We, the people, in order to form a more perfect Union, will repeatedly be overlooked by our government in favor of corporate bids and political allegiances. Welcome to the United States.
2020 was a tumultuous year for politics and public health, and 2021 is proving equivalent. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to peak in the United States, aid and relief from the effects of the pandemic are at the forefront of policy in D.C. In a time of crisis, wouldn’t one expect a nation’s politicians to step up and provide for the people? Apparently not. Back in March of 2020, the U.S. government released its first round of stimulus checks, pandemic aid in the form of $1,200. And now, again in January 2021, stimulus checks are back on the table. The catch? No one can decide on how much.
At this point in the game, we’ve heard different numbers from the current and upcoming administrations in terms of how much money we deserve. From $600 to $2,000, the number has fluctuated across party lines for the last few weeks. The second stimulus package under Trump provides $600 per eligible person, which is significantly less than the original $1,200 from his first stimulus package. And now, days out from his inauguration, Biden is proposing a $1,400 stimulus per eligible person, pending decisions made by Congress.
From the headlines alone, it’s clear that the U.S. government doesn’t quite know how much to issue to the people. Over the last ten months, unemployment and financial hardship have peaked for Americans, the highest rates since the Great Depression. So, knowing that the government’s responsibility is, in theory, to provide for the common good and well-being of the population, why is it that we’re still arguing about how much aid Americans deserve? Why is it “progressive” to advocate for $2,000 stimulus checks, and why must we push party politics onto providing welfare in the most serious financial and public health crisis we’ve seen in our lifetime?
To play on party stereotypes, Republicans are typically more fiscally conservative and Democrats are interested in fighting for financial stability. To many, this translates to one party being better than the other, because one cares about giving money to the people and the other doesn’t. The politically aware self-aggrandize: because one party boasts BLM signs and the other doesn’t, Democrats are automatically superior because they, you know, care about people. Right?
To a certain extent, yes. Obviously the past four years have taught us that one party publicly advocates for more equality than the other. However, if we take a closer look at our Representatives and Senators on both sides of the aisle, we’ll see they’re not so different after all.
The stimulus question is the epitome of Democrats and Republicans fighting the exact same fight. Both parties are concerned with the economics of the issue—how much our government can afford to spare for the people. Meanwhile, other countries have provided economic relief to their citizens amongst other benefits, such as food support and expanded health insurance. Fundamentally, if the U.S. government really cared about its citizens, we would not be vying for only our second stimulus check in the last ten months. Besides, it’s obvious that $600, $1,200, or even $2,000 is not enough to live on. And even if a decision was made, Congress would still take months to finalize the legislation. I understand the sluggish rate at which decisions in the legislative branch are made, and I understand that often, it is GOP congressmen who oppose the higher spending costs, but that’s beside the point. The fact that neither party can decide on how much our lives are worth—the fact that COVID-related aid isn’t the beating heart of the legislative branch right now—demonstrates the disconnect between Congress and its constituents.
Maybe it’s hard to swing a compromise on the stimulus check issue, but shouldn’t proposals like Medicare for All be the current fire of both parties? Apparently not. Even progressive sweetheart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted that the votes weren’t in the Democrats’ favor on the issue, so Democrats dropped that issue. Meanwhile, the number of Americans living without health insurance has increased thanks to the influx of job losses at the onset of the pandemic. AOC, the very poster child of the progressive movement in D.C. politics, opts to shield her party’s interests despite her desire to work for all of us.
To be frank, the United States is in a terrible spot right now. Politically and socially, the ugly, inequitable base on which our country was built is exposing itself and no one on Capitol Hill seems to know how to fix it. When faced with injustice, Democrats kneel and propose equalizing legislation. That same legislation, though, barely attacks the systemic issues facing communities of color. When faced with a pandemic, both parties disagree on how to handle the relief funding of some, not all, Americans, because of course, not everyone qualifies for the stimulus. In the former situation, Democrats strike to save face as the liberal party; in the latter, politicians on both sides find common ground when holding back funding for the people. At least there’s something both parties can agree on.
By Sophia Moore
Visual by Kaylina Kodlick