President Donald Trump — whose term has been largely defined by a malicious obsession with erasing any trace of Barack Obama’s legacy — is now seeking a trillion-dollar stimulus package reminiscent of the one Obama used to prevent a second Great Depression, launching the unprecedented era of economic expansion for which Trump falsely claims credit.
Irony abounds, not to mention hypocrisy, but that’s no reason to oppose a good idea. As Obama showed, pumping federal money into the economy can be a sound approach to stemming an unprecedented crisis.
It’s important that any such package directly helps Americans whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus’ impact on society, and much of what the administration proposes fits the bill. The call for direct payments to millions of wage-earners put out of work by the pandemic would be an efficient and humane way to keep workers from running out of money. A loan package for the struggling airline industry would be (like Obama’s rescue of the automobile industry) an investment that would save many more at-risk jobs. Giving cash-nervous Americans an automatic extension on the April 15 deadline for paying their taxes is common sense.
The administration appears to have backed off from earlier talk of a payroll tax cut — an encouraging indicator that the stimulus effort won’t be hijacked by the GOP’s familiar and flawed mantra of tax cuts as cure-alls. Democrats offer ideas like expansion of unemployment insurance and Medicaid, halting evictions and foreclosures and other moves to strengthen existing safety nets. These deserve consideration as part of what must be a multistep approach to guiding the economy through this stormy time.
It’s refreshing to see all hands on deck, with leaders in both parties seemingly open to negotiation and not merely crouching in their respective trenches. That, of course, wasn’t the case for Obama, when Republicans stood in unison against his emergency stimulus measures. History has borne out the folly of that opposition — which even at the time looked suspiciously like it was driven not by concern that Obama’s effort wouldn’t work but fear that it might. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2010 pronouncement that his overriding priority was to deny Obama a second term pretty much said it all.
With Trump finally coming to grips with the seriousness of this crisis, and other top Republicans setting aside the usual partisan game-play, it’s important that Democrats put country first and work constructively across the aisle, even if it means handing Trump a political lifeline. The electoral defeat of this unfit president should be a top priority — but not the top priority. That remains the public’s safety and the economy’s rescue. The GOP’s bid to foil Obama’s economic package must not become the model for leaders to address this crisis.
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