What Mitch McConnell is Has Been Established
You’ve probably heard the old joke. A man in a bar asks a woman if she’ll have sex with him for a million dollars, and she quickly agrees. Then he asks if she’ll have sex with him for $5, to which she indignantly responds, “What do you think I am?”
“What you are, madam, has been established,” he tells her. “Now all we have to settle on is the price.”
Methinks thou dost protest too much
This joke came to mind when I read about Mitch McConnell’s objections to sending a $2,000 stimulus to every low- to middle-income taxpayer next week. He doesn’t believe such a large stimulus is a good idea, in part, because he believes it would cause inflation.
And to give him his due, he might have something there. Putting $2,000 in the hands of most Americans could be inflationary. It’s hard to predict that sort of thing.
But I’m not as sure as he is that a little inflation would be such a bad thing, even if it did occur. I’d love to be making 11% interest on certificates of deposit, as I could and did in the inflationary 1980s. At those rates, I’d pull my money out of the stock market in a heartbeat. Why take the risk of loss if money could multiply more safely in a bank, backed by the FDIC?
If the stimulus causes inflation, older people like me will be fine. We’re more likely to already own a house and all the stuff we need to fill its rooms. We already have our degrees, too. We got them before Reagan cut support for students and forced them to rely on loans. Yes, I went to college before Reagan. Imagine that. It all boils down to this — older people are not going to have to take out mortgages or student loans at the same higher rates that would be a boon to our savings.
Young people are a different story. They’d be hit the hardest. But they’d also be the people most likely to qualify for the full amount of the stimulus since salaries tend to be lower when we’re young and to rise as we age. It’s hard to know how this group would be best served by an act of Congress. In that regard, McConnell makes a well-considered point.
But the fear of inflation is not the only reason he opposes a $2,000 stimulus. He thinks a lot of the benefit would go to people who don’t really need the money, and he doesn’t want to see that happen.
Here again, he’s probably right. My husband and I would both get a check for the full amount under the proposed payout guidelines because we had low incomes last year. We had low incomes because we didn’t work much and because we put most of what we earned into tax-advantaged accounts.
But we could only do that because we had some savings, which is another advantage of being old (for the disadvantages, catch me on a day my arthritis is acting up). Wealth and income don’t correlate very precisely, which was McConnell’s point, and it’s well taken.
McConnell’s objections to a larger stimulous could easily be addressed
There are ways to get money into the hands of those who truly need it, the people who lack both income and savings. They can be found on Medicaid and food-stamp rolls. The ownership of any substantial assets has already disqualified people from access to those benefits. Limiting the payout to this much smaller number of households would reduce the risk of triggering inflation. Opportunists like me wouldn’t get anything, which should satisfy McConnell’s apparent need for fairness.
But even though he and other elected officials could easily identify the people most in need of a hand, they can’t identify with them. McConnell was already making more than the proposed $75,000 threshold back in 1985, his first year in the Senate. He later married well, to Elaine Chou, a crazy-rich Asian who would later inherit millions. He doesn’t move in the same circles most Medicaid recipients do, and it may be hard for him to relate.
It’s also probable that McConnell understands the Trump-right’s stand against government subsidies to the poor. Limiting the benefit to only the truly needy, say, those making $20,000 or less, would alienate the new Republican base. Poor, uneducated whites are the demographic that most reliably supports Trump; they’re also the demographic most opposed to government support, which makes them seem to be voting against their own interest. But government programs designed to help the very poor tap into this group’s racial resentment since households of color are overrepresented there. Helping people who are “undeserving” (AKA, black) could cost the Republicans some votes. So no handout for you.
But let’s imagine, for a minute, that McConnell’s stance is based on his deeply held beliefs and values. He doesn’t think people who don’t need the boost in income should get one because that’s a poor use of taxpayer dollars. And he doesn’t want to contribute to an inflationary cycle. There’s nothing nefarious there.
If those are his guns, I could respect him for sticking to them. Instead, he’s more like the woman in the joke. All that remains to be established is his price.
What’s Mitch McConnell’s price?
Here it is — he’ll give up his virtue if the Democrats give up some of theirs. In exchange for bringing a vote to the Senate on the $2,000 stimulus, he wants the House’s thumbs-up on the repeal of Section 230. That’s a piece of legislation that protects internet providers against lawsuits for content posted by other people. As it now stands, Facebook can’t be sued if I post a lie about Trump there. And if Trump’s tweets get taken down for being lies, he can’t sue Twitter. He doesn’t like that. He likes to sue.
And (to quote Dave Barry, “I am not making this up”) McConnell will give the go-ahead for the 2K stimulus if the Democrats approve an investigation into the 2020 presidential election. Dear God, will they ever face reality?
McConnell’s demands are ridiculous, just as a million dollars is a ridiculous offer for sex. But that’s his price, and he’s sticking with it, knowing nobody is crazy enough to pay. He doesn’t really want to sleep with the Democrats in any case; he’s just a tease. And he’s busy enough getting screwed over by Trump to invest any energy in a healthy, cooperative relationship with his colleagues.
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McConnell is trying to maintain his dignity by saying he’s not going to be bullied into giving us a respectable stimulus. Not by Democrats maybe. And not for $5. But he’s got his price.