December 31, 2020

In an appearance on MSNBC late Wednesday after Senate Republicans once again blocked his attempt to force a vote on $2,000 direct payments, Sen. Bernie Sanders voiced disdain for his GOP colleagues' argument that the relief checks would be "too costly"—an objection raised by lawmakers who happily voted for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations.

When it comes to "tax breaks for rich people or corporate welfare or bloated military budgets, that's OK," said Sanders, deriding the GOP's position. "But when you stand up and you say that working class families need some help, 'Oh my god, the world is gonna collapse.'"

"So I am a little bit tired of that hypocrisy," Sanders continued. "I'm tired of companies like Amazon making billions and billions of dollars not paying a nickel in federal taxes—no one talks about that. But when you're helping a mom trying to feed her kids, 'Oh my god, we can't afford it.' This is hypocrisy."

The Vermont senator's remarks came after a trio of Senate Republicans—Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa), and Sen. John Cornyn (Texas)—blocked the Sanders-led effort Wednesday to secure a vote on a House-passed measure that would provide $2,000 direct payments to most Americans, up from the $600 checks approved under the new coronavirus relief law.

As Sanders readily pointed out on the Senate floor Wednesday, outgoing President Donald Trump has backed the demand for $2,000 checks.

The three Republicans claimed that the $2,000 checks would benefit the wealthy and contribute to the growing budget deficit—objections that those same senators did not raise in 2017, when they voted to pass $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that blew a massive hole in the deficit and disproportionately rewarded the affluent.

Contrary to McConnell's depiction of the direct payments as a gift to "the Democrats' rich friends who don't need the help," the House bill would only deliver the full $2,000 payments to individuals earning $75,000 a year or less and joint filers earning $150,000 annually or less.

"All of a sudden Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are worried that someone in America might get a $2,000 check 'who doesn't need it,'" Sanders tweeted late Wednesday. "Funny. They had no problem giving a $1.4 billion tax break to Charles Koch and his family with a net worth of $113 billion. What hypocrisy!"

While some couples with a combined income in the six figures would receive direct payments under the Democrats' bill, Matt Bruenig of the the People's Policy Project has noted that "the poorest people in our society are eligible for survival payments" as well, "even though many are not eligible for [unemployment insurance]."

"Prior to the pandemic, less than 30 percent of the bottom 10 percent of the disposable income distribution were workers. Only 10 percent were full-time workers. The rest were children, disabled people, elderly people, caregivers, and others that are not eligible for UI," Bruenig explained. "An illustrative case of someone in this situation would be a disabled person who currently lives on $783 per month provided by the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The survival payment will reach them. The UI bonus will not."

Republished from Common Dreams (Jake Johnson, staff writer) under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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