By Jacob Vito
2020 will likely be remembered as a year without mercy from a spreading pandemic to a slowing economy. Though it has taken them far longer than hoped, it seems Congress has finally come forward with a response to such distressing times.
According to the New York Times, after weeks of deliberation, a $2.3 trillion budget deal has passed through Congress. The deal includes 900 billion for a new coronavirus-focused stimulus package to help households and businesses during the pandemic.
For much of December, discussions over this wave of COVID-19 aid had ground to a halt. Members of Congress like AOC and Bernie Sanders argued for an additional round of $1200 checks, while many Republicans were looking to cut down on aid being sent to the states.
The final bill ended up becoming a middle ground between liberal and conservative positions in many regards. Even the stimulus plan’s total budget of $900 billion sits snugly between the Democrats’ $1.8 trillion proposal and Republicans’ more strict $500 billion. Of course, the central piece of the package is an additional wave of direct stimulus checks.
However, the upcoming checks will only be worth $600, half of the amount given through a similar package last spring, according to a CNBC report. Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have argued that the checks may be less, yet they should still help people pay their bills during these trying times.
But $600 isn’t going to be enough.
$600 can’t replace a lost job. It can’t even pay for a single month of rent for the average household, according to Business Insider. Sure, this will certainly help some make their bills, but even suggesting that this was an adequate response to one of the largest economic collapses in history is at best an innocent error and at worst an outright lie.
It is comically obvious how little this $600 check will pay for, especially considering those most in need of it will likely not receive their normal avenues of income. If the government concluded it needed to help its own people, what’s the point of only giving $600?
Above everything else, Congress’ scramble over aid attempts to find the lowest possible amount of money that they can give the American people to keep them from rioting. In the spring, $1200 did the trick, at least until the George Floyd protests, so this time, they’re trying a lower amount.
With a rare exception, members of the House and Senate are not looking out for Americans. There would be much more aid to small businesses and individuals than impossible-to-apply-for loans and two checks in the mail if they were. Instead, they’re trying to walk a fine line between leaving people to suffer and having them protest en masse.
For a little while, it’s been working. However, things are only getting worse for most people right now. Small businesses are running out of their reserves and have begun to close in larger numbers than before. People got fired from jobs that have not and likely will never come back. Ahead of the United States looms the potential for the worst depression it’s ever had.
So, what is the solution? With such monumental consequences at stake, what can people do to force a better situation?
Since the elections have passed, many representatives have entered a time when they feel they don’t have to care about their constituents for a few years. Many people only communicate their political will through the ballot box, and so to a politician, their opinions on individual issues during times like these don’t matter very much.
Don’t let that happen.
Make life as difficult for the representatives in Washington as it is for everyone else. Organize, call, protest, engage in as much loud and disruptive political action as possible because that is the only way that they will realize how little their solution can resolve.
But above all, I truly believe that a better world is possible. The most powerful thing that the status quo can do is convince those under it that there is no better alternative. However, the alternative to Congress’ inaction is action, and any kind of aid or support is better than what’s being given now.
Do not fall into the trap of believing that $600 is as good as it gets because the country already knows that’s not true. So, rather than slipping into resignation, get disruptive, be loud and make the U.S. realize that it deserves better.
Jacob Vito is a first-year Community and Regional Development major at UC Davis. He is from western Pennsylvania.
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