Economists, healthcare workers beg for COVID-19 relief — Mnuchin and McConnell give them the finger

Economists, healthcare workers beg for COVID-19 relief — Mnuchin and McConnell give them the finger
Photo via Gage Skidmore.

It's been 192 days since the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, and 56 days since the House passed their compromise $2.2 trillion bill, both of which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to take up. McConnell sent his Republican Senate on Thanksgiving vacation last Thursday, after having spent the post-election week confirming unqualified Trump judges.

The one Trump administration official who at one point seemed to give a damn, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has reverted to Republican form. He's sabotaging the economy right alongside his boss, cutting off emergency lending programs administered by Treasury and the Federal Reserve and trying to claw back uncommitted funds. To be an even bigger dick, Mnuchin is going to put the $455 billion he's clawing back into the General Fund, requiring future Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to get congressional authorization to use it.

This will hamstring both Yellen and the Fed in the future. That's in part because it's running out of tools to juice the economy. It can't do anything with interest rates since they're already at zero. It can't give to the people to boost consumer spending. Top economists are pleading with Congress to do just that. More than 125 economists organized by the Economic Security Project have written an open letter to Congress calling for more direct payments to families. Now.

"We urge policymakers to use all the tools at their disposal to revitalize the economy, including direct cash payments," the economists wrote, "which are one of the quickest, most equitable and most effective ways to get families and the economy back on track." The one round of checks that Congress released under the CARES Act, they write, boosted spending the most among the lowest-income Americans. It was an "essential tool" that kept millions out of poverty for the first months of the crisis. A second round, "especially if targeted to the bottom half of households," would help support the most vulnerable low-income families, and particularly households of color. Two more rounds of direct payments, they write, could keep 14 million people out of poverty. In addition to the stimulus checks, they're calling for reupping the enhanced federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits that will expire at the end of December, and provide state and local aid as well as funding for nutrition and child care programs.

It's not just economists. In what should be required reading for every goddamned Republican senator, former ICU nurse Janet Campbell-Vincent details just how desperate healthcare workers are right now, how critically they need help. Here's what she'd tell McConnell on his Thanksgiving vacation: "I wish medical workers could take vacation days, too. I ran out of those months ago, when I contracted Covid-19 treating patients in the ICU. I'm exhausted. I'm angry. I'm sick of watching patients die. I'm tired of comforting families feeling guilty over the birthday party that cost their loved one's life."

She just quit her job providing direct patient care because, she writes, "Without sufficient personal protective equipment and staffed hospital beds, a national plan for testing and sufficient relief for those hardest hit by the virus, including hospitals, I didn't have the strength to continue." She speculates that her colleagues are reaching that breaking point as well, and warns of a "mass exodus" from nursing. "Our leaders have left it up to medical workers to save American lives, but they've denied us the resources to do so," she writes. "I can't fathom why they're on vacation when there is so much work to do."

"Trump, McConnell and other Republicans must get back to work and meet with the Democrats to pass a coronavirus relief package as soon as possible," she says. "They also need to step up their counteroffers to Democrats on what a Covid-19 stimulus package will look like." This is on McConnell, and clearly you don't have to be a political junkie at Daily Kos to see that. The problem is thus far McConnell is perfectly fine with having the blood of hundreds of thousands of people on his hands, and having the weight of millions of people going hungry and losing their livelihoods and their homes on his head. He's fine with the total destruction of the economy as long as he can troll the Democrats.

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