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DWASARI: Americans cannot wait until January for stimulus bill

Column: Cut the Bull

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needs to work with President Donald J. Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass a much-needed stimulus bill. – Photo by Wikimedia

At a turning point in American history, the people have spoken in record fashion. More than 70 million people have elected former Vice President Joe Biden as their 46th president. Celebrations have occurred across major cities as many Americans rejoiced the ending of the controversial President Donald J. Trump Administration.

Barring the far chance that the current administration's lawsuits fall through and flip several states in favor of Trump, we will see Biden sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021. Trump has around two-and-a-half more months (lame-duck period) to serve as America's president, which comes in a crucial time for our country's battle against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and a faltering economy.

Since August, Trump's Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been in stimulus discussions. The difference in price tags came as close as $2.2 trillion from the House Democrats and $1.8 trillion from the Trump Administration. As we all know, there was no agreement before the election due to mishandlings from both parties.

Trump created confusion by tweeting contradictory statements to his opinions on passing a stimulus bill. On the opposite side, Pelosi was staunch on her $2.2 trillion price tag, showing little to no leeway in decreasing the amount as Mnuchin went up.

She repeatedly deflected questions about her unwillingness to reduce her price tag by saying the previously uninvolved Senate Republicans were doing the same with their $500 billion price target and insinuating that CNN host Wolf Blitzer knows nothing of the American people's interest. 

Partisan politics from the Democrats and Republicans left many Americans without much-needed money from the stimulus, and the prospects of anything passing before the year ends are slimmer.

We know Trump acts heavily on his emotions, as seen by his misleading and impulsive tweets during the election and his presidency. Although disheartening, we can expect the stimulus bill to be outside of the top five of his priorities when it is America's number one priority. 

The Federal Reserve has done its job by decreasing interest rates to spur growth within the economy until inflation rates "moderately exceed" the targeted two percent. Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, has called on Congress to provide the absolutely essential support for decreased incomes and lost jobs due to the fears and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While circumstances are currently different from the nationwide lockdowns earlier on during the pandemic, the coming months have a high likelihood of being worse than it ever was. 

The pandemic's current state is worse than ever with America's seven-day average being near 100,000 cases, which is higher than any other neighboring country. Lockdowns have been widespread across Europe, but it seems unlikely we will see one during the lame-duck period amid the continuous downplaying of the virus from Trump.

In some ways, Trump correctly argues the lockdown would hurt more than help people in this country. From an economic standpoint, the first lockdown has left open the possibility the pandemic's effects could last until 2023.

Manufacturing, automobile, air travel, vacation, retail and several other industries, besides the technology industry, have been negatively impacted. Since the end of World War II, sectors have not seen such a negative impact, and a second lockdown could cause more companies to go bankrupt and more jobs to be lost. 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was a much-needed stimulus for Americans, helping Americans feed their families and pay their bills. At the same time, all businesses were provided with money to support activities through an unprecedented period.

With the package far done and the executive orders for the $600 weekly checks expired at the end of July, Americans have a lot to fear if they do not have deep pockets full of savings.

The October jobs report shows 638,000 jobs were added within the month, effectively decreasing the unemployment rate to 6.9 percent. These numbers signal we are headed in the right direction, but 10 million jobs still need to be recovered, and 21 million Americans still rely on some unemployment benefits. Ignoring the uphill climb our economy faces, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reaffirmed that Senate Republicans will stick to their $500 billion price tag. 

Contrary to his beliefs and as stated before, $500 billion is insufficient. Fears over contracting the virus are slowly rising, and businesses will soon lose a significant amount of their business even without lockdowns.

Discretionary spending has seen significant drops even with the holiday season approaching. Only one-third of people are engaging in out-of-house activities to the same extent as pre-pandemic levels. With spending likely to decrease in the coming future, businesses will lose out on revenue and make another significant wave of layoffs. 

This expected adverse situation will need to be addressed with a new stimulus package between $1.5 and $2 trillion with money allocated toward combatting the spread of the virus, extra unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium for renters who earn less than $99,000 and joint filers who earn less than $198,000. 

Without housing subsidies, one may have to pay from 40 to 60 percent of their income on rent. The remaining money would be used on fixed costs for electricity, gas, heating and phone bills, compromising spending on food and nutrition since that is the only area they can save in. Contrary to popular belief, these arduous conditions represent life for many Americans as the U.S. has the highest income inequality among all G7 nations.

The next stimulus bill is a lifeline for millions of Americans. While it would have been optimal for Pelosi to agree to the $1.8 trillion stimulus package before the election, we cannot change the past. House Democrats, Senate Republicans and Trump have to put aside partisan politics and understand Americans' immediate needs.

We cannot wait until Jan. 20 for an administration to prioritize the people's needs over themselves.

Akhil Dwasari is a Rutgers Business School first-year majoring in finance and minoring in political science. His column, "Cut the Bull," runs on alternate Wednesdays. 

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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