Trump Tries to Block Virus Testing In Stimulus Bill

Written by SK Ashby

We're starting to get some idea of what the GOP's first actual proposal for a stimulus is going to look like and we're getting some idea of what the White House does or does not want to see in it.

The Washington Post reports that while Trump insists on including measures like a nonsensical payroll tax holiday, he does not want any money for coronavirus testing or contact tracing included in the bill.

This has reportedly prompted pushback from GOP lawmakers during closed door, Republican-only discussions

One person involved in the talks said Senate Republicans were seeking to allocate $25 billion for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, but that certain administration officials want to zero out the testing and tracing money entirely. Some White House officials believe they have already approved billions of dollars in assistance for testing and that some of that money remains unspent. [...]

The administration is also seeking to zero out $10 billion in new funding for the CDC in the upcoming bill, while slashing spending for the Pentagon and State Department related to foreign aid, the person said. Trump has been skeptical of State Department spending and foreign aid generally, but it was unclear why the Trump administration would seek to block money for the Pentagon for a variety of coronavirus-related expenses such as reimbursing contractors for providing paid leave to employees.

Coming from the brain genius who says the only reason we have surging infections is because we're testing too many people, I can't say it's any surprise that the White House would try to zero out funding for tests.

It's not completely clear yet what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposed bill will include, but early reports indicate it will include more direct stimulus payments to Americans, but it will also include Trump's payroll tax cut.

A payroll tax cut is a supply-side boondoggle that will do little to create jobs while doing much to bankrupt social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security. But as remote as the two issues of testing and payroll taxes may seem, they're actually closely related.

Trump's refusal to take the coronavirus seriously and our collective refusal to take testing and contact tracing seriously means new outbreaks are shaving consumer and business demand again. We're still losing over 2 million jobs per week if you include gig-economy workers and payroll taxes have nothing to do with it. We're losing jobs because there's no demand for jobs; there's no demand for labor. Local economies are shutting down again.

We're stuck in a conservative policy feedback loop in which they're creating the problem and proposing solutions that will make it worse.

But I suppose that's the entire history of conservative policy making. The consequences of it are just far more acute when there's more at stake.

There's currently no indication that McConnell's bill will include an extension of the $600-per-week pandemic unemployment program, but we should find out tonight or tomorrow.