Budowsky: Joe Biden should lead a COVID-19 relief movement

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President-elect Joe Biden should lead a powerful national movement to provide far more dramatic economic and financial relief than what is currently being considered by Congress.

From now through spring, before vaccines reap their greatest benefits, America faces months of epic tragedy of preventable deaths, preventable evictions, preventable foreclosures, preventable layoffs, preventable small business failures and preventable hunger.

A Biden-led movement for COVID-19 relief would employ the bully pulpit that is available to a president-elect to call for the maximum COVID-19 relief aid today. To make powerful economic relief a defining issue in the Georgia Senate runoff elections. To use his inauguration as a vehicle for a nationally televised benefit concert during which superstar entertainers would seek a national wave of donations to major charitable groups that help those suffering from the pain of COVID-19. And to initiate an organized appeal to major business and religious leaders to usher in a new era of corporate philanthropy as a defining theme of the Biden presidency.

While the Georgia Senate runoff elections will be about electoral politics, designed to elect two Democratic senators who support strong COVID-19 relief against two Republican Senate incumbents who do not, the rest of this Biden-led national movement for economic relief should be an authentic outreach for bipartisan support for a movement that would help Americans who voted for President Trump as well as Biden.

I applaud the good faith and noble efforts of the bipartisan effort in Congress to enact a COVID-19 relief bill this year. The problem is, the size of the package — around $900 billion — is too damn small.

In October President Trump, citing his desire to “go big,” increased the size of the relief plan he favored from $1.6 trillion to $1.8 trillion. At that time a major poll showed that almost three-fourths of the nation supported a relief package of $2 trillion.

If President Trump today called for a package similar to what he proposed in October he would win major national support and acclaim for this which I, and a grateful nation, would offer him. This move would be a historic and invaluable game-changer in Washington. Why not explore it?

Similarly, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a conservative with whom I almost always disagree, is advocating adding another significant relief check for hard-hit Americans today. I agree with this. It should be explored as a means of increasing the pending package to a figure closer to that supported by the president in October.

An important recent story in The New York Times by Patricia Cohen cited a study by Moody’s Analytics showing that six of the seven states suffering the largest revenue declines in the next two years have Republican governors and voted for Trump. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refers to a “blue-state bailout” he is ignorant of the facts and wrong about the political interests of Republicans.

In Georgia and other red states, there are workers, many of whom voted for Trump, who are jobless. Tenants, many of whom voted for Trump, face evictions. Small businesses, many owned by supporters of Trump, face their American Dream being shattered by the economic pain of COVID-19. Police, including many who voted for Trump, facing layoffs. And hungry Americans, including some in the middle class, including many who voted for Trump.

If Trump urges his congressional supporters to back a $1.8 trillion package today, he could advance the deal of the century and lift the spirits and economy of the nation and — while this is not my primary consideration — it would lift the stock market as well!

If Biden leads a national movement for economic relief he would be supported by a huge wave of citizens who hunger for greater support and entertainers, religious leaders, business leaders, workers and shop owners ready for a leader who asks what we can do for our country — today.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Healthcare Joe Biden Josh Hawley Mitch McConnell pandemic relief President-elect public health movement

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