The Post reports: “Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell gave a dire warning Wednesday that the U.S. economy could become stuck in a painful multiyear recession if Congress and the White House do not authorize more aid to address the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout.” This not only repudiates the happy talk we have been hearing from the administration concerning a so-called V-shaped recovery; it signaled that the Republicans seeking to block more stimulus were abetting a worse recession.
Pelosi took full advantage of Powell’s remarks delivered in a virtual conference. Citing his prior advice to her on the first stimulus package, Pelosi observed in a written statement, “The American people and experts agree that we must ‘Think Big’ to protect lives and livelihoods during the coronavirus crisis. Not acting is the most expensive course.” She continued, quoting Powell, who had stated, “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery. This tradeoff is one for our elected representatives, who wield powers of taxation and spending.” Pelosi reiterated her list of legislative priorities — all political winners with voters regardless of partisan identity — “funding a science-based path to reopening the economy with testing, tracing and treatment, honoring our heroes with robust funding for state, local, tribal and territorial entities and hazard pay and putting more money in the pockets of workers and families.”
In yet another display of tone-deafness, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seems interested in a single issue: Legal protection for businesses from lawsuits related to the coronavirus. When former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, argues that all Republicans care about is rich donors and big business, McConnell seems to prove his point.
So far, Pelosi is not interested in giving employers immunity from lawsuits. During an interview on Tuesday night with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Pelosi explained that the solution is her own proposal for Occupational Safety and Health Administration protection and enforcement. “Safety in the workplace is a very big issue in our country, long before coronavirus. And so, if the employer takes those precautions, then he is protected from a suit because he has taken the protections that were necessary to protect the worker.” What the speaker won’t accept is affording an exemption to employers who do not take precautions. “It’s unlikely that at a time of the coronavirus that we would say, ‘Just be cavalier. We know it’s contagious — the way it spreads, but you’re off the hook if anything happens, even if you do not comply with the OSHA regulation.’ ” The compromise on that looks simple: Employers who follow all state and federal guidelines — including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — should be protected from claims.
Pelosi, once more, is in the driver’s seat. Her proposals are overwhelmingly popular. Her state aid has broad bipartisan support from governors. And to top it off, Powell says rejecting a big stimulus package would effectively doom us to a prolonged, deep recession. Any Republicans want to go to the mat opposing Pelosi’s bill? Only those not on the ballot in 2020, I suspect.