The House of Representatives and Senate have both now passed a $2 trillion spending package purportedly to provide for our nation’s citizens in this time of emergency. This 883-page bill is denominated the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). This is a spending package that has no additional funding measures included in it. Thus, since our federal government already operates at a deficit, we are borrowing every penny allocated within this bill.
I haven’t actually read the entire bill. Few people have. Indeed, none of the 96 senators who voted on the bill had read it in its entirety when they voted. There were actually two different “final” versions of the bill distributed to the senators during the debate within hours of the vote to pass it. Fortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee has released a breakdown of the additional spending contained within the bill, and at only 22 pages long, I was able to review this much more manageable summary of the spending contained in the final bill.
After review, I thought it appropriate to share some of the additional spending provisions. While you review these spending provisions, remember that this spending was done with the assertion that it was essential for our nation in a time of economic crisis due to the coronavirus outbreak.
There is $25 million in additional funding for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Kennedy Center currently holds assets totaling over $557 million and has received $68.3 million in federal grants over the last 10 years.
There is $75 million in additional funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. More than $7 million in additional funding for the Smithsonian Institute. There is $50 million in additional funding to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (a 21 percent increase in its annual budget), and $150 million in additional funding to the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities (a 59 percent increase in its annual budget)
There is an additional $88 million to the Peace Corps, $250 million to the IRS for “taxpayer services,” “enforcement” and “operations support.” There is an additional $350 million to the State Department for “migration and refugee assistance,” $400 million to the Federal Election Assistance Commission for “election security grants,” and an additional 30.8 billion to the Department of Education. Much of this spending is earmarked for educational grants, and some is simply a significant general funding increase for the agency.
Reasonable minds and people of goodwill can debate the appropriateness of the above funding and programs. However, shoving all of that spending down the taxpayers’ throats as an emergency measure and without even time for review is an absurd waste.
The bill also included additional policy protection for unions by providing a requirement that any private company which accepts a coronavirus stabilization loan funded by this spending package must “remain neutral in any union organizing effort for the term of the loan.” How that provision qualifies as an emergency related to this virus is beyond explanation.
Our national debt has nearly doubled in the last decade. This spending package alone increases the national debt by almost 10 percent. A significant amount of the spending contained in this bill fits the textbook definition of pork-barrel spending. While much of the American workforce remains locked down, this bill makes it clear that the fiscal health of our nation is not a priority for our legislators in Congress.
John Judkins is a Greenfield attorney.