Does that warrant a $1.9 trillion spending package, as provided in the American Rescue Plan Act signed last week by President Joe Biden? I don’t know. But as Republicans desperately grasp for some way to discredit a package that, according to polls, is strongly supported by a majority of Americans, the best they can do is complain that it is a Trojan horse filled with goodies desired by Democrats.
Which is a disingenuous approach. Because Republicans long ago abandoned any pretense of being the party of fiscal responsibility.
When Trump first took office and the GOP had control of the House and the Senate, they passed tax cuts that primarily benefited the wealthy. Then they increased spending. Herrera Beutler voted for both, repeating the canard that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. The result: The national deficit in 2019 was $984 billion – when the economy was strong and before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Now, in the midst of a pandemic, that matters even more. As the Wall Street Journal explains: “Economies carrying a lot of debt generally have weaker recoveries. Businesses and consumers focus on cutting their liabilities during downturns rather than spending cash – and spending is what an economy needs to rebound.”
Deficit spending when times are good is irresponsible. Deficit spending during a pandemic-induced recession is necessary. And economists for decades will study the irresponsibility that was Trump’s fiscal policy.
All of which leaves Republicans grasping at straws. “This bill inexplicably only dedicates 9 percent of its $1.9 trillion price tag toward combatting the virus and holds two-thirds of the money for education until after 2023,” Herrera Beutler wrote. “Is Congress saying it doesn’t expect schools to be opened for two more years? That’s not what Southwest Washington families want, and this bill as a whole is not what America needs right now.”
We’ll do a little math: Out of $1.9 trillion, 9 percent is $171 billion – a pretty healthy chunk.
We’ll also do a little translation: No, Congress is not saying that schools won’t open for two more years. It is saying that the pandemic will have long-term impacts on all facets of society, including schools, and that it might make sense to prepare now for the future.
Which probably is the biggest difference between the Trump administration and having adults in charge of the federal government.
All of that leaves congressional Republicans in a difficult spot. And when that happens, you double down on the narrative.