After weeks of negotiations, the Democratic-controlled House and GOP-led Senate agreed on a $2 trillion pandemic rescue package. The largest emergency aid package in U.S. history, signed by President Trump on March 27, aims to provide temporary relief to American workers, small businesses and major industries who are struggling to cope with an economy frozen in place by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the provisions in the stimulus bill are direct payments of $1,200 each to individuals who earn $75,000 in adjusted gross income or less. Married couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $2,400 and an additional $500 for each child. The legislation also allocates billions of dollars in aid to hard-hit hospitals and state and local governments responding to contain and treat the coronavirus. While a $500 billion fund was set up to provide loans to the nation’s largest corporations, President Trump stated he would ignore a provision in the package requiring an inspector general to oversee how this half a trillion dollars is spent.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Richard Eskow, senior advisor for health and rconomic justice with the group Social Security Works and host of The Zero Hour on Free Speech TV. Here, Eskow, who has is suffering from a chronic health condition that makes him vulnerable to the coronavirus, takes a critical look at the corporate bailout fund in the rescue package and responds to conservative politicians who are calling on older workers to sacrifice themselves to save the U.S. economy.
RICHARD ESKOW: It’s an absolute sleight of hand in fakery and it’s a criticism of our media establishment that more people don’t know that the $500 billion for corporations is a fraction of the giveaway to corporate America in this bill. It also creates a $4.5 trillion Federal Reserve fund with no oversight that is able to lend not just, you know, in the traditional way, which is bad enough – to banks through a discount window — is able to lend directly to corporations. So what you really have is at least a $5 trillion – Trump’s adviser, Larry Kudlow says, it’s $6 trillion — you have $5 trillion for corporations. Then you have $1.5 trillion, give or take, for everybody else of which workers and working families will probably get less than 10 percent of the total pie.
And, by the way, I have to say that Trump’s proclamation that he wouldn’t even let the sort of somewhat toothless congressional oversight take place — if there was anything I could have predicted with a 100 percent accuracy, if I’d had the wherewithal, I would have put some money on it. It was the most predictable event in the world. And it’s going to be managed by Steve Mnuchin, who, before he became Treasury secretary, ran one of the most predatory mortgage operations in history. And that’s like being the meanest gangster at the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. He literally kicked an old woman out of her home for an underpayment of something like a $1.22 cents on her monthly mortgage. So the cartoon villain is going to be running this thing. It’s the Federal Reserve who have no oversight. And, you know, I hope Congress passes tighter restraints and more for workers in the weeks and months to come. But candidly, corporate America was desperate until this happened. So in my opinion, they’ve kind of traded away their leverage right upfront with this initial move. And candidly, I think corporations will get more than even this $5 trillion before this is all over. So we’re really talking about a time when a system of corporate capitalism failed, the most massive wealth transfer in human history from already beleaguered working people to corporations is underway.
SCOTT HARRIS: Richard, I did want to ask you to comment on your recent article titled, “No, I will not Die for this Damned Economy.” And that’s a reference to some Trump supporters, including Republican Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who infamously said that older people, including himself, should sacrifice their lives during this coronavirus to get the country back to work and make sure that the economy doesn’t sink while we’re all locked down. Tell us a little bit about your response.
RICHARD ESKOW: I didn’t write in the piece that if Dan Patrick wants to sacrifice himself for this economy, you know, “Knock yourself out, Dan.” But for me personally, what Dan Patrick said was, “Those of us who are 70-plus,” which is not me, but is Dan Patrick: “We’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice this country. Don’t ruin this great America.” What Dan Patrick is saying is that he’s willing to die for an economy whose levels of inequality have not been seen since the Great Depression and possibly before. And that’s before the pandemic hit. It’s going to be much worse now. So Dan Patrick, who’s done well for himself as a conservative talk show host and then politician, says – I don’t believe him – but he says he’s willing to die for this economy.
You know what? I’m not willing to die for Dan Patrick’s wealth, Jeff Bezos’ wealth, Bill Gates’ wealth, Donald Trump’s wealth. But you know what I’m willing to die for — if it comes to that — is a country where nobody lives without the basic goods of life. A country that has a social contract. A country that values everyone equally. And if the end result is that they wanted to open up retail a few weeks early and for some reason that kills somebody I love –or me — they’re gonna hear about it. Because, this is not an economy worth fighting for or dying for. It’s an economy worth changing
For more information, visit Social Security Works at socialsecurityworks.org and Richard Eskow’s website at The Zero Hour at ThisisTheZeroHour.com and Covid Days, a journal of the plague months written from the perspective of a high-risk individual.