As details of the Senate's coronavirus stimulus plan slowly trickled in Wednesday, progressive critics characterized the sprawling legislative package as a brazen attempt by both political parties to use trillions of dollars in taxpayer money to bail out and further enrich large corporations while tossing mere crumbs to the most vulnerable.
"This is a robbery in progress," wrote David Dayen, executive editor at The American Prospect. "And it's not a bailout for the coronavirus. It's a bailout for twelve years of corporate irresponsibility that made these companies so fragile that a few weeks of disruption would destroy them."
"We can call it a bailout. But this is so big it is more like Congress is creating a new government for our economy, replacing our old government. And this one doesn't have any meaningful democratic protections. A pandemic coup."
—Zephyr Teachout, Fordham Law
While progressives applauded some provisions in the massive package—including the significant expansion of unemployment benefits and protections for airline workers—Dayen said the stimulus package as a whole is an "outrageous betrayal" of the U.S. public and "a rubber-stamp on an unequal system that has brought terrible hardship to the majority of America."
"The people get a [one-time] $1,200 means-tested payment and a little wage insurance for four months," Dayen wrote. "Corporations get a transformative amount of play money to sustain their system and wipe out the competition."
A Senate vote on the stimulus plan is expected as early as Wednesday afternoon, even though the full legislative text has not yet been released to the public.
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The bill would establish a $500 billion fund designed to bail out large corporations hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. Around $75 billion of the program, which would be controlled by the Trump Treasury Department, is earmarked for the airline industry.
But, Dayen wrote, the "enormity of this bailout is being under-reported."
"The other $425 [billion] helps capitalize a $4.25 trillion, with a T, leveraged lending facility at the Federal Reserve," Dayen said. "So it's not a $2 trillion bill, it's closer to $6 trillion, and $4.3 trillion of it comes in the form of a bazooka aimed at CEOs and shareholders, with almost no conditions attached."
The Washington Postreported Wednesday that the stimulus package also includes a little-noticed $17 billion federal loan program that was inserted largely for the benefit of aerospace giant Boeing.
Dayen appeared on HillTV's "The Rising" Wednesday morning to discuss his thoughts on the Senate bill:
While Democratic leaders publicly celebrated the bipartisan deal—with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) calling it "a very good bill"—Democratic aides privately expressed outrage at the legislation's massive handouts to corporations and relatively paltry benefits for workers.
"Temporary survival money for workers, trillions in permanent economic inequality saving a bunch of executives and elites," one House Democratic aide told the Prospect.
Zephyr Teachout, a professor at the Fordham University School of Law and an anti-corruption expert, tweeted Wednesday that "it is super hard to speak up against this because of the big great things in the bill."
"But it is irresponsible not to," Teachout said. "We are talking about something so huge and radical and lacking in oversight that we cannot cheer it on. Truly outrageous."
If the Senate passes the stimulus package Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to try to pass the legislation by unanimous consent given that most House lawmakers are out of town and not eager to return to Capitol Hill amid the coronavirus outbreak.
If just one House member objects, the Postreported that "the most likely scenario would be a day-long vote where members would be encouraged to spread out their trips to the floor and not congregate as the vote is taken."
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) voiced concerns about the Senate legislation in an interview Tuesday night with MSNBC's Chris Hayes.
"If we do not get this right," said Ocasio-Cortez, "we risk small businesses across the country shutting down, and big businesses experiencing a total pay day with lack of accountability, further consolidating our economy. And that will create a generational issue."
"We really need to make sure that we get this right to prevent the worst possible outcome," Ocasio-Cortez added.