Mental health. Vaccines. Child protective services. Protective gear. Increased support for those who fall victim to drugs or alcohol.
Contact tracing. Detention centers. Nursing. Genomic sequencing. Supply trains. Homeless shelters.
Medical Reserve Corps. Stimulus checks. AmeriCorps. Internet service. Unemployment benefits.
There are so many things that can be directly tied to the pandemic, you'd have to work overtime to shoehorn unrelated stuff into President Biden's bill. But it can be done.
The president challenged the critics of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to find things in it that should be left out. At the time he issued his challenge, the papers only had highlights of the bill, not line items. The news side of this newspaper has been publishing a link (arkansasonline.com/227stimulus) in covid-relief/stimulus stories that flesh out the specifics.
The government is planning to spend $1.9 trillion on this legislation. That's on top of all the spending it has planned to do this year that doesn't directly relate to the pandemic. It takes a while, but with careful reading you can imagine why the critics are crying foul. This thing has more pork in it than mama's peas.
The loyal opposition--about 50 percent of the Senate and nearly as much in the House--calls this a bonanza of partisan spending disguised as a rescue package. It's hard to disagree.
For example, the legislation calls for:
• $10 million for "emergency grants to support Native American language preservation and maintenance." This sounds like a noble cause, but is it covid-19 related? Couldn't it gather support as a stand-alone bill? According to the analysis of this line-item number: "Funding will mitigate covid-19-related disruptions or threats to Native American languages and the continued vitality of Native American languages during and after the covid-19 public health emergency." That is stretching things, no?
• $219 billion to the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund, which sounds like it fits a coronavirus recovery act. But as The Wall Street Journal helpfully pointed out the other day, the states will divvy up this money largely on the number of unemployed people it has in its ranks. States that shut down their economies (California, New York) and have a large percentage of unemployed people are rewarded. States that largely stayed open economically (Arkansas) are punished for taking a more moderate position.
• $1.5 million to the Seaway International Bridge (an international crossing connecting New York state and the province of Ontario in Canada) for operations, maintenance and infrastructure. Huh?
All this on top of the many questionable (not objectionable, just unrelated) subsections of this massive bill that have already been widely reported. Such as billions for "socially disadvantaged farmers," the National Endowment of the Arts, and state governments that have been managed poorly, even before the pandemic.
Deficit spending during a national emergency is often the best government can do. (The last 12 months have done much damage to the arguments for the Balanced Budget Amendment.) But the pandemic is slowing. All the charts show it. And the country is closing in on a national debt exceeding $30 trillion. We never thought we'd say that.
Imagine owing $30 trillion on a credit card and paying interest on it every year. That's what we're leaving our kids. And when the kids start paying it all back--either through inflation or a stalled economy--they won't just blame Democrats or Republicans.
They'll blame all of us.