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Commentary: Is $1.9 trillion more really needed?

By Wes Mader Community Columnist Feb 20, 2021

Assuming Congress passes the President’s request for another $1.9 trillion, which is in addition to the $3.1 trillion already approved, the total amount “allegedly” being justified for COVID-19 aid and relief will reach $5 trillion.

That’s $5 trillion from those who will pay taxes (including from our kids and grandkids pockets), but does anyone know or care who gets the $5 trillion? Since five trillion is an incomprehensible number, let me try to put it into perspective. According to the Congressional Research Office, America’s total cost for WWII (inflated into today’s dollars) was $4.1 trillion, plus $150 billion via the Marshall plan to rebuild a totally devastated West Europe.

By today’s political standards, that had to be a bargain. President Biden and the current Congressional majority would have us believe that it should cost way more to deal with the effects of COVID-19 in America, than all of America’s costs related to WWII.

With unemployment in America declining, with COVID-19 vaccines already developed and in production, with the stock market at record high, with 401Ks of workers and retirees in relatively good shape and with empty school buildings available for students who I believe should be in school, is another $1.9 trillion really needed?

The obvious answer is no. But a $1.9 trillion package is a great place to hide money for special interests and for expenditures that wouldn’t stand up under public scrutiny. Hiding unjustifiable expenditures is one thing that many in Congress are good at, particularly those who have been there for decades.

Without question, some COVID-19 relief dollars already spent have been helpful. But as always happens when Congress rushes to pass legislation to give away money, individuals and organizations line up to collect their share of the pork. Taxpayers can expect that almost every city, county, state, tribal government, school district, business and charity in the country will make application for the funds.

An article in this newspaper in July of last year reported that over 600 businesses in Prior Lake had already received forgivable loans under the Coronavirus Payroll Protection Program (PPP). A more recently available report indicates that some of the largest loans went to the SMSC Tribe. If interested, readers can determine for themselves how much our local governments and school district received.

The national news media hasn’t provided in-depth reporting to help citizens understand the magnitude of the waste, but some credible news sources have reported that the CARES Act, which is less than a year old, is already “rife with abuse.”

One example reported is that banking institutions that get to help give away the money, are finding their own employees fraudulently tapping into the funds. One report said that Wells Fargo had fired 100 employees for the abuse (NPR, Oct. 15, 2020).

It would be helpful if the national news media would also report on the absurdity of some of the planned expenditures, and the names of lawmakers responsible for squeezing them into the legislative bills. Unfortunately, the public will continue to be left in the dark.

Some lawmakers will claim there are restrictions in place that determine who is entitled to get the COVID-relief money. True, but without validation, restrictions can be meaningless. According to the July 2020 story in this newspaper, the 600 businesses in Prior Lake received their PPP loans on the basis that 7,000 jobs would be saved. Readers can make their own judgement about the credibility of whether 7,000 jobs were saved, and whether anyone from the government actually validated the claim.

It’s doubtful that any in Congress who support the massive spending bills will have read the thousands of pages of bequests that will be funded, but I expect each will be able to flag for their political supporters and donors what they’ve been able to squeeze in for them.

I doubt any will stand up and offer any credible explanation of why the additional amount needed is $1.9 trillion. If Americans don’t care, why should they?

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Wes Mader is a former Prior Lake mayor. Following retirement after serving as president of Bowmar Aerospace and Defense in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Wes and his wife Char retired in Prior Lake.