Nobody saw that coming.

Who would’ve guessed government spending would be the one thing that would unite Americans on opposite ends of the political spectrum in 2020?

In fact, we find ourselves nodding along with Democrats, Republicans and just about everyone else we know as they shout disdain for the flimsy, pork-filled, day-late, dollar-short stimulus package our nation’s political elite managed to pass this week. Many of us probably would disagree on some of the finer points included or excluded from the 5,000-page spending deal Congress struck without so much as reading the table of contents.

But many of us also are united in our general disdain for the stick-in-the-eye $600 stimulus checks wrapped into the bill. For most families, the promise of a meager boost probably is an unneeded letdown in the midst of the holiday season, and after six months of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocking any meaningful effort at a second infusion into our anemic economy.

Eventually McConnell stepped out of the way to let this one pass, but not before shuffling a horse racing regulation bill into the stack to benefit his home state.

Why didn’t Congress just send us all gift certificates to the Jelly of the Month Club? No offense to the club or jelly lovers everywhere, but jelly doesn’t pay rent, or utility bills, or for a tank or two of gas. Neither will $600 (just try to find an apartment in Traverse City for $600 or less).

Heck, that isn’t even enough to pick up the tab for a lobbyist dinner with one of the politicians who voted for the bills.

It’s even more infuriating that the $900 billion stimulus package was tacked onto a $1.4 trillion catch-all spending bill. Yes, that’s right. The vast majority of our elected representatives agreed to spend more on a mélange of pet projects and special interest giveaways than they did on ensuring middle-class Americans and small businesses have enough financial tailwind to help them weather the ongoing economic storm brought on by the pandemic.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s better than nothing. But it’s definitely not the something our nation needs at the doorstep of what promises to be a long economic winter as we wait for vaccines to reach our communities.

Here’s the basic math. Congress allocated about $166 billion for the $600 direct checks. By our calculations they could’ve sent $2,000 checks to every person who received a payment in the first round of stimulus for less than $330 billion.

Yet, that’s not the kind of math elected officials — whose compensation and general office budgets place them decidedly out of touch with working and middle-class families — don’t seem to prioritize.

No offense to Congress, but American families probably would more accurately direct that money where it’s needed most. It would be spent, quickly. It would mitigate the financial strain crushing many of our neighbors. It would be spent time and again in our communities. It would support businesses both small and large.

After days of watching these political machinations unfold, we’re left wondering why Congress seems to have ignored working families, the single most powerful economic force in our nation?

After all, we’re the ones who will pay the bills.

This guest editorial was originally published by the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a CNHI sister paper from Traverse City, Michigan, on Dec. 24.

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