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'Just Give People the Money': Progressives Rip Third Way-Approved Complicated Tax Credit Relief Proposal

"Calling this peanuts is an insult to peanuts, an immediate tangible thing people could eat."

Red sign hanging at the glass door of a shop saying "Closed due to coronavirus."

Red sign hanging at the glass door of a shop saying "Closed due to coronavirus." (Image: Getty Images)

AA new proposal from four senators—two Democrats and two Republicans—to offer a tax credit for workers displaced by the coronavirus outbreak is under fire from progressive critics who warn the convoluted plan is both insufficient to the scale of the crisis and an affront to more simple and far-reaching alternatives.

"Give people money," tweeted journalist Anand Giridharadas. "Money is like a refundable tax credit except useful."

The proposal from Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) offers a $4,000 refundable tax credit for job retraining to those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic's effect on the U.S. economy.

"The workers could use it to offset costs of training such as apprenticeships, certificates, and two- and four-year programs, including online learning, through the end of 2021," reported CNBC

Centrist think tank Third Way's co-founder and senior vice president for policy Jim Kessler celebrated the plan. 

"We like it!" Kessler tweeted. 

Progressives found that praise predictable—but not indicative of the proposal's benefit to working Americans.

JetPAC executive director Mohammed Missouri said on Twitter that the debt-focused payment schemes around higher education and training made the tax credit's prerequisites bad policy in and of themselves.

"In order to get $4,000 in a tax refund, people have to incur thousands more in debt," said Missouri. "That's moronic public policy."

"Just give people the money," tweeted New York magazine writer Sarah Jones.

At The Discourse, writer Paul Blest echoed that call, writing that "giving people a $4,000 tax credit for 'skills training' right now is solving the wrong problem."

As Blest wrote:

This is a crisis. Tax credits do nothing on a macroeconomic level and provide no immediate assistance to people in the short term. Instead of fucking around with these grand plans to remake the workforce by goading people into learning how to code or be HVAC mechanics or whatever, just focus on giving people money. Cut them monthly checks, cancel their rent and mortgages, cancel their student loans, give unemployment insurance to the people who need it and help states update their unemployment systems so those people can actually access it. All of these things would go exponentially further in helping to pull as many people as possible out of the despair brought on by the economic crisis.

There is a plan to do just that, as its architect Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) pointed out Wednesday evening. 

"The problem is clear and so is the solution," wrote Blest. "Don't make this harder than it has to be."

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