Did you know that the bipartisan coronavirus bailout bill will provide nearly everybody in my family with a check? And I’m not poor. I’m a United States senator.
As a member of the Senate, I think it’s an abomination for the government to send checks to U.S. senators.
But according to the 2018 tax data used for calculating eligibility, which shows that my wife Kelley and I earned only the Senate income, we will be eligible for a government bailout check.
My grown kids will also be eligible for checks. I have one son in college who will get a check, and I have two sons who now work and have not been laid off, who will get checks. My sons have friends who work in hotels and restaurants who are financially struggling right now. My sons do not want government checks. They want the money to go to the workers displaced by the COVID-19 virus quarantines and business closures.
My 89-year-old father-in-law, a proud veteran who lives on a military pension and Social Security, will get a check. He told me he’d rather an unemployed restaurant server get his check.
My multimillionaire brother-in-law has many assets, but his annual income will make him and his children eligible for a check. He is passionately certain that he does not need a government check and instead wants that money to go to someone who is unemployed because of the pandemic.
Madness. All-around madness. The government is basically saying, let’s print money, stuff it into the piñata, whack the piñata, and spew the money anywhere and everywhere. How is that a sound plan?
In all seriousness, though, why in the world would we send checks to employed people? Why in the world would we send checks to wealthy people when others are struggling
Instead, we should expand unemployment benefits to business owners and self-employed workers such as hairdressers, nail technicians, writers, and other workers who may not currently be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Sherry Keown, owner and operator of Attitudes by Sherry, a hair salon in Bowling Green, Kentucky, described the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on her business:
We have had to close our doors. This could put me under. I still have to pay rent on my business, my mortgage, my car and health insurance, all while I have zero money coming in. I am watching my bank account dwindle as all of my regular payments are being debited, but nothing is coming in. The hairdressers who rent booths from me also have no income right now. Expanding unemployment insurance to us would be a lifeline, and it would be something we could count on regardless of how long this pandemic lasts.
Haste. Hasty decisions and government decisions, in general, are often laden with unintended consequences. Politicians fear that the public will judge them as indecisive. Politicians fear that even a natural disaster will be judged as "their fault."
So, they act, and act quickly they must, or the public might notice that the emperor has no clothes — or in this case, no money.
Instead of giving trillions of dollars to people not affected by the coronavirus-related quarantines and closures, why don’t we save the money for those who have actually become unemployed because of it?
As an alternative to the piñata-style bailout currently on the table, my plan would prioritize financial assistance for the most critically affected. It would expand unemployment benefits to allow immediate assistance for any worker who loses their job to the pandemic quarantine and would also expand unemployment insurance, temporarily, to self-employed workers who don’t normally pay into unemployment insurance. Additionally, my plan’s payroll tax holiday is for people who need it most, for those who make under $110,000 per household.
These changes are not without significant expense. But this is a real crisis that even someone like me, the most conservative and fiscally conscious senator in the country, is willing to spend federal dollars on to help the millions of workers displaced by a government quarantine.
I am not, however, interested in voting for any monstrosity that explodes our nation’s debt so we can send checks to rich people or even not-so-rich people who haven’t lost their job. Every precious dollar that goes to someone who doesn’t desperately need it is a dollar that didn’t go to a struggling mother who just lost her job as a server at the local diner and doesn’t know how she’ll afford groceries for her children.
So, as the hysteria consumes Congress, count my family and me out. We don’t want your government checks. We simply want to help those displaced by the quarantine and support our country’s efforts to reestablish normalcy as the virus abates.