Stimulus Talks Deadlock at Worst Time

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Dec 11, 2020
Republican Party lawmakers have signaled that they won't support the ostensibly bipartisan stimulus proposal currently under discussion as the end-of-year benefits cliff gets closer, the Wall Street Journal reported. The prime sources of disagreement are over business liability for COVID-19 infections and aid to state and local governments. Republicans want a wide liability shield and little to no money going to governments; Democrats want generous aid to governments and a narrow liability shield. Given these disagreements, Republicans have been increasingly trying to tie the two together where either they both pass or they both fail. Democrats, though, say that the bipartisan negotiations should continue, as whatever deal they come up with will likely be palatable for both legislative chambers.

While the bipartisan group seems to have mostly settled on state and local government aid apportionment, liability protections seem to remain a sticking point. The bipartisan group had suggested an affirmative defense, meaning that an employer wouldn't be held liable if it could prove certain conditions, but Republican leaders found that wanting; Democrats, meanwhile, suggested a six-month moratorium on litigation as an olive branch, but the Republican leaders found this to be even more wanting, favoring instead an 18-24 month window.

The deadlock comes at a time when, according to a recent poll, 63 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, according to CNBC. This finding by the survey of 2,000 people, conducted by information technology company Highland Solutions, represents a jump from 53 percent pre-pandemic. The poll also found that 26 percent of respondents do not have a stable income, and one-third have opened up a new credit card to deal with pandemic expenses. However, 44 percent admitted that, even before COVID-19, they were living beyond their means, with the virus making a bad situation even worse. Two-thirds of respondents said that they regret not having more emergency savings.

And this is assuming that Americans even have a paycheck to live on from one pay period to the next. The latest figures show that as many as 853,000 people filed for unemployment last week alone, with some 19 million living on some form of assistance currently. And this is just those who are counted as unemployed, meaning that they are currently in the system looking for work. Counting all the unemployed people, then using Bureau of Labor Statistics data to add all those classified as "marginally attached to the labor force" (those who are unemployed and have not looked for a job in 12 months but want to work and are ready to do so), and all the "discouraged workers" (have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work), the situation is even more gloomy.

The economic situation has gotten bad enough that there is a marked rise in shoplifting, according to the Washington Post. Further, these shoplifters, based on reports from stores and police, are stealing mostly essential items such as bread, meat, milk and baby formula, meaning that the thefts are likely out of necessity rather than greed. The Post noted that nearly 26 million adults—or 1 in 8 Americans—reported not having enough food to eat as of mid-November, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau, the highest it's been since the government began keeping records in 1998.

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