(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)
The CARES or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act became law on March 27, 2020. President Trump signed the bill after it was passed by both chambers of Congress.
The legislation, for many reasons, will be historic. Its size, standing roughly at $2 Trillion, is the first reason for its place in history. A Republican president handing stimulus checks worth $1200 to every American through the legislation is also historic in its own right.
The big bailouts handed to big corporations isn’t really historic. Congress loves cosying up to big companies and corporations. Thus, giving big industries taxpayer money isn’t really surprising, even though it is tragically corrupt and wrong.
In the future, when the coronavirus pandemic will be over and progressives will look back at the CARES act, this will be the seminal moment American politics will shift to the right.
This will also be significant because some of the most progressive leaders of the country, such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, AOC, and others voted for this legislation. The fact their actions will shift America to the right for the next few years is very damaging to the progressive movement.
What is it about the CARES act that threatens to shift the American political centre to the right?
The Size of the Bailouts
Progressive policies are usually economically populist. They require a large injection of cash. Most progressive leaders create funds for their policies through two methods –
- Using existing resources more efficiently
- Building a more progressive tax system
The first reason progressive policies look improbable for the next few years is this – there is no money.
The $2 Trillion CARES act, roughly 10% of the country’s GDP, takes away a large chunk of resources from the federal government and hands it to big banks and corporations. Any funds which could be otherwise allocated to a more progressive cause such as enhancing Medicaid no longer exist. The passage of the CARES act ensures that even in the off-chance Congress or the White House think about drafting a progressive policy, there are no resources left to do it.
What about increasing taxes? To understand this, we will have to imagine a world after the coronavirus pandemic. In such a world, governments would want to place money in the hands of people rather than taking it away. Increase in taxes could tank the economy and create more problems. Economic growth in the next few years is possible only if billionaires spend more freely than they ever have. This means reducing taxes.
Thus, the resources for the passage of progressive policies have become far scarce thanks to the CARES act. The $1200 check you got may look good in the beginning but will hurt you down the line.
And remember, our progressive leaders voted for this legislation.
The Liberal College Bandwagon Will Grind to a Halt
Many colleges and universities won’t be luckily to open back up when things return to normal. The lockdown will force the collapse of a number of institutions. As students refuse to pay high tuition for online courses and endowments fall, many educational institutions won’t have the resources to operate as usual.
Even students making decisions on higher education will start becoming more practical. Trade schools will become more popular as students will gravitate towards programs which promise jobs after completion. This would mean less students joining liberal arts courses.
Cheaper online alternatives will become popular as students start sacrificing the ‘college-experience’ dream. The college-students coalition which forms the heart of the progressive movement would dwindle, scared away from expensive colleges during hard economic times.
Local Government Bankruptcy
Another sure-shot possibility is the high level of bankruptcy expected in local governments once the pandemic ends. If local governments do indeed go insolvent and become incapable of paying salaries and pensions to their employees, bankruptcy will be the only way to get through the crisis.
Bankrupt local governments won’t be able to maintain the quality of essential services such as infrastructure, schools, and other services. The people who will suffer due to this erosion of local government would start preferring a leaner and more conservative local government capable of doing the bare essential.
In areas like foreign policy, resentment towards China would make America more isolationist than ever before. This inward push would complement a more austere approach to government spending.
American policy and politics will pull further to the right and progressives will remember the progressive leaders played a role in making this happen.