The Senate's COVID-19 Relief Bill Is a Crony Capitalist Dream
Plus: COVID-19 in prisons and jails, Trump campaign threatens TV stations, state disparities in new coronavirus cases, and more...
Unanimous corporatism in Congress. After a day of performative fussing and fighting over partisan particulars in the COVID-19 relief bill, U.S. senators last night passed—96 to 0—the $2 trillion spending measure largely unchanged.
The part getting the most attention is the direct payments: $1,200 each for single Americans who made under $75,000, dual-income married couples who made under $150,000, or single-income heads of household who made under $112,500 in annual adjusted gross income in 2019. Pro-rated amounts will go to single filers making up to $99,000 and couples making up to $198,000. Families get an additional $500 for each child age 16 and under. (More details here.)
But the 880-page bill is brimming with bailouts for government-favored corporations, too.
"Do you trust politicians to make investment decisions with your children's future?" tweeted Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark, who has been fiercely critical of business bailouts. "Each American would be the hook for over $6,000 in debt for these 'investments,' but it's the businesses that will receive the rewards. Say no to socialist bailouts of corporate cronies."
Libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) has also been hitting this theme. "Neither Congress nor the Treasury secretary should be picking winners and losers," Amash tweeted on Tuesday. "Corporate welfare is not only unjust but also reflects government conceit. Only consumers, not politicians, can appropriately determine which companies deserve to succeed."
If Democrats and Republicans are going to spend $2 trillion, "then the best way to do it, by far, is a direct cash transfer that otherwise keeps government out of the way," he wrote yesterday. "That's the bottom line for me."
For $2 trillion, we could double the figures below and give every family of four $7,000 per month for three months.
This would be far more helpful to the people than the Senate bill. It would aid everyone, prevent favoritism, and ensure the economy has the flexibility it needs. https://t.co/CymATWNrGQ
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 25, 2020
After the Senate's vote last night, this is Amash's pinned tweet:
And they cheered, because leaders assured them that the corporatism was good and necessary and bipartisan.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 26, 2020
The Libertarian Party has been appealing to the House to fix the Senate's mess:
We ask all reasonable Reps who plan to vote on the Senate's #stimulusbill by Friday, from conservatives like @RepThomasMassie, to progressives like @AOC, to independent @justinamash: cut the nonsense in this bill, use it to responsibly help people, and send it back to the Senate.
— Libertarian Party (@LPNational) March 26, 2020
Coronavirus in prisons and jails. As of yesterday morning, "New York City's Department of Correction reported that 75 people in the city's jail system have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and that 37 of them are facility personnel," writes Reason's Scott Shackford. "This is a dramatic increase since the weekend, when officials reported 17 workers and 21 prisoners were infected." But carceral systems across the country continue to drag their feet on recognizing the huge risks posed to prisoners, staff, and communities at large.
Meanwhile, overseers of federal prisons are fighting inmate petitions and judge orders concerning temporary transfers to home confinement during the pandemic. Reason's C.J. Ciaramella tells the tale:
A Maryland defense attorney says the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is refusing to release one of his clients into home confinement earlier than scheduled, despite a judge's order to do so. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in Maryland filed motions today in that case and a similar case opposing inmates' petitions to be transferred from a halfway house to home confinement.
Last Friday, a U.S. District Judge ordered Erica Cook, a federal inmate currently residing at a halfway house in Baltimore, to be released into home confinement following an emergency motion for her immediate transfer. Cook was scheduled to be released into home confinement on April 22.
However, Cook's attorney, Brian Stekloff, says the BOP hasn't budged to move Cook since the judge's order, and today the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider the order.
The motion notes that "residents in halfway houses typically live in close quarters with many other people, just like in nursing homes and prisons [and] eat, socialize, and participate in programming in common areas, just like in nursing homes and prisons. Similarly, workers and residents frequently come and go from halfway houses, potentially carrying with them any diseases or viruses to which they were exposed."
Immigration authorities are also needlessly putting people at risk:
They are reopening Newark and Seattle immigration courts tomorrow. In the middle of a shelter in place order, during a pandemic, in the midst of the two epicenters of this crisis. Juuuuust to speed up the deportation machine.
— josie duffy rice (@jduffyrice) March 26, 2020
Top-down doesn't work in a pandemic. Officials shouldn't overlook the fact that different states, regions, and communities in the U.S. have different needs when it comes to stopping the spread of the new coronavirus, as J.D. Tuccille wrote here yesterday. Here's more evidence to bolster the case that one-size-fits-all solutions won't work—and, less happily, that internal travel controls may be on their way:
As these curves grow and separate, the US will be divided into red and green zones.
States which have the virus somewhat under control will be green zones. They will quarantine or outright prohibit visitors from red zones. AK and HI are already doing this. https://t.co/gFn26oQjc8 pic.twitter.com/QDUNXfhLxq
— Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis) March 26, 2020
- The Trump campaign is threatening TV stations for airing an ad critical of his statements about the outbreak:
The Trump campaign just released a cease and desist letter demanding that TV stations immediately pull this ad. https://t.co/BG5NHKJBzd https://t.co/j0A4JoztFL
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) March 25, 2020
- More than a dozen states have restrictions on wearing masks in public. Jacob Sullum looks at what that means in pandemic times.
- More on the unsoundness of arguments for banning surgical abortion procedures to assist in COVID-19 fighting efforts:
This week, Texas clarified an abortion ban under the guise that it's not an essential health care service and stopping abortions will help free up the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, masks, and gowns. But this is a baseless argument. I'll explain:
— Dr. Daniel Grossman (@DrDGrossman) March 25, 2020
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture reversed a rule requiring families picking up free school lunches to bring all children with them, a measure that unnecessarily put kids at risk of COVID-19 infection and sent a mixed message over directives to stay at home.
- The Libertarian Party's nominating convention is in limbo.
- The World Health Organization's external relations officer is fearmongering about vaping and COVID-19:
WHO once again spreading lies and unscientific speculation in the midst of a pandemic! Maybe trying to deflect attention away from how you failed the world? https://t.co/XmHWTwwrdF https://t.co/CYwy3tkhex
— michelleminton (@michelleminton) March 26, 2020
- The U.S. saw 3.28 million initial unemployment claims last week.
- Maybe Second Life was simply ahead of its time….
- New York City reported 81 deaths Wednesday.
- A study of smartphone location data found that "since Feb. 28, Americans have reduced their mobility by nearly 40%. Washington, D.C. topped the list, reducing its average mobility by 60% followed by Alaska, Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island."
- Oh, right, there's still an election happening…