The new Covid-19 stimulus package will be a great relief for tens of millions of Americans, but the process of getting to it exposed the need to overhaul our broken budget politics. Both parties have been at fault in creating a process that is chaotic, undemocratic and ultimately reckless.
The late Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen famously quipped, "A billion here, a billion there, and soon enough you're talking real money." Now, we toss around the trillions.
The new round of Covid-19 relief is estimated to cost around $900 billion. We don't really know the bottom line, as there has not yet been a budget "score" by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But we do know Congress is agreeing to spend a vast sum, in this case roughly 4.4% of GDP (or over a quarter of the federal tax revenues for the year), without waiting for a nonpartisan estimate of the likely costs.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Never Miss a Beat.
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
Even more problematic? Congressional leaders have not sought or welcomed an open national deliberation about best uses of the stimulus funds.
There should have been an effort through online congressional hearings to gauge the public's priorities regarding different kinds of outlays: help for the hungry and unemployed, support for health workers, additional funding for testing and tracing systems, financial backstopping for small businesses, and assistance to state and local governments which need to pay to keep teachers, firemen and policemen on the front lines.