Cognizant of the bad taste left in the mouths of many American taxpayers who saw Wall Street banks and corporate interests bailed out with trillions of dollars during the financial crash of 2008 while workers and homeworkers were left to fight for themselves, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reportedly told Republican lawmakers during a closed-door meeting this week to avoid using the provocative word "bailout" and collective GOP laughter ensued when one senator in the room (jokingly or not) suggested using the term "freedom payments" instead.
Reminiscent of putting the word "freedom" in front of anything right-wingers want the American people to swallow without question—like "freedom fries" ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq after "french" became a dirty word due to France's vocal objections—the private exchange helped further elucidate that corporate interests and their Republican allies are very much aware that no-strings-attached bailouts of corporations and financial institutions will not sit well with the U.S. public, especially as working class families, small business owners, and whole communities suffer due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
The exchange between Mnuchin and the GOP lawmakers was reported by the Washington Post:
When Mnuchin visited with Republican senators at their Tuesday lunch, the secretary pleaded with them not to use the politically charged word "bailout" in describing the proposed relief for Boeing, one of many large corporations that stands to benefit from the administration's plan. One senator raised a hand and asked if they should instead call them "freedom payments," which prompted laughter, according to a person briefed on the closed-door meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the discussion.
The reported episode spurred both ridicule and anger on social media.
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I wonder how many “freedom payments” this senator has gotten for his campaign from the corporations they are about to bail out? https://t.co/dgF4H9B1st— Eli Lopez (@elopezgross) March 18, 2020
"God," said one user on Twitter, "could they show their contempt for us more clearly? They want to direct the aid solely to the corporations that own them...that couldn't be clearer."
With the battle of the scope of and conditions for federal bailouts of U.S. industries raging on Capitol Hill, economist Dean Baker at the Center for Economic & Policy Research argued in an op-ed Wednesday that any corporate rescue operation funded by taxpayers must come with strict provisions, including future caps on executive pay, putting shareholders last, and making sure industry workers receive full pay and benefits.
"This is not just a question of envy," Baker wrote. "More money for those at the top means less for everyone else."