two recent articles by The Center Square.
In recent testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor Scott S. Dahl said an estimated $26 billion in improper payments made through the Unemployment Insurance (IU) program are likely to be made due to three new UI programs created by previous coronavirus stimulus bills.
According to a report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), UI programs were already suffering from waste and fraud — a situation likely to be made worse with new coronavirus stimulus spending.
New research published by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) suggests that increased fraud will come “from individuals refusing to return to work or refusing suitable work, overpayments and payments to ineligible people, and a spike in international fraud rings taking advantage of state programs.”
“The $600 weekly unemployment bonus created by the CARES Act transformed the program into a goldmine for fraudsters,” Josh Waters, senior research fellow at FGA and author of the report, said. “Allowing the UI bonus to expire as scheduled will help reduce the incentive for fraud, decrease the inflated cost of fraud, and eliminate the driving force currently pushing people towards unemployment rather than work.”
While $200 weekly might not be a lucrative for fraudsters as $600, the incentive remains in place as a part of the Republicans’ coronavirus stimulus proposal. Meanwhile, some of these “fraudsters” might also be double-dipping in the government cookie jar thanks to another coronavirus stimulus provision in the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The GAO identified areas in need of immediate attention pertaining to emergency funds administered through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as they cross over with UI benefits. The UI programs are generally intended to provide benefits to individuals who have lost their jobs, whereas the PPP requires employers to retain or rehire employees in order to receive full loan forgiveness.
According to the Department of Labor, “no mechanism currently exists that could capture information in real time about UI claimants who may receive wages paid from PPP loan proceeds.”
But criminals aren’t the only ones making money from coronavirus stimulus spending. Dead people are also getting a check. In another report by the GAO, we learn that the U.S. Treasury has already sent out nearly $1.4 billion to deceased individuals through the CARES Act.
According to the GAO, the IRS and Treasury Department “faced difficulties delivering payments to some individuals, and faced additional risks related to making improper payments to ineligible individuals, such as decedents and fraud.
“For example, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, as of April 30, almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion had gone to decedents,” GAO states. As a result, the GAO recommends that the IRS “should consider cost-effective options for notifying ineligible recipients how to return payments,” to which the IRS has agreed.
The report cites the Treasury Department’s lack of access to the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File” as the primary reason for sending nearly $1.4 billion to dead people. In response to sending dead people money, U.S. Reps. Ted Budd (R-NC) and John Curtis (R-UT) introduced the Stopping Payments to the Deceased Act. The bill would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to share their death records with the Treasury Department.
In other words, the government’s solution to the problems created by their own ineptitude is to make sure every government agency has access to our private information via our Social Security numbers.
Not all is lost, however. The coronavirus stimulus legislation Trump, McConnell and the rest of the “red” side of the unibrow aisle are pushing includes another round of $1200.00 checks they hope will buy them a vote or two in November, and that’s what it’s all about.
Which is why, in the end, the trillions of dollars in coronavirus stimulus being spent in Washington is bad for America, but it’s great for the 2020 election.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.