Neustadter: Congress needs to bail out people, not corporations

Corinne Neustadter

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

In the middle of a global pandemic, it may be easy to forget about your lawmakers on Capitol Hill. As Congress continues to be in recess, it’s hard to believe that less than a month ago, the House and Senate passed the largest emergency stimulus bill in history, totaling $2 trillion.

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This bill was intended to infuse the economy with much-needed cash flow, proving to be a rare show of bipartisanship that also gave many Americans direct cash payments. At the same time, however, it awarded roughly $500 billion to corporations, including multibillion-dollar industries, such as airlines and cruise lines.

Airlines are now requesting a $50 billion bailout from these funds, despite spending almost $45 billion over the past five years in stock buybacks to satisfy shareholders. American taxpayers should not have to bail out mismanaged airlines — that should be left to airlines’ shareholders.

As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “(The Senate majority fought for) one of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American history.”

Meanwhile, Americans with an adjusted gross income under $75,000 per year only received a one-time payment of $1,200. For people struggling to make rent or buy groceries, this amount seems like a slap in the face when confronted with the months or even years-long financial burden that the coronavirus will continue to take on the economy.

Many college students and young adults are notably absent from this payment, as anyone over 18 who can be claimed as a dependent on a tax return is ineligible for the $1,200. At the same time, their parents are also ineligible to receive the $500 per child payment, which is only available for people 17 and under.

Imposing such restrictions on the money given to individuals compared to the money handed out to mismanaged corporations seems to signify that some politicians value corporations more than human life. As millions of people question where their next paycheck will come from and as millions more face uncertainty in their jobs, is bailing out corporations really a necessity right now?

While the stimulus bill included provisions for a multibillion dollar small business fund, the fund ran out within minutes at some banks. In some cases, small business loans went to large corporations, such as Shake Shack, who returned the $10 million loan meant for small businesses. In the meantime, small businesses are hemorrhaging money and struggling to hold on.

However, Shake Shack was not the only offender by far. At least 75 publicly traded companies received funds from the stimulus bill, underscoring the inequalities that this bill has created and signifying that if we are to exit this pandemic intact, we need to significantly invest in people rather than corporations.

As millions of people question where their next paycheck will come from and as millions more face uncertainty in their jobs, is bailing out corporations really a necessity right now?”

Although some governors, including Gov. Jared Polis, are planning to reopen some businesses in the next few weeks, people will continue to feel financial strain until the United States is completely recovered from the pandemic and the economy fully reopens.

In just under six weeks of social distancing, more than 22 million people have filed for unemployment across the country. As quarantine continues, this number will only continue to grow — yet national politicians seem to expect Americans to simply live off one $1,200 check.

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Those who continue to work are among the most vulnerable populations and are continually at risk of being exposed to the virus — health care workers, essential business employees and gig workers are upholding the economy.

Yet states are outbidding each other for personal protective equipment, and the president seems to be more concerned with press briefings than coordinating a national response. In the middle of this pandemic, millions of people are also without health insurance, and many of them run the risk of contracting the coronavirus without access to medical care.

Without significantly revamped funding that goes directly to people and their small businesses, millions will continue to suffer an unequal economic burden that may plunge the economy into recession and put essential workers in even more danger as people become even more reliant on them for essential goods.

Stimulating the economy by increasing direct cash payments, freezing rent and providing small business loans is absolutely imperative to our economy and workforce. However, if Congress continues to place more value on corporations than people, they may financially devastate the economy as well as their constituents.

Corinne Neustadter can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @corinnen14.