(UnitedVoice.com) – Just a few weeks ago, proposing that the federal government cover the salaries of workers would have been called socialism. On Thursday, a conservative Republican senator said the federal government should pay worker’s wages until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Not to be outdone, a leader for the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus called for the government to do the same on Friday.
President Trump and Republicans have spent the last few years painting Democrats as socialists. They warned that socialist policies are destructive and that America could not repeat the mistakes of Venezuela. However, COVID-19 has changed everything.
The federal government has already spent trillions of dollars in relief efforts for individuals, families, and businesses in the face of government-induced shutdowns of the economy. With the world upside down, so are the political realities. There is a growing consensus among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that the government has to quickly spend even more money to prevent a total economic collapse.
One bipartisan plan that’s emerging: the government paying everyone’s salary.
Jobs Should Be Protected
On Thursday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) wrote a Washington Post op-ed calling for the federal government to cover 80% of workers’ wages up to the “national median wage.” He also wrote that the government should give businesses a bonus if they rehire employees they laid off. The reason Hawley said these actions should be considered because the government closed the economy down in the first place. Of course, that was done to protect the public health.
On Friday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) wrote that the government should go even farther. Instead of 80%, the government should pay 100% of salaries and benefits up to $100,000 — including healthcare for three months.
Neither Hawley nor Jayapal are in their parties’ mainstream. But, on this, they have a common cause. Jayapal said her staff is reaching out to Hawley’s office to talk about a collaborative approach.
In his op-ed, Hawley acknowledged the political dangers of his idea but said his measures were proactive instead of reactive. He argued that it’s “better that money be spent on saving jobs now and getting Americans ready to work than on bailouts and mass unemployment claims for months and months to come.”
Jayapal earned quick support from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY):
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 10, 2020
As of April 10, approximately 17 million Americans over the last three weeks have applied for unemployment benefits as the unemployment rate exploded to 13%. That’s the highest on record. On February 1, the economy was roaring and the unemployment rate was at 3.5%.
Over the coming weeks, Congress will be debating a lot of different ideas about how to keep the economy afloat and prepare the country for post-COVID-19.
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
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