If you have read most daily newspapers or watched broadcast or most cable television reports on the negotiations that have been working their way through the United States Senate on a $1.6 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, you would have read or seen that Republicans were making noises about getting something done for the American people and Democrats were contending the bill in question offered too much money for corporations.
That was the gist in most national coverage.
What they haven't reported was some of the details Democrats were demanding in the Senate bill, stalling talks, and another bill that was being ginned up in the House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The details bring to mind the stimulus package passed under President Barack Obama in 2009 that included goodies like loan guarantees for green energy companies like Solyndra (which wound up costing taxpayers $528 million when the company went bankrupt), support for public sector unions and "shovel-ready" jobs that never materialized.
Well, those same Democrats wanted to load the coronavirus package for the American people and economy with similar extracurriculars.
Whether any of the suggestions make the final bill, citizens should know what Democrats were putting ahead of relief for a country which has shut down jobs, closed stores and ended many services to weather the coronavirus pandemic.
The potential House bill, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, the House majority whip, said last week, was "a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision."
In other words, we'll load up the bill with gifts for our constituencies and hold it hostage until Republicans give in.
What are some of those things? Here are just a few of many:
- New tax credits for solar and wind energy.
- Increased collective bargaining and other sops for labor.
- Required same-day voter registration and early voting.
- Publication of corporate pay statistics and race statistics for all corporate boards.
- $300 million apiece for the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities.
- $35 million for the John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Democrats in the Senate also were pushing for expanded solar and wind tax credits, new collective bargaining power for unions, and higher fuel emission standards for airlines.
Critics may differ on whether any of the above items are worth including in the country's fiscal budget during annual negotiations, but none of the above will help Americans and their small businesses get back on their feet after the end of the outbreak.
Instead of withdrawing such outlandish requests in lieu of a national emergency, Democrats instead claimed the package had a "slush fund" for corporations with no accountability or oversight, said the ban on corporate buybacks was weak and insinuated the bill had "no real funding" for hospitals.
However, the bill makes clear that 15% of the funds - for air carriers and businesses critical to national security - require reporting to the secretary of the treasury and the Government Accountability Office. The remaining 85% come under the auspices of the Federal Reserve, whose statutes require both reporting requirements and accountability for taxpayers.
To the charge that the ban on corporate buybacks is weak, the bill forbids corporations "repurchasing any outstanding equity interests while the loan or loan guarantee [or other interest] is outstanding." In other words, it is plainly a ban on the practice of stock "buybacks," a policy that Democrats have criticized for several years.
And as for "no real funding" for hospitals, a charge Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, made Monday, the bill - in addition to the money the two previous coronavirus bills have promised - includes $75 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to distribute to hospitals and other providers "for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are directly attributable to coronavirus.
Democrats make these claims of corporate greed, unfair stock trading and lack of money for the critical hospitals to inflame potential voters. They know they are false when they make them, but they count on the average person who hears their claims not to check the bill or know specifics about it.
Playing political games during an unprecedented national emergency is the worst kind of demagoguery, but they're practiced at it.
Whether a final bill to help rescue the American people during this economic shocker has any of the Democratic constituency goodies is unknown at this time. What we hope is that enough Democrats have decided to put the desperation of their fellow Americans ahead of politics to deliver some needed relief.