Democrats and Republicans finally got together Monday on a stimulus bill after months of negotiations. You’re likely getting $600 out of it (assuming Congress isn’t moved by President Donald Trump’s veto threat to increase the amount).
Not to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but if only we were the nation of Sudan.
In yet more proof there’s nothing that bipartisan horse-trading can’t make worse, the Senate passed the 5,000-page bill Monday ostensibly aimed at COVID-19 relief but significantly larded with provisions that have nothing to do with mitigating the novel coronavirus or the economic devastation it’s caused.
It’s tempting to get hyperbolic and say you can’t imagine any way it could get worse. You could, but you’d need to get creative. Imagine, maybe, PBS hypothetically getting $1.2 million for a version of “Who’s on First?” with a black transgender cast that addresses issues of systematic racial inequality. A theoretical $95 million bailout for Pan Am, People Express and Braniff International. Using the bill to shore up official American policy “regarding the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.”
Actually, no, wait — that last part is real. As part of the omnibus bill, according to Newsweek, the Senate issued a “statement of policy” aimed at stopping China from naming the successor to the 14th and current Dalai Lama when he passes away — something that would interfere with the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and (more importantly) would be used to tighten control over the region of Tibet, which China invaded and annexed in 1950.
This is noble stuff, but a) Beijing doesn’t care and b) this was part of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill tacked on to a $1.4 trillion government funding deal.
But don’t worry — you’ll be getting your $600 stimulus check. In addition, federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week were extended through March.
There will also be money for the Paycheck Protection Program small business loan initiative.
And $700 million for Sudan, I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know:
$700,000,000 to Sudan in this stimulus Bill. Not kidding. This is what our politicians think of you. pic.twitter.com/ewAZwxr8wA
— Mayor Danny (@Dmess16) December 21, 2020
It’s questionable whether this is bad optics, bad policy or both. As AFP reported, the money comes after Sudan’s normalization of ties with Israel, a major peace coup for the United States and President Donald Trump. The bill also restores Sudan’s sovereign immunity from claims it was a state sponsor of terror, including suits regarding the 9/11 attacks.
Sudan has never been in a particularly great place as a nation-state over the past few decades, although its transitional government is going through a particularly rocky period at the moment. Again, though, there’s a time and a place — and it wasn’t Washington and it wasn’t now.
Kharthoum wasn’t the only government getting money, however.
The Stimulus Bill:
The gov’t closes the economy. You lose your job. You face eviction.
$600 for all your troubles.
Meanwhile they send:
$135 million to Burma
$85.5 million to Cambodia
$1.4 billion for “Asia Reassurance Initiative Act”
$130 million to Nepal
They hate you. pic.twitter.com/95U2Qt4uNa
— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) December 21, 2020
The argument that this was some sort of one-off transactional payment to Sudan melts away when you consider the fact Burma (or Myanmar, depending on how willing you are to acknowledge the despotic government there and its decision to change the country’s name), Cambodia and Nepal got large sums, too.
The $1.4 billion for the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act isn’t necessarily as ridiculous as it appears on face; the initiative is the Trump administration’s framework for diplomacy in Southeast Asia and controlling Chinese and North Korean influence, among other goals. Of course, The Diplomat noted in a 2019 article that “ARIA currently restricts the use of U.S. funds for specific programs in the Philippines and Myanmar.” Or Burma, depending on how willing you are to … oh, forget it.
Also, gender programs in Pakistan got $10 million:
I predict the day our country’s finances collapse, we will still be funding “gender programs in Pakistan.” Tonight’s COVID relief/stimulus bill has no less than $10 million for said programs attached to it. pic.twitter.com/0WMTeckdBN
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 22, 2020
And then there’s the Dalai Lama controversy, which has been safely put to bed because the Chinese Communist Party will doubtlessly listen:
So why is the COVID-19 “relief” bill nearly 6,000 pages?
Because Congress thinks you’re stupid & stuffed the bill full of nonsense.
Take page 5,100 for example, where Congress attempts to legislate the “reincarnation” of the Dalai Lama.
We wish this was a joke. pic.twitter.com/ciliwLD2vP
— Young Americans for Liberty (@YALiberty) December 21, 2020
“Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in many countries including Bhutan, India, Mongolia, Nepal, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, and the United States, yet the Government of the People’s Republic of China has repeatedly insisted on its role in managing the selection of Tibet’s next spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, through actions such as those described in the ‘Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas’ in 2007,” the bill reads.
But again, you’re getting $600!
This kind of wastefulness is why a floor speech against the bill by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky managed to go viral:
“To so-called conservatives who are quick to identify the socialism of Democrats: If you vote for this spending monstrosity, you are no better,” Paul said.
“If free money was the answer… if money really did grow on trees, why not give more free money?” he continued. “Why not give it out all the time? Why stop at $600 a person? Why not $1,000? Why not $2,000?
“Maybe these new free-money Republicans should join the Everybody-Gets-A-Guaranteed-Income Caucus? Why not $20,000 a year for everybody, why not $30,000? If we can print out money with impunity, why not do it?”
Because money is subject to inflation and we eventually have to pay this debt. But you’ll get your $600.
There’s almost no chance of a veto. Even if there were, the vote in the Senate was 91-6, according to Fox News — well more than the number needed to overturn the veto. The House voted in favor of the stimulus, 359-53.
Only five other Republicans voted against the bill in the Senate: Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Rick Scott of Florida.
Cruz was so miffed about the bill that he — gasp, I know — retweeted New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s opposition to a quick up-or-down vote without any time to read it:
.@AOC is right.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 21, 2020
And the left wasn’t happy either. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was mocked for calling the checks “significant”:
You are wrong @SpeakerPelosi – The payment checks are NOT significant. I think you know that.
Madam Speaker tell us how people should spend this $600. – to feed their family? To pay rent? To heat their homes? To pay for medications? Tell us how long this money has to last. https://t.co/W4649rfOw8
— Annie (@fccmal) December 21, 2020
Perhaps this is the discontented minority, whereas the majority just wanted to see some form of COVID relief. As they find out just what they’ll have to pay for their $600 checks, however, don’t expect them to remain so happy. America deserved better than this.
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