An economic relief/stimulus bill rant

An economic relief/stimulus bill rant March 24, 2020

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMoney_Cash.jpg; By Jericho [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Here’s the latest on the stimulus/relief bill making its way through Congress:

Democratic lawmakers are blocking the stimulus bill proposed in Congress, slamming their Republican colleagues for refusing to include reparations for transgender Native Americans affected by climate change.

“If we aren’t handing billions of dollars to Native Americans with gender dysphoria displaced by our current climate emergency, then what are we even doing here?” shouted Chuck Schumer in a scathing speech outside the Capitol Building. “The American people are waiting for us to pass this bill, and the evil Republicans are stubbornly insisting we don’t earmark billions for our transgender indigenous brothers and sisters and others.”

OK, fine, actually, that’s the Babylon Bee.

But the real version of the stimulus bill put forth by House Democrats has so many appalling provisions that it’s hard to tell the difference.

And, yes, I know that there are serious objections that the Senate Republicans’ bill provides too much money to big business without oversight.  But the scale of what the Democrats have done is so appalling to me that — well, I wrote an article at Forbes which I tried diligently to focus on the retirement elements but I ultimately had to ask my editor to tell me what I really knew already, that it was too political and not retirement-oriented enough to be suitable.

I am also reading, in the meantime, that the Senate bill will be the basis of whatever finally comes out of negotiations, which means that everything the House Democrats did was just for show, to play to their base, or as a negotiating tactic, or as, I don’t know, indulging in some kind of fantasy.  But here’s what I’ve seen in the bill myself (based on the text currently at Congress.gov) — and that’s only a small fraction of its enormous economic crisis-unrelated provisions.

What set me off was Division T, Title IV.  That’s the Butch Lewis Act.  If you read what I write at Forbes, you’ll know that I think that this is offering false promises to truckers and other multiemployer plan participants.  As stand-alone legislation, it’s been rejected by the Senate because it claims to rescue multiemployer plans by providing them loans (which have a balloon payment of all the principal after 30 years, which is then forgiven if the plan can’t afford to pay) rather than providing a direct solution, and it lacks any funding or other reforms going forward.

But then you’ve got way more.

Division R (airline funding), section 702 is a sort of “cash for clunkers” for aircraft, except that instead of rendering the planes destroyed and using them for scrap, they’re to be used for parts.  There are also provisions requiring carbon offsets and fuel-efficiency targets.

Section 208 of that division specifies that all airline employees, and all independent contractors doing work for airlines, must henceforth be paid $15.00 per hour.

Division I, Financial Services, section 407, requires that for any “accelerated filer” corporation receiving assistance, permanently, 1/3 of its directors must be chosen by workers via election.  I don’t know what an “accelerated filer” is and I couldn’t find that in the definitions, but this is garbage.

Also in 407, all corporations receiving aid must boost their minimum wage to $15/hour.  And, again, permanently, the ratio of median worker pay to CEO pay must not be greater than 50:1.  Permanently.

And until the crisis is deemed to have ended, corporations receiving aid must keep the same workforce level, the same benefits, the same pay for all workers, including contractors.  No reduced hours permitted.

Section 100115 of Division J provides for $10,000 student loan forgiveness for everyone.

Division T, section 405 provides that a pension plan for a charity that “who been in existence since at least 1938, who conducts medical research directly or indirectly through grant making, and whose primary exempt purpose is to provide services w/r/t mothers and children” will be able to be deemed a “small employer charity pension plan” and given exemptions from various pension plan funding requirements.

Others have found more:  enabling “ballot harvesting” in all 50 states, expansive collective bargaining boosts, endless requirements for diversity and inclusion, and more.

This is appalling.

Again, it may indeed be the case that absolutely none of this comes to pass.

But at the same time, there were legitimate provisions tucked in there.  I wrote at Forbes yesterday about an issue facing traditional pension plans, who need to save their cash but are facing a “quarterly contribution” on April 15.  The House bill defers that contribution.  The (most recently publicly available) Senate version does not.  Will all the garbage provisions in the House bill mean that this “funding relief” — and whatever else is legitimate but not visible to my eyes because I don’t know the issues —  will be lost when the final compromise is hammered out?

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