Scandal, Plague, and the GOP Plan Must Die
Senate Republicans have picked the dumbest time imaginable to suddenly care about not spending too much.
The Burr and Loeffler Matter
This is not good. The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (R-NC), and the Senate’s newest member, Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), both sold millions of dollars worth of stock after a closed-door briefing on the extent of the viral spread. The briefing happened in January and both then began selling.
Loeffler and her husband own the New York Stock Exchange, which further complicates matters — or to be accurate, they own the company that owns the NYSE.
Burr has been radio silent since the allegations were made. Senators must disclose stock sales and those disclosures were just made.
Loeffler, for her part, says that neither she nor her husband had knowledge of the stock sales and purchases because she handed over control of her portfolio to outside advisers upon going into the Senate. If she can show she put her stocks in a blind trust and can back that up, she will have a measure of survivability. Her opponents are going to try to destroy her over it. But if she is telling the truth, she should be able to weather the storm.
If, however, she just had outside advisers who made the calls and it was not a blind trust, she’s going to have a hard time getting people to believe her and will need to consider resigning. In the present age, a lot of people just won’t be able to shallow that she didn’t somehow interfere with a blind trust. I’m not sure I know a person who’d believe there wasn’t interference if it was an independent arrangement that wasn’t a blind trust.
On Richard Burr, Tucker Carlson is already calling for his resignation, even though the Democrat Governor of North Carolina would be able to fill the seat.
The Senate GOP Plan Sucks and Should Die
Senate Republicans have been spending like drunken sailors for several years. They have shown zero fiscal restraint. It is pretty damn impressive that as a virus sweeps across the nation, the private sector goes on lockdown, and the death toll rises that suddenly the GOP is interested in fiscal restraint.
Their plan would means-test payments to families with a cutoff point being $99,000.00. Under the Senate GOP plan, some people would literally get $5.00 checks. People with children would get more. But not only would there be a cap, but it would be based on people’s 2018 tax filings.
Senators who serve six-year terms with guaranteed pay may not be able to understand this, but there are a lot of Americans whose situations in 2020 are different from 2019 and even more different from 2018. This is foolish.
On top of that, $99,000.00 in Macon, GA is decidedly upper-middle class. In New York City, it is barely getting by. It is hard for people to fathom the cost of living differences in the nation, but they exist. My first house in Macon, GA was 2500 square feet on a half-acre of land and cost $112,000.00. I had a friend with a similar house in Northern Virginia with less land and his cost over $500,000.00 at the same time. That was my first up-close experience in the costs of living differences between regions. He made more money than me, but I had more disposable income become my cost of living was so much cheaper.
Under the Senate plan, I would have gotten about $10.00 and he would have gotten nothing.
If Congress is going to go with cash payments, they need to treat every American equally and trust that the more well off will spend their money on those in need. This is a terrible plan. Frankly, even a $2000.00 cash payment runs into the same problem because it will not help those in more expensive areas as much, but it is far better than excluding some Americans.
The Senate GOP plan needs to die. It is appalling that they would claim fiscal prudence after years of whoring in the budget and their prudence is structurally designed to punish urban dwellers — the people most likely to be impacted by this virus. Do better, Senators.
One approach would be to mandate deferred payments on all loans from student debt to credit cards to mortgage and include rent and utilities. Everyone stops seeking payback for a few months, the government steps in to help landlords, banks, and utility companies. People use that income to cover their costs. No interest or fees accrue. People’s credit scores are not impacted. And a loan that ends in January just gets extended for as many months as it is presently deferred.
The Governor of California
Gov. Newsom has put California on a total lockdown and announced several million are going to get the virus and a lot will die. This was a terribly announced plan on his part. What Newsom meant was that if California was not doing what it was already doing — no travel, no leaving home, etc. — half the state will get infected and a lot will die.
The way he said it and the way it was reported, Newsom seemed to convey that all those people were going to get sick anyway. It was a mixed message that he is going to need to clarify. Otherwise, people are going to wonder what the point is. They’re already isolating and restricting travel. This needs to be clarified.
Brian Kemp’s Middle Road in Georgia
Meanwhile, in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp is starting to get attacked for not being aggressive enough. He shut down schools and universities. He had the state legislature give him extraordinary powers to shut down the state. But so far he has taken to a daily pulpit to cajole people to do the right thing, without forcing them.
Instead, the Governor has taken a regionalism approach within the state of letting local officials give the orders to shut things down, then backing them up with the power of the state. As a result, places like Atlanta have shuttered most businesses and gatherings, but places like Savannah have not. Some are insisting the Governor make it statewide and mandatory. But his position is that if he does it, a lot of people will not take it seriously and law enforcement will be diverted from major tasks to keep people in their homes.
His preferred approach is to trust people to do the right thing. So far, it appears to be working. Businesses are shutting on their own. Restaurants have converted to carry out only or closed. Travel and commerce have fallen. Some would argue, however, that it is not enough.
The Ultimate Issue
The reality for everyone is this — no one is going to be willing to be on lockdown till July or August. People are going to start going out. At some point, it won’t be worth it to them.
That’s one reason people are starting to talk about South Korea’s approach. Test everyone. When pockets of the virus flare-up, put those areas on lockdown. Get it reduced in the next two weeks and go from there.
Our economy is wrecked, businesses are going under, and people are out of work. They’re going to want to go back to work and start living again. The urban and mobile lifestyle of the 21st century fosters impatiences and immediate reward. That’s not a lifestyle that is going to want to stay home.
The lockdowns in places like California and New York are going to further undermine the rule of law. Places like Baltimore and Philly that are punishing law-abiding citizens for keeping stores open while not punishing criminals who break into stores will not be taken seriously for long.
Additionally, I know few people who take seriously the million-plus person death tolls. The government and the press both have credibility problems and pretty soon this is going to boil over.