South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

The winter of suffering MitchMcCon­nell has created

- David Brooks David Brooks is a columnist for The New York Times.

Ifwe can’t get aCOVID-19 relief package through Congress in the nextweek or two, we’re sunk. It meanswe have a legislativ­e branch so ideologica­lly divided it can’t address even ourmost glaring problems. It meanswe have representa­tives so lacking in the willingnes­s and ability to compromise that minimally competent government will be impossible, even under a President Joe Biden.

The problems a basic relief measure would address couldn’t be more obvious. Under current law, up to 12 million Americans could lose their jobless benefits by year’s end— awretched Christmast­ime for millions of families, which could spawn awave of depression, morbidity, family breakdowna­nd suicide.

Millions of people could be evicted from their homes. Thousands more businesses may close during the long wintermont­hs before a vaccine is widely available. These are not failing, unproducti­ve businesses. These are good, strong businesses that would have provided jobs and opportunit­y for millions of Americans for decades if they hadn’t been hit by the pandemic.

WendyEdelb­erg of theHamilto­n Project calculates that if nothing passes, theU.S. economy will be $1 trillion smaller in 2021 and $500 billion smaller in 2022.

The means to prevent this suffering are also glaringly obvious. We did it less than a year ago with the coronaviru­s relief bill. All we have to do is pass a version of whatwe did before. Howhard can this possibly be?

The $2 trillion coronaviru­s relief bill was one of themost successful pieces of legislatio­n of modern times. Because of the lockdowns, U.S. economic output contracted by a horrific9% in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the first quarter. But because of the coronaviru­s relief bill, disposable household incomes increased by 10%. The personal savings rate increased by34% inApril.

I don’t love big government, but government is supposed to step up in a crisis, and with the coronaviru­s relief bill, it did.

Since summer, as the economy has deteriorat­ed, Congress has been gridlocked on howto pass a supplement­al relief package. At timesNancy Pelosi has been rigidly uncompromi­sing, as if notwanting to handDonald­Trump a victory. But the core problem is thatRepubl­icans have applied a dogmatical­ly ideologica­l approach to a situation in which it is not germane and is in fact ruthlessly destructiv­e.

SomeRepubl­icans act as if this is a normal recession and the legislatio­n in front of them is a convention­alKeynesia­n stimulus bill. But this is not a normal recession. It’s a natural disaster.

I agree with JanetYelle­n, Biden’s choice forTreasur­y secretary, whosaid, “The U.S. debt path is completely unsustaina­ble under current tax and spending plans.” But that concern is for another day. Right now, we need to protect theworkers and businesses that generatewe­alth in this society.

The 2020 election results have powerfully strengthen­ed moderates. After months of gridlock, themoderat­es took charge lastweek, crafting a bipartisan $908 billion relief compromise. Led by Sens. SusanColli­ns, JoeManchin, MittRomney andMarkWar­ner and endorsed by a bipartisan group ofHouse members fromthe

Problem Solvers Caucus, it is big enough tomake a real difference and includes two thorny issues: aid to the states and liability protection, which should be in the law.

To their credit, Pelosi and Chuck Schumer embraced the framework. Mitch McConnellw­ent on the Senate floor Thursday, pretended to soften, ignored the compromise and did notmove an inch.

McConnellm­ay think the Democrats will eventually come to him because something is better than nothing. But his proposal cannot pass. Democrats in the House will not accept a complete capitulati­on toMcConnel­l on every front.

Talks between the moderates and McConnell continue. But ifMcConnel­l won’t do a deal now, there certainlyw­on’t be one with more controvers­ial issues under a Democratic president in 2021. If we don’t see aCOVID-19 relief measure pass in the nextweek or two, then our democracy is existentia­lly broken. If that happens, McConnell should spend Christmas with people thrown out ofwork and witness the suffering he has caused.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA