As most of you know, Congress has finally passed the long-anticipated and much needed coronavirus stimulus package, and President Trump has signed it into law. At $2.2 trillion it is the largest and most comprehensive emergency aid package in US history. It is intended to provide assistance to every person and entity affected by the virus through no fault of their own – individuals, small businesses and entire industries.
The major provisions include:
1. Individuals will receive one-time cash payments. Eligibility and amounts will depend on one’s income. A typical family of four will receive $3,400 by direct deposit or by check. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the payments should be distributed within three weeks.
2. Additional assistance for those receiving unemployment assistance
3. Payments for those receiving social security.
4. Assistance for hospitals and other healthcare providers.
5. Assistance for veterans.
6. Assistance for childcare if the facility was closed due to the virus.
7. Waivers for student loan payments for loans held by the federal government.
8. Financial assistance for small businesses
9. Aid for distressed companies/industries, such as restaurants, cruise lines and airlines. This is not a “bail-out” as some have characterized it, but loans and incentives.
These last two are necessary for America to maintain its strong economy and to ensure that workers have jobs to return to once the crisis has been resolved.
Is it perfect? No. Will there be unintended negative consequences? Probably. But, it is necessary, and it is important to remember that, due to the exigent circumstances, the bill was put together quickly and, perhaps, a bit haphazardly.
Furthermore, in order to pass it had to satisfy a wide range of special interest groups who were in a position to and, in fact, did, delay its passage. These groups were not interested in assisting those in need. Rather, they thought they saw an opportunity to blackmail and intimidate the main body of the Congress to accept their pet projects.
For example, it looked as though the bill was going to pass last weekend, but at the last minute Speaker Pelosi, promoting the interests of far left elements of the Dem Party, tried to insert various amendments that had nothing to do with corona. I discussed these in my last blog , and there is no need to repeat them here. Some were rejected, and some were accepted, but the primary effect was to delay the bill’s passage for several days.
Then, right before the actual vote GOP Rep Thomas Massie tried to force a rollcall vote, which would have led to further delay and would have required numerous members who were sick with corona or just sheltering in place at home to return to DC. He was widely criticized on both sides of the aisle for that tactic. (When was the last time President Trump and Senator John Kerry agreed on anything?) As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pointed out, “We have members on both sides of the aisle who have the virus [and] are quarantined.” Massie was thwarted, but, once again, it forced an unnecessary and dangerous delay.
So, the bill includes some provisions that have nothing to do with corona. Many of us might not like them, but we have to accept them for the greater good.
As most of us know from following the news NYC has become the primary “hot spot” in the US for the virus. As I write this it has identified in excess of 26,000 cases with nearly 400 fatalities. NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo told the NY Times that the number of cases is “doubling every three days.”
Moreover, according to NYC’s own statistics the city is suffering a fatality every 17 minutes. Think about that for a minute. In the four hours it has taken me to write this blog some 14 people have died!
Furthermore, residents who can have been fleeing the city. Dr. Deborah Birx told the NY Times that this is part of the reason for the high incidences of the virus in neighboring Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties. The Presidential Task Force has cautioned that those leaving the city should be “self-quarantining” for 14 days, but I suspect many have not. Either they were not aware they had the virus, or they were careless. NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio has told reporters that the city could “run out of critical resources as early as April 5.” Sentiment is growing for a “full lockdown.” Public advocate Jumaane Williams opined “we need a mandated lockdown, and we needed it yesterday.” Reports are that authorities are considering it. By the time you read this it may have been declared.
How did this happen? What is different about NYC that has caused this situation, which seems to be getting worse by the day. It has almost reached the tipping point. Everyone has their theories. Below please find mine. Some are fairly obvious; others may appear controversial.
1. NYC is a very densely populated city, especially Manhattan. People are living in very close proximity to each other.
2. The primary modes of travel within the city are bus and subway. I cannot think of easier ways to spread contagion unwittingly. If you have ever ridden the subway you know what I mean.
3. NYC has many large gathering places where people congregate, for example, movie theatres, Broadway shows, sporting arenas, hotels, parks, just everyday moving about. People are always in crowds.
4. NYC is primarily an international city. There are always thousands of transients visiting it from all over the country and the world.
All that said, based on various news reports as well as empirical evidence, it is becoming increasingly obvious that NYC was ill-prepared to deal with the outbreak. I believe this responsibility falls primary on Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bill De Blasio. and other officials. Even commentator, Geraldo Rivera, normally a liberal, characterized De Blasio as “AWOL.” There have been many examples of poor leadership, but I will cite just a few. I have provided more details in previous blogs on the virus.
a. On February 2 NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot was trying to hype the upcoming Chinese New Year parade and celebration in NYC’s Chinatown. She downplayed the outbreak. She put out a statement calling for people to “enjoy the parade…ride the subways.”
b. Around the same time the NY Times, which many people consider the ultimate news source, labeled President Trump’s newly installed travel ban as “racist attacks on Asians.”
c. The NY Post has reported that Cuomo has wasted roughly $200 million that had been made available for stockpiling medical supplies on boondoggles such as a solar panel factory, a lightbulb factory and a computer chip factory all of which have either been taken over or closed.
With respect to the aid package as I said it may have its flaws, but the alternative would have been a deep recession or even a depression. Hopefully, it will achieve the desired result. Some commentators have been warning that another package may be necessary. We’ll see.
With respect to NYC I believe the feds have been doing all they can to provide assistance. Medical equipment has been provided, in some cases, exceeding current demand. Funding has been provided for five temporary hospitals throughout the city, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester. A huge hospital ship is en route.
It was reported that the US now has the highest number of coronavirus cases, even more than China. Of course, that is not good news, but I maintain that it is due to China’s severe underreporting. Be that as it may, many people have found it necessary to politicize that disclosure. For example, I and many others found Hillary Clinton’s inane, gleeful, and despicable comments regarding this news deeply disturbing. While Americans are getting sick and dying her comment was “well, he did promise America first.” I guess, we should not be surprised in view of her comments regarding the four Americans who died at Benghazi. (“What difference at this point does it matter? They’re dead!”) In my view, she is an irrelevant has-been fighting for relevancy.
Unfortunately, some facilities are overwhelmed. Kudos to the healthcare workers who are putting their own health and that of their families in danger by working long hours in dangerous conditions. During the 1918 pandemic many healthcare workers got sick, which exacerbated the situation significantly. Let us hope and pray this doesn’t happen now.