Let's put 'Reaganomics' to rest

The ink was barely dry on President Donald Trump’s signature on the COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress when it became apparent that the new law was already obsolete. Last week, unemployed Americans filed 6.6 million jobless claims

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Sunday the country will face a “Pearl Harbor moment and a 9/11 moment” this week with thousands of American deaths. 

A national Gallup poll conducted a week ago revealed three in five Americans (58 percent) believe the U.S. is already in a recession or a depression. Public opinion will be a self-fulfilling economic prophecy unless there’s another round of economic stimulus. Consumers, even the ones that still have jobs, won’t spend money if they feel economic disaster if just around the bend. 

ADVERTISEMENT

While Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death 5 things to know about US-China tensions over Hong Kong Pelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' MORE (D-Calif.) acknowledged the urgent need for additional action to stimulate the economy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFor city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe MORE (R-Ky.) opted for a wait-and-see posture. 

The difference between the two congressional leaders is symptomatic of the approaches of the two parties toward the coronavirus crisis. Many Democrats recognized the urgency of the situation and were proactive, while Republicans were asleep at the switch and then behind the curve as the pandemic ravaged the nation.

National emergencies require government intervention. But Republican politicians wear ideological blinders that sometimes prevent them from seeing the big picture in a crisis. 

The best way to illustrate the reactions of the two parties is to compare and contrast the urgency with which Democratic Govs. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo calls Brooklyn clashes 'disturbing,' asks attorney general to review Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (D-N.Y.) and Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomSupreme Court denies California church's challenge to state restrictions Supreme Court denies Illinois churches' request for action after state eases restrictions Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Ro Khanna MORE (D-Calif.) responded to the virus, versus President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE’s laissez-faire approach.

Nine states still do not have stay-at-home orders — the governors of those states are all Republican. Despite leading states that have large urban populations, Govs. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantis Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death The battle of two Cubas Disney World plans to reopen in July MORE (Fla.) and Brian Kemp (Ga.) resisted mandating statewide orders for weeks, but eventually switched course. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Speaker Pelosi is right to think we need another round of economic stimulus. The national emergency also requires a better package with more relief to ordinary Americans and less to big business.

The new relief package includes $560 billion in spending for individuals. This money extends unemployment benefits to the millions of people who have lost their jobs and cash grants of up to $1,200 to most Americans. 

Half a trillion is a lot of money, but the pandemic will plague this nation for the foreseeable future and monies granted won’t last very long for middle-class and poor families. The jobless benefits are necessary, but many of the unemployed won’t have jobs to return to when the pandemic finally exhausts itself.

The CARE Act allocates almost as much money — $500 billion — to big corporations as it does to individual Americans and more money than is authorized for small businesses — $340 billion. This big pot of money for big business is a victory for plutocrats and aristocrats and a defeat for hard working American families.

The new law gives the president wide discretion in spending the money, so it is a big win for crony capitalism. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The package would have been even worse if it wasn’t for Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic majority in the House. The Speaker and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment MORE (D-N.Y.) pushed for a bill that was more friendly to working Americans, but McConnell tugged in the opposite direction with the backing of the president.

When the GOP had control of the White House and both chambers of Congress before the midterm elections in 2018, Republicans passed a new tax cut law that benefited corporations and wealthy Americans much more than it did working families. 

Trickle-down economics is still alive and well in the age of the coronavirus. President Ronald Reagan is gone but his legacy lives on in the idea that the best way to help ordinary Americans is to give hundreds of billions of dollars to big corporations in the hope that those corporate gifts will trickle down to ordinary people.

All we have to show for a generation of “Reaganomics” is a massive federal budget deficit built on tax cuts for bankers and billionaires, and a level of income inequality between wealthy and ordinary Americans that could choke a horse and has shortchanged economic growth.

It’s time to enact another relief package that puts people first instead of corporate America and finally lays “Reaganomics” to rest. Let’s try something that we haven’t done in a long time and enact a relief package focused on ordinary Americans who can use their increased purchasing power to generate real and lasting economic growth.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.