Crying “emergency,” Washington spent $6.6 trillion in fiscal 2020 and $6.8 trillion more in 2021 on Covid-related issues. Both years equaled 50% more in spending than in 2019, reports Kimberley Strassel in the WSJ.
All for Covid
Only a year ago, Democrats waved through a sixth Covid relief bill, President Biden’s massive $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan—enough money to buy every Covid vaccine, ventilator, and hospital chain on the planet. Only this week, the White House put out a $5.8 trillion 2023 budget proposal. Yet the administration insists that without $22.5 billion in emergency dollars now, we again face Covid apocalypse.
Where Did the Money Go?
Everywhere but to Covid. The Rescue Plan handed $350 billion in “relief” money to the states, and the Associated Press recently described its uses.
- $140 million is going to a high-end hotel in Broward County, FL.
- $6.6 million Colorado Springs, Colorado into golf-course irrigation systems. $2 million in Iowa county to purchase a privately owned ski area.
- $5 million in Massachusetts to cover the debts of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.
Legal Waste, Fraud, Abuse.
One of Congress’s first Covid-relief bills created a committee of inspectors general to provide oversight of Covid funds. It’s done a good job—even as Congress studiously ignores its findings.
The inspector general of the Small Business Administration reported that fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program and other loans was “unheard of—unprecedented… In terms of the monetary value, the amount of fraud in these Covid relief programs is going to be larger than any government program that came before it,” he told ABC News in August.
But Wait, There’s More
According to the Labor Department inspector general: more than $163 billion of $872 billion in Covid unemployment dollars might have been improperly paid, “with a significant portion attributable to fraud.” That’s a 19% improper-payment rate and more than seven times the $22.5 billion the White House recently insisted it needed in emergency additional Covid dollars.
What Congress Has Not Passed
- policing reform
- any trade bills
- desperately needed changes to immigration policy, to name a few failures.
But dangle in front of lawmakers a juicy infrastructure blowout, or an omnibus plumped with earmarks, or a payoff to states and the education lobby disguised as a Covid “relief” bill—and they’re all over it.
Lest you think it’s just moderate Democrats who are expressing “outrage,” Ms. Strassel points out that Republicans don’t have much to brag about:
They boycotted the final $1.9 trillion Rescue Plan, but they were partners in crime in the five Covid bills that preceded it. Those bills included hefty checks to households that didn’t need the cash, blue-state bailouts, and giant new infusions to federal government agencies.
A $5.8 Trillion Budget?
The mismanagement of Covid funds highlights the absurdity of the White House’s new demand for more, not to mention Mr. Biden’s $5.8 trillion budget. If Republicans can’t make spending discipline central to their midterm message, they risk alienating a voter base that is disgusted with Washington largesse.
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