This weekend, the Senate will likely vote on Phase 3 of the federal coronavirus response. As they do so, I urge aggressive but prudent actions.
As a physician, we learn early and take an oath to “do no harm.” This is an important principle to apply to both the medical and the economic steps taken to combat the current situation.
I’ve put together agenda items that fit this description. They will help. They are prudent. They are short term, and they are not an overreaction or a misdirection.
Right now, every special interest in Washington is fighting to lard up the response with their pet projects, from tax breaks to pet social issues. This is wrong, and we must avoid this temptation.
There are also those advocating for $1-2 TRILLION in new spending in the next few months. We simply cannot sustain that as an economy. We must look to be more precise with our actions.
I have already advocated for several commonsense proposals that would expand the availability of urgently needed items such as masks and respirators. I’ve introduced legislation to speed the testing and production of drugs and vaccines.
The mask and respirator legislation was thankfully already passed in Phase 2 of our response.
I also want to make sure all Americans who are feeling economic hardship are helped.
First and foremost, we must enact a payroll tax holiday. The FICA tax is the largest tax most Americans pay. It is about 15 percent, split between employer and workers. I want to put a stop to that tax temporarily for BOTH business owners and workers to help both during this time of struggle. That’s a huge boost to everyone’s paycheck and to our overall economy. It would let people keep over $200 billion of their OWN money over the next two months. It would start immediately.
Second, I want to ensure businesses are not forced into bankruptcy or closure due to new mandates, while also seeking to guarantee that every person who needs assistance is able to receive it. Instead of placing the burden of paid sick leave on businesses already struggling with the virus’ impact, I want to shift the burden to the federal government by expanding the unemployment system to cover the most severely affected and offer immediate leave for those who need it due to the coronavirus. My proposal does this by incorporating reforms from an amendment to Phase 2 offered by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonA pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Sen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' MORE (R-Wis.) that echoed the changes I have called for and that received strong, bipartisan support, although it unfortunately fell short of passing. The reforms allow for temporary enhancements to states’ unemployment programs, with the federal government afterward picking up the cost of the expansion, so that Americans who cannot work due to the coronavirus are protected. The reforms also remove the waiting period to receive the insurance. I have also added a provision to make self-employed workers eligible for unemployment insurance.
No one should have to worry about large tax payments right now, which is why I asked the IRS to extend the April 15 payment deadline to July 15, something they’ve done this week. My plan would codify that into law. This would be for businesses, too, so they could focus on staying open or reopening, not on tax filing and payments.
Finally, I want to encourage all of our well-capitalized banks and lenders to aid their customers at this time by deferring payments on loans, both business and individual. From mortgages to car payments, from small business loans to large lines of credit for business operations, anything we can do to buy time is helpful here. To encourage this, I want to offer a tax credit of up to 3 percent of their corporate tax rate for lenders who postpone payment requirements for 60 days.
I’m also working with the administration and leaders in medicine and economics to identify regulations and red tape that can be cut, new ideas for supplying the front lines of our medical teams, and anything else that can be done quickly by the federal government to help.
My office remains in operation, and my website, Paul.Senate.Gov, has updated information and links for assistance.
These are big ideas. They are bold, broad agenda items that will help those struggling, but without bailouts, without questionable long-term social policy changes, and without a trillion-dollar price tag. We should work together on these and other similar plans to slash regulations, return money to those who need it, help those who are struggling, and win both the battle against this pandemic, and also the battle to save our economy.
This week has seen a great upheaval in many of our lives. Social distancing is in full effect. Public schools and places of business are closing. Jobs are being put on hold or lost, and people are beginning to see the struggle that lies ahead.
I hope this time of uncertainty and great challenge will be brief, but I know we will make it through this together.
As counties, states, and the federal government spring into action, it is incumbent upon all of us to keep a watchful eye on both our liberty and our wallets. We don’t have an unlimited supply of either of those. They must be preserved while responding to any crisis. In the past, times of crisis have been times of danger for both. We saw erosion of our liberty after 9/11 with the Patriot Act and expansion of FISA courts. We saw an erosion of our dollar and expansion of our debt with the bailouts after the 2008 Great Recession.
There is no doubt surrounding the severity of those crises or of this one. The question is, how do we act with prudence to help those who will be truly in need? And how do we protect our nation’s future with an already burdensome $23 trillion debt?
My plans address the crisis, with those important warnings being heeded.
Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky.