The one factoid that gives me the faintest glimmer of hope that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will do the right thing and not make a filibuster-protecting deal with Mitch McConnell is that the former is up for re-election next year. Fear for his own political hide is the only antidote to his life-long disease of slavish fealty to Wall Street. The wrath of New York voters is the only thing that can or will ultimately nudge Schumer in a direction more favorable to the masses of American people who already were immiserated by 40 years of bipartisan neoliberal austerity before the Covid-9 pandemic delivered the coup de grace.
Chatter about a primary challenge to Schumer, possibly by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. only adds frosting to the hope-cake.
But, but, but... Enter the useful idiot/bad cop of the ultra-slim new Democratic senate majority, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who won't have to face the voters again until 2024. He, not Schumer, is actually now the most powerful Democrat in the upper body of Congress, because he wields the power to stymie the so-called nuclear option that the Dems can use to ram through a new pandemic relief package without one single Republican vote. He, along with McConnell, wants to retain the filibuster to ensure that the Senate doesn't become "just another House of Representatives."
Manchin is especially opposed to sending $1400 in new direct cash aid to Americans. Before his party won those two Georgia seats earlier this month, he opposed ending the filibuster because doing so, he said, "would blow up the Senate."
The maintenance of this arcane institution inhabited mainly by millionaires is more important to Joe Manchin than the care and maintenance of the 330 million citizens of America.
To take the cruel sting off the sadism of Manchin's thinking, other useful idiots of the plutocracy are only too glad to lend their own expertise to Austerity In the Time of Plague. Economist Larry Summers, chief architect of the Clinton-era deregulation of the finance system that led directly to the meltdown of 2008 - but who nonetheless remains a respected "expert" and serves as an informal but powerful adviser to President Joe Biden, preposterously warns that direct cash aid to struggling people would "overheat the economy" in tandem with the tragic possibility of blowing up the Senate. What he really means is that billionaires would start to sweat profusely at the prospect of poor people pocketing the equivalent of a car payment, almost a whole month's rent, or a pile of paid heating oil receipts.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and other centrist pundits parroted the neoliberal talking point that direct cash aid would come at the expense of the unemployed - who are conveniently counted in statistics only when they have lost a job or been laid off fairly recently and/or continue to actively look for work. The non-working or the disqualified working poor, who include retirees on Social Security, the disabled, and underpaid, part-time, gig and otherwise precarious workers, are simply not counted in this manufactured, divide-and-conquer category of the "deserving unemployed." They are deemed disposable elements of society, because they are either unwilling or unable to sufficiently boost the profits of the owning class through their labor.
Joe Manchin is incensed at legislation calling for a new round of $1400 checks, sputtering that not only would such bare-bones cash assistance "blow up the Senate," it would even have Franklin Roosevelt himself spinning in his grave.
“I don’t ever remember F.D.R. recommending sending a damn penny to a human being. He gave ’em a job and gave ’em a paycheck. Can’t we start some infrastructure program to help people, get ’em back on their feet?” he seethed.
Manchin ignores the fact that there was no pandemic during the Great Depression, and that Congress was just recently and physically stormed (if not quite blown up) by a mob, at least some of whom had lost businesses and other income as the direct result of the relief-absent pandemic lockdowns imposed by state and local governments.
Perhaps the most ridiculous argument against the direct cash aid is the accusation that people don't even need the money. They'd only selfishly save it, the narrative goes, instead of "stimulating" the economy with it. Plus, even though they might need the cash now, they might not need it in another couple of months. So says "moderate" Republican multimillionaire Senator Susan Collins (not up for re-election until 2026) who wants to take a wait and see approach as to whether people will actually follow through on their impolite threats to starve to death.
The thought of desperate people holding on to part of their ill-gotten relief money until the next time that the kid needs a doctor, or an unexpectedly high utility bill arrives in the mail, is sending the reps of the obscenely wealthy into their own epidemic of conniption fits. The way these pundits and politicians moan and groan about it, there are millions of potential recipients out there who already are so flush with cash they won't know what to do with these sudden windfalls. Some of these unsuspecting and unwilling recipients will even be made to feel too guilty about getting money that they neither want nor need!
The way the austerian concern trolls insanely spin it, millions of people finally getting enough to eat for the first time in months will not send another group of people back to work. Therefore, we might as well let them starve if they can't serve capitalism. Never mind that the checks would not even go to people earning six figure incomes.
When it comes to the wealth-hoarding plutocratic class, this projection of their own greed onto hordes of straw-men is all they've got. Their arguments strain credulity, even among the normally credulous.
"I think those checks are an abomination," the conservative American Enterprise Institute's Michael Strain hysterically kvetched to the New York Times.
You may remember Michael Strain as the pathocrat who once was given a platform by the Times's David Brooks to suggest that if people are poor and they have no money and no job, then they should just hop on a bus and move to wherever the nonexistent jobs are. And then employers should be allowed to pay them sub-minimum wages until they can "prove themselves." And if sub-minimum wage isn't enough to live on, the middle class refugees can always take out a loan.
They don't care how ridiculous they sound, because idiocy in high places is such a lucrative, all-American enterprise. Just ask Donald Trump.