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January 4, 2021

Trump and Democrats Try to Out-Spend Each Other

The COVID relief bill is the embodiment of all that’s wrong with government spending.

If we as Americans can agree on any one thing, let it be this: No matter how massive or how extensively loaded with domestic goodies a congressional spending act might be, it should never come to the president’s desk with anything even remotely resembling the following language: “Of the funds appropriated under Title III of this Act that are made available for assistance for Pakistan, not less than $15,000,000 shall be made available for democracy programs and not less than $10,000,000 shall be made available for gender programs.”

And yet, as Power Line’s Steve Hayward notes, there it was, right there on page 1,497 of the 5,593-page, $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and omnibus spending bill passed by our 116th Congress and reluctantly signed over the holidays by President Donald Trump. (To mention that the bill also contains $15 million to help Sri Lanka refurbish an old Coast Guard cutter we gave it and $1.65 billion to let Jordan spend however it pleases seems like piling on. But some things in life are just begging to be piled upon.)

Seriously. If we can’t — all of us — agree that burdening our grandchildren with deficit spending of this sort is an abomination, then we’ve really jumped the shark as a nation. (If you want to get your blood boiling, just click here and see how long it takes you to scroll through the entire bill.)

President Trump had originally resisted signing the bill, posting a video in which he called it “a disgrace,” called its $600 individual outlays “ridiculously low,” and admonished Congress to “send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package.”

Ultimately, though, the president caved. And for what? Not much of anything, it appears. The legislation “has been signed into law in exactly the form Congress passed it,” notes Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff. “It does not include the $2,000 handouts Trump wanted. It includes all of the wasteful spending he decried.”

The president issued a “signing statement” in which he invoked the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to remove the bill’s wasteful spending. In addition, he called on the Senate to increase the individual checks to $2,000, repeal the onerous Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that allows Big Tech to selectively publish content with legal impunity, and begin an investigation into voter fraud. But none of these three commandments is binding on Congress.

What, then, is the president’s play here? By fighting for those $2,000 checks, he’s certainly donned the mantle of populist, but so has Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. And those checks wouldn’t exactly be going to the most needy among us. As the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes, “Mr. Trump’s proposal is somewhat less spendthrift in leaving payments to children age 18 or younger at $600. But he would still provide benefits to a family of five earning up to $266,000 a year and add $315.5 billion to the debt.”

What we have, it seems, is a profligate spending contest between a Republican president and a Democrat Congress. “Mr. McConnell called this ‘another fire hose of borrowed money that encompasses other people who are doing just fine,’” the Journal continues. “The bill that has already passed Congress is better targeted at the unemployed and low-income workers with more cash, more food stamps, more child-care subsidies, and higher jobless benefits.”

Ultimately, we might all be a lot better off if the president and our elected representatives had just stood there instead of trying to do something.

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