House Democrats’ HEROES Act is a giant political scam
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on May 14 that the current coronavirus crisis “is really quite an exciting time for us,” she meant it.
On Friday, House Democrats passed a gargantuan $3 trillion COVID-19 bill – the HEROES Act – that will serve as a starting point for negotiations with Senate Republicans and the White House over the next round of coronavirus “relief” legislation.
In addition to bailing out numerous irresponsible state and local governments and the Postal Service, the legislation is chock full of radical, wildly irresponsible provisions that clearly show that congressional Democrats are more concerned with expanding their power and pleasing their allies than they are fixing our broken economy.
Perhaps the most egregious example is Democrats’ proposal to expand $600-per-week unemployment “bonuses” through the end of January 2021. There’s nothing wrong with providing people who have lost their jobs due to government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic with some relief. But offering $600 bonuses through January 2021 would discourage workers from finding new jobs throughout the beginning stages of our economic recovery by paying them as much or, in many cases, more than what they earned in wages prior to the pandemic.
According to an April analysis by a former Treasury Department analyst, the $600 weekly unemployment bonus, when added to existing state unemployment benefits, offers roughly the same or more money to unemployed workers than the average wage in all but a dozen states.
Why would Democrats want to discourage people from going back to work for such a long period? The answer can be found by considering the end date for the bonus payments: The end of January 2021, the exact time that a potential Joe Biden presidency would begin.
By discouraging tens of millions of unemployed Americans from going back to work over the next several months, it all but guarantees that an economic recovery would be extremely slow through the November elections. And by ending those lucrative benefits just as Biden could be entering the White House, it makes it highly likely that job growth would increase dramatically at an opportune time for the Democratic Party.
Liberals clearly aren’t interested in fixing the economy as quickly as possible — which might explain, in part, why so many Democratic governors and mayors across the nation are so unwilling to reopen even the safest parts of their economies. If there were interested in fixing the economy, they would be doing everything in their power to make going back to work attractive. For congressional Democrats, it’s apparent that they see the present crisis as a political opportunity, one they are hellbent on taking advantage of, no matter the cost.
And this is just one of several large scams included in the legislation. The proposal would also eliminate the state and local tax (SALT) deduction cap through 2021, allowing a relatively small number of tax filers to deduct significantly more of their state and local taxes from their federal tax bills.
Although ending the SALT deduction cap would benefit some middle-class filers in high-tax states, it would be most beneficial to higher-income earners in high-cost cities like New York and San Francisco, which, of course, just so happen to be deep-blue constituencies for the Democratic Party.
According to a report from the Joint Committee on Taxation, 94 percent of those who would benefit from a SALT cap reduction or elimination earn at least $100,000, and many earn a lot more.
Even more transparently political is the relief bill’s student loan forgiveness provision. If passed, House Democrats’ plan would forgive $10,000 of student loan debt for borrowers currently paying $0 per month under an income-based repayment plan, as well as those who are in forbearance, deferment, default or serious delinquency. In some cases, students with private loans would even be eligible for loan forgiveness.
Liberals are painting this provision as a form of “relief” for younger Americans, many of whom were the first to be laid off when governments started to shut down the economy, but this part of the plan is nothing more than an attempt to buy support for the 2020 election.
Federal student loan payments have already been suspended through the end of September, and Democrats’ legislation would extend this through September 2021. Further, federal loan interest rates have been set to 0 percent so that student loan borrowers are not punished for choosing not to make payments. Additionally, many federal student loan borrowers are enrolled in income-based repayment plans, which don’t require payments when borrowers are unemployed.
With these provisions in mind, it’s clear that granting $10,000 of student loan debt forgiveness would offer absolutely no additional help for younger people who have just lost their jobs, with the only exception being a limited number of private student loan borrowers who are in default or serious delinquency. In most cases, all the legislation would do is unnecessarily add billions more to an ever-growing national debt in an attempt to get young people out to the polls in November.
Simply put, House Democrats’ newest relief legislation is little more than a giant political scam. If they really were interested in improving the country, they would be working as quickly as possible to target relief to only those most in need while finding ways to safely reopen as much of the economy as possible — not advocating for costly, nonsensical, politically motivated reforms designed to help win elections.
Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is the editorial director and a research fellow at The Heartland Institute, a conservative-libertarian think tank based in Arlington Heights, Ill., that focuses on social, economic and environmental issues and promotes free-market policies. Follow him on Twitter @JustinTHaskins.