No 'blank check' aid for giant corporations: Taxpayer bailouts must help real Americans
After months of saying the coronavirus was no biggie and he had it all "under control," Donald Trump has developed hair-on-fire-urgency about the economy in a matter of days and now he's talking trillion-dollar stimulus. In other words, it's not so "under control."
A hefty stimulus package is an absolute must, but Democrats must make certain Congress doesn't just hand over a bunch of taxpayer money to greedy corporations that use them to improve their bottom lines at the expense of workers. As Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut noted, between 2014-2018, American Airlines used $11 billion to buy back stock, enriching its investors and executives rather than investing in its workforce. "Remember that, when they ask for a "no-strings bailout," Murphy said. But a "no-strings bailout" is exactly what Congress handed over to big banks following the 2008 financial crisis. The nearly $800 billion stimulus package ultimately enriched the rich and powerful while failing to protect the consumers, workers, and homeowners most impacted by the economic fallout.
Now airlines alone—including American, Delta, United, and Southwest—are asking for $25 billion in direct grants in order to keep them solvent. Meanwhile, those same four airlines have "collectively spent about $39 billion over the last five years buying back shares," according to CNBC. As Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants notes, any new grants must require the airlines to maintain the pay and benefits of every worker. "No taxpayer money for CEO bonuses, stock buybacks or dividends. No breaking contracts through bankruptcy," Nelson said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called for an all-out ban on stock buybacks in the next relief package.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren also suggested the relief come with a mandatory $15 minimum wage. In addition, any corporation that receives a big bailout funded by taxpayer dollars "should be required to set aside one or more board seats for a representative elected by the company's workers," she said.
Warren has also proposed that the stimulus take more of a grassroots approach, including increasing Social Security benefits checks by $200 a month to help seniors; canceling student loan debt to help stimulate the economy; halting evictions in federally subsidized, backed or insured housing; and placing a moratorium on eviction proceedings.
Bottom line: the giant stimulus package that is surely coming must be designed to benefit and protect workers first and foremost, rather than the giant corporations that have spent the past decade focusing solely on enriching their executives and shareholders.