Happy Monday, good peoples! Today's action alert is all about the next pandemic relief bill -- what it should have, what it shouldn't have. I think you can make this one a phone call to your Reps and Senators, but I've also included as many email/petition links as I have, if you're pressed for time. The next coronavirus pandemic relief bill should include the Paycheck Guarantee Act, emergency funding for our U.S. Postal Service, adequate health care for prisoners, and stronger worker safety protections at food processing plants. But the next relief bill should not have more funding for our President's vanity border wall or other welfare handouts for defense contractor corporations, payroll tax cuts, or lawsuit liability protections. (I don't have action alert links for those last two -- yet! -- but they're important.) I'll describe why all this is important, as briefly as possible, in the paragraphs below.
The Paycheck Guarantee Act (Congress.gov doesn't have a bill number, text, or summary at this writing) would cover 100% of paychecks for all workers making less than $100,000 who lose their jobs for the next three months, and would keep those workers enrolled in employer-sponsored benefits like health insurance. So, if we have 30 million unemployed, and pay them $5,000 a month for three months (which would be above the median salary for American workers), plus $3,000 for health insurance during that time (which would be above the average per capita spending on health insurance), we would spend $540 billion. We've already spent more than that on "small business" payroll protection, and most of that went to big corporations! And if your Tea Party uncle starts to ask where the money's coming from, just remind him that billionaires have made over $400 billion just in the last month and a half. You may also remind him that such concern about deficits and debts made more sense when Congress mostly threw away our money in the last pandemic relief bill. Really, it wouldn't be uncivil to do that.
We continue to demand better funding for our Post Office despite Presidential intransigence on the matter. He finally spelled out a condition under which he would accept such a thing happening -- and it involved quadrupling the prices our Post Office charges to good Americans like you and I! Think of that -- quadrupling the price on meds for our veterans via the VA! Quadrupling the price of mailing your stimulus check! Quadrupling the price of sending lab samples and reports all over America! And our Post Office might well be delivering our votes for President this November, and if it runs out of money before then, you think FedEx or UPS will deliver your votes? They will charge you a lot more -- a lot more than quadruple a postage stamp, too! -- and neither one of those corporations has ever handled anywhere near the volume of mail our Post Office handles routinely. Hate to pile on, but Congress put our Post Office in a position where a pandemic could have killed it by mandating that it pre-pay health insurance and pensions decades in advance, a condition Congress has imposed on literally no other entity. Why, you might think they were trying to kill our Post Office! But they still have to reckon with us.
Now, as far as making sure folks in prison get the medical care they need, I know a bunch of Americans will respond: why? Let me begin by appealing to their self-interest: prisoners do not get to practice "social distancing" -- why, many of them can't even pee in privacy! -- which means they're basically a massive Petri dish for COVID-19. And guess what? Prisoners are not the only folks who spend a lot of time in prisons! A prison full of COVID-19 sufferers will spread the disease to guards and administrators (who can't just do their jobs on Zoom, amirite?) and then they'll spread the disease to their families and communities, and then all the hard work the rest of us have done to stay safe could be for naught. And now, for those who do not listen to arguments involving self-interest: a great nation doesn't treat its prisoners like dung; a great nation treats its prisoners like they can actually rehabilitate themselves and contribute to society when they've repaid their debt to society. Don't let your right-wing friends respond BUT TEH MURDERERZ!!!! Most folks languishing in jail right now haven't been convicted of any crime.
Big Ag's role in the pandemic has come under some scrutiny lately, as our President has invoked the Defense Production Act -- but not to force big corporations to make ventilators or masks, but to keep big food processing corporations (even the ones where COVID-19 runs rampant!) making food. That'd seem like a reasonable exercise of his power under the law, if our President made these food processing corporations take more precautions to ensure their workers don't die and kill everyone else in their vicinity before they die, but of course he didn't, which is why we're asking Congress to do that in the next pandemic relief bill. Hey, if one thinks food processing corporations are that important, one must also believe that protecting the workers who make the food are also that important. I mean, our President may think only other bosses like himself are important, but Americans aren't like that. Put six beers into any of his votaries and most of them will tell you that they're not like that! Food processing workers aren't just folks we should work extra hard to protect in a pandemic, they're also our family, friends, and neighbors.
