I’m going to be honest, The Battalion made me a fool on Tuesday – I fell for their “Reveille IX to step down” prank. And I love April 1 because the prank compilations on YouTube are absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately, April Fool’s Day this year wasn’t so funny for many Americans.
April 1 is a day of pranks for many, but it’s also when rent and utilities are due. And throughout the month, some Americans must make car, student loan and mortgage payments. Considering 59 percent of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, falling behind on these bills is no joke.
The Senate’s recent stimulus package will ameliorate the crisis. Millions of Americans are receiving a one-time $1,200 check and unemployment benefits are being raised by up to $600. While the emergency funds are a step in the right direction, this bill is far from a long-term solution.
Some landlords have been generous enough to extend rent payment windows, but according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, payments are still weeks away. Compounding the problem, only a few cities and states have issued eviction moratoriums, meaning that unemployment benefits and emergency checks will arrive too late. Talk about a sick joke, giving Americans money but getting it to them too late.
The funniest joke I have heard for April Fool’s Day was the idea the expansion in unemployment benefits is too generous. Some are arguing unemployment is now paying better than real work which is somehow a bad thing. Under normal circumstances, I would grant this argument more merit. However, we are in the middle of a global pandemic and on the verge of an economic recession. I think people having a little bit more disposable income or more money to pay essential bills is okay considering COVID–19 is forcing mass layoffs around the country.
For all its upsides, there are still some limitations to the relief package. Let’s talk about the $500 billion in corporate bailouts. The Trump Administration’s officials have stated the $500 billion could be expanded into $4 trillion in lending money, paving the way for more corporate corruption. Remember in 2009 when a lack of oversight led some big businesses to pay their leaders bonuses amidst the housing crisis? I’d rather avoid a repeat in 2020. If we allow corporations to take advantage of the relief package with no strings attached, we’ll be the butt of the joke while they swim in their vault of coins.
Fortunately, some senators are taking COVID–19 seriously, even on April 1. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and a handful of other democratic senators have been pushing Mnuchin to add oversight committees to the bailout money. However, Nancy Pelosi and some unions are opposing some of Mnuchin’s propositions. They argue that government stakes in airline stocks would prevent the airline industry (both large corporations and regional businesses) from taking advantage of the stimulus package, resulting in more layoffs. I absolutely understand the concern, and perhaps the regulations shouldn’t be overly strict. That being said, we cannot take the same neoliberal path that we did in 2008, giving corporations cash and a slap on the wrist.
The one good thing about the pandemic is that it exposes the prank that elites have been playing on the working class for centuries. The relief package shows us that corporations control our economic system more so now than ever. It’s a given that big businesses will get bailouts when they ask (it’s happened twice in a row now). Moreover, no matter what regulations congress places upon them, workers lose in the end. If there are no restrictions, Wall Street rewards the people at the top and fires workers when there are too many regulations to cut costs.
The relief package is nothing more than Neosporin for the gaping wound in our economic system. Sure it helps workers in the short-term, but in the long-run, nothing substantially changes. In the end, it’s up to the working class to turn the tables so we get the last laugh.