There’s More to Biden’s Covid Bill Than the Price Tag

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If you watch television, read the paper or listen to the news on the radio

…you could be forgiven if you thought there was absolutely nothing to know about President Biden’s covid relief bill other than how much it’s going to cost. One point nine trillion dollars! That’s almost two trillion dollars! So expensive! Every single news account I’ve heard or read for the past month has called it “President Biden’s one point nine trillion dollar covid relief package, emphasizing “trillion” every time. No one calls it “The American Rescue Plan,” which is its name, after all.

Yes, it’s expensive, but that’s actually not the most important thing about the bill. The most important thing about the bill, it seems to me, is what’s in it — what it is intended to do to improve our situation, both in terms of combating the Coronavirus pandemic and the pandemic-induced recession. Here are a few points:

  • $1,400 payments to individuals
  • $400/week unemployment benefit supplement
  • Money to assist in reopening schools
  • An increase in the federal minimum wage to $15/hour (Oops. That didn’t make it)
  • Financial assistance to strapped cities and counties around the country
  • Funding for a national vaccination program
  • Extended paid time off for sick workers and caregivers
  • Financial assistance for low income parents

There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? You don’t have to agree with all these proposals, but you have to at least acknowledge that they are proposals. Most economists agree that, given our situation today, and the extremely low cost of borrowing, it would be better to do too much rather than not enough. The Republican “counteroffer” of a $600 billion package was rightly viewed by the administration as an unserious offer. It’s like offering 20 thousand bucks for a 60 thousand dollar car. You’d be thrown out of the showroom.

So go ahead. Hack away at whatever it is you don’t like about Biden’s relief bill. Just don’t act like the only part of it that’s of any interest at all is the bottom line.

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