Democrats Should Spend Money to Help People and Loudly Take Credit For It

Jack Holmes
·3-min read
Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis - Getty Images

From Esquire

Are the Democrats in danger of doing good politics? The eleventh-hour intervention from Donald Trump, American president, in the pandemic relief bill was certifiable for a number of reasons, not least that it came on the back of pardoning a bunch of war criminals and corrupt congressmen and concluded with a suggestion he could stay in office next year. This raises the prospect that he has linked the boosted $2,000 stimulus checks he's demanding, at least in his own mind, to his extended attempt at a Stupid Coup. It also opens up the possibility that, if Congress does not respond to his last-minute demands in time—and he does not back down—that we could hit the "benefits cliff" on December 26, where millions of people who are out of work through no fault of their own could have no income at all. This bill is not just the $600 checks, after all, which the president is correct in saying are insufficient.

And it is on that issue that Democrats could easily make hay, and there are early signs are they might. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to Trump's spasm of interest in the legislation by backing his call for $2,000 checks—and pointing out they have backed bigger payments for months. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib have produced a House amendment to the bill to that effect. The question is will it be taken up quickly enough in the House and Senate to avoid us going over the cliff? And then there's Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in one of the two Georgia runoffs that will decide whether the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House next year, who has already taken to the screen to present himself as The Check Santa and his opponent, David Purdue, as The Check Grinch.

Time was that Democrats were afraid to simply and straightforwardly advocate for more government intervention in the economy, much less direct payments to American citizens. When President Barack Obama took a swing at all this during the Great Recession, his economic team insisted on putting the money in people's bank accounts rather than sending them a check—and with it, taking full credit. But perhaps the Democrats have taken a lesson or two from Trump's Tammany Hall-style politics—namely, helping people who need it and making sure they know it's you who helped them. (They should leave aside what he seems to have inherited on the corruption front.) The president insisted on putting his name on the first round of checks for a reason. If he'd bullied Mitch McConnell and Co. into sending more aid through the summer and fall, who knows what might've happened in November.

Instead, assuming he does not successfully mastermind the Stupid Coup, the president will be out the door soon enough—along with, perhaps, Loeffler and Purdue. That's if the Democrats can focus on a fairly simple message that's long held appeal for the Georgia races: the two incumbents are Republican plutocrats who seem to see the job primarily as a vehicle for stock tips. On the other hand, you can give Democrats control of the chamber, get McConnell out of power, and actually, maybe, get things done. If that means bringing back pork-barrel spending to give Joe Manchin a big ol' infrastructure project in West Virginia in exchange for his cooperation on needed legislation, then so be it. The problem with Donald Trump has not been his transactional politics, necessarily, but that every transaction was made with solely his personal interests in mind. The "clean bills" do not exist, or at least they'll never pass. Nobody cares about The National Debt right now, if they ever really have, and that includes economists. Spend money to help people and take credit for it.

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