When contemplating even more corporate welfare handouts for defense contracting corporations, you must ask: aren't big defense corporations happy enough with the hundreds of billions of dollars they've gotten from the 46% President than they would have gotten from the 48% President? You'd think these paragons of the American can-do entrepreneurial spirit would have, I don't know, saved some money for a rainy day, like they tell the rest of us to do! But they've still got their hands out -- gotta meet absurdly high profit projections or die, after all! -- so they can build even more nuclear weapons we don't need, even more weapons systems that don't work, and (of course!) our President's signature vanity border wall that can barely stand up to a stiff wind or a brutal gang of cutting implements from Lowe's. And, as Win Without War reminds us in its latest email missive, "(w)e need more N95 masks, not more F-35 jet fighters." It's even funnier because F-35 jet fighters -- with their expected cost of $1.5 trillion over the next half-century, think war-making will change any by then? -- have become the poster child for Defense Department boondoggles.
Our President still insists that if he caves in to any of our demands, we have to cave in to one of his -- namely, a payroll tax cut (or, more likely, the elimination of the payroll tax entirely and the alleged funding of Social Security "through other means"). Yeah, individual workers would get a little more money from a payroll tax cut -- but big corporations will get a lot more from it, since workers and employers each pay half the tax, and while workers most likely have only one employer, how many workers does an employer have? Yeah, that math shouldn't be hard. And, ah, payroll taxes actually fund something fairly important: Social Security, which gives our seniors a more dignified and comfortable retirement, as it should, since they worked for it and paid into it their whole lives. Using the pandemic as cover to destroy Social Security is profoundly evil, and anyone who would do such a thing is profoundly evil -- but, sadly, using the pandemic to destroy Social Security is just another day at the office for this President, who commits evil with nearly every breath he takes. So, yeah, the price of a few more dollars in your paycheck from a payroll tax cut/holiday ain't worth the harm it'll do, and I'd sure hate to think Americans could be bought so cheaply.
Both the Republican Senate Majority Leader and the House Minority Leader have insisted that the next round of pandemic relief must include protection from lawsuits for businesses! And there you have Republican priorities explained in just one sentence -- delivering medicines and ballots is optional, but things that would give CEOs "peace of mind" are non-negotiable! And while lawsuits against businesses have gone up lately, if a business has properly adhered to state and federal guidelines in reopening or containing the pandemic, it shouldn't have to worry too much about losing a lawsuit, and if a business is smart enough about it, its lawyers can get an actual frivolous lawsuit dismissed before it does too much financial damage. If a business isn't smart enough about all of that, of course, then we have to wonder why it must be allowed to continue, let alone receive corporate welfare from the taxpayer! But Republicans, despite their attachment to Social Darwinism, never wonder about that -- they consider lawsuits by people against corporations to be the highest form of sin, though you'd have to think they could make their case (so to speak!) with more than isolated anecdotes about those few times the system doesn't work. "Lawsuit liability protection" doesn't belong in this bill, let alone any other bill.
In closing (cue cheers from the convention crowd!), we deserve a lot better from pandemic relief legislation than we've gotten so far, and we need to be very specific about what we want, so we can get more of what we deserve. And we won't get any of what we deserve if we don't speak out. These Reps and Senators have isolated themselves from us -- the Democratic Congressfolk learned that "lesson" in 2010, whereas the Republican Congressfolk didn't learn it until 2017 -- so we have to apply pressure everywhere we can. If you call their Washington offices these days, you're likely to get sent to voicemail; it's not useless to leave a voicemail message, but you're much better off getting a live person, so you can take a few minutes out of their day that they might prefer to spend playing Candy Crush or commiserating with like-minded folks -- and if all of us call our Reps and Senators, we can take up a lot more of their time. I recommend that you go to your Reps' and Senators' websites and find their local phone numbers; I also recommend you program all those numbers into your cellphones. Sometimes I have to call all nine of one of my Senator's phone numbers in order to reach a live person -- and I'll do it, because they shouldn't get to isolate themselves from their-bosses-the-people and then keep winning. Not in my America.