Joe Biden's idea of bigness and boldness is inexorably and neoliberally shrinking.
Those $2,000 checks going out to every American on Day One? Once Donald Trump had belatedly approved a second round of checks after Christmas, bringing the total amount of the two rounds issued during his administration to $1800, the amount of the third round was quietly reduced by Team Biden, lest people start getting too greedy and expecting more than their share.
And now, lest people expect even more of their reduced share, Team Biden has agreed that this third reduced round of checks should be means-tested, with only those people making less than $50,000 entitled to get the full amount.
So despite all the laudatory media coverage (here and here for example) that has the Democrats finally - finally! - learning their lesson from the inadequate stimulus legislation of 2009 and the futility of negotiating in good faith with Republicans, Joe Biden just cannot help himself. He will continue negotiating with himself, a/k/a his own inner Republican.
The upshot is that we will be getting less cash pandemic aid from Biden than we did from Trump, given that the new president has shown zero enthusiasm for regular relief payments going out to people - not only for the duration of the pandemic, but for as long as the economic sequelae of the pandemic last. All indications are that these economic sequelae will last for years if not for entire lifetimes and even extend into future generations. Because those small businesses are never coming back. Those service jobs are never coming back. Rents and home purchase prices are never coming down, because private equity vultures are seizing all that distressed property and artificially increasing the value, making shelter even more of a commodity and investment source of extractive income for the wealthy, rather than the basic human protection from the elements that it traditionally was.
If there is one thing that the Democratic Party strives for, meanwhile, it is to be seen to be doing the right thing. Thus the careful, obfuscatory language of the New York Times lede about Biden's "rescue" package:
Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration barreled ahead on Wednesday with a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package, even as they signaled a limited williingness to scale back direct payments to Americans in hopes of attracting Republican support. Voting mostly across party lines, the House adopted a budget that included President Biden's sweeping pandemic aid plan, laying the groundwork for Democrats to push it through, if necessary, on a simple majority vote, without Republican support.
That paragraph is, of course, pure doublespeak. At the same time that Team Biden is barreling ahead, they're magically pulling back. It's the old Michael Jackson political moonwalk trick all over again, just the way Barack Obama used to dance it out of both sides of his mouth. Maybe if the corporate media keeps calling Biden's crumbs for the masses his "sweeping pandemic aid" plan loudly enough and often enough, the public will get a mental picture of the army of brooms in The Sorcerer's Apprentice swooshing away all the cares and worries and suffering of an entire population in one gigantic fell swoop. Maybe the public will not notice that the Democratic plan is naught but a worn-out dust rag. And even if they do notice, maybe they'll nonetheless be abjectly grateful that Biden's crumbs certainly are more palatable than the jug of arsenic being proffered by those nasty old Republicans.
Therefore, time is of the essence, and Biden wants to move quickly to prove his housekeeping skills, literally sweeping his original promise of $2,000 checks for every US resident right under the proverbial rug.
“We can’t walk away from an additional $1,400 in direct checks, because people need it,” Mr. Biden told the House Democrats, according to the people, who detailed the conversation on the condition of anonymity because the discussion was intended to be private. “I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to people."
But, doing that old Michael Jackson routine again, Biden added in a sly whisper that he is perfectly okay with reducing the actual number of people included in his promise. Some needy people are more needy and deserving than others. All needy people are not created equal.
The Times uncritically adds,
It was part of a two-track strategy that Mr. Biden and Democrats are employing to speed through the relief package: Show Republicans that they have the votes to pass an ambitious plan with only Democratic backing, but offer to negotiate some details in hopes of gaining Republican support.
Again, with the sports metaphor. The Biden Rescue Plan sounds like a hybrid athletic event which combines curling with speed-walking, with lots of brooms and little stones shaped like cartoon bombs and arm-flailing and frenetic expert commentary to keep the crowds riveted on all the slo-mo action.
So while you're nodding, nearly napping, suddenly there comes a tapping from the Senate chamber door, and who pops into the Times article but new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, alliteratively garbling :“We're going big and bold. We cannot dawdle, we cannot delay, we cannot dilute, because the troubles that this nation has and the opportunities that we can bring them are so large.”
That just about sums it up, sports fans. What possible good are troubles if we cannot bring opportunities to them?
Also - how many stimulus checks could Chuck Schumer shuck if a Chuck Schumer could cut checks?
While you're pondering that, weak and weary, here's another choice bit of stimulus from Chuck to help sweep your blues away: