Pre-midterm election polls suggest Republicans may have a better election day next Tuesday, possibly ending the year with control of both the House and the Senate. Should that become a reality, inflation is likely to be a major reason for the Democrats to concede control of Congress. That, and the lack of any form of federal support to soften the blow of rising prices. Though the Republicans have stopped any further stimulus checks in the first place.
The cost of just around everything from gasoline to food to clothing has increased and there is no let up as the inflation rate has consistently stayed above the 8% mark right through 2022. Prices eased up a little in September, but it was still 6.2% up from a year earlier.
While Republicans have squarely blamed the third stimulus check and Biden’s economic policies for the mess, the reason is not that simple and the Republicans have been as much complicit as the ruling Democrats.
The GOP has solely relied on rising prices during the midterm campaign and hopes to ride out the inflation issue to gain control of Congress. The Republicans accuse the Democratic party of backing trillions in wasteful expenditures that led to record inflation. They mainly refer to the American Rescue Plan Act, signed by President Biden in March 2021, within weeks after he took over the reins from Trump, and the third stimulus checks.
The third stimulus checks, also the economic impact payments, were part of the Rescue Plan that also included the expanded ChildTax Credit stimulus check and the extended unemployment weekly checks that were continued through the first week of September 2021.
This combined direct stimulus package was only part of the Rescue Plan which gave billions to states and local governments, businesses, and a host of every organization in every sphere of American society.
While Republican has been ballistic about the third stimulus check, they have conveniently ignored the initial mess created by the Trump administration right from the very start of the pandemic, an issue that the Democrats have blundered in failing to highlight.
Trump, The Pandemic, And The War On Medical Expertise
Right from the start of the pandemic as it started creating havoc in China at the end of 2019, Trump conveniently chose to ignore the danger signals and rode roughshod over the advice of the whole of the American medical fraternity.
He even embarked on a tour of Asia at the end of February 2020, even as other nations shut their borders. The isolated American subcontinent could not use its geographical advantage to shut out the pandemic.
Despite its relatively lesser population density, the US COVID-19 death toll quickly surpassed 100,000, the most in the world, and more than the next 3 countries combined.
The national response was plagued by initial denials, delays at the federal level, wishful thinking by Trump, the sidelining of medical experts, and a sustained campaign by Trump to place the blame on everyone by himself. Time was wasted in running after unproven cures and poor science.
The attack on China was a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the inadequate American response.
A Path To Chaos
Even as the world began to take serious note of a mysterious pneumonia-like illness in China by January 2020, it remained a relatively distant concern for Trump. But experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and one of the world’s leading experts on pandemics warned that the death toll could exceed 200,000. By the last week of January 2020, the first confirmed case had already been reported in the US.
The shutdown would be delayed by more than a month before Trump would declare a national emergency concerning the coronavirus pandemic, despite the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus a global health emergency on the last day of January 2020.
The Beginning Of The Federal Stimulus Checks
The US federal government sent out three waves of stimulus checks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that started in the first quarter of 2020.
The Internal Revenue Service, tasked with the whole process of calculating and distributing the stimulus checks, successfully delivered over $1.5 trillion to people across the US. the payments went by way of Economic Impact Payments (commonly called stimulus checks), extended unemployment checks to workers, and expanded advance Child Tax Credit payments, that continued through 2021.
The CAREs act was the first provision for stimulus checks which gave eligible tax-payer adults a payment of up to $1,200. Eligible dependents under 16 years received $500 each for a maximum of 3 dependents.
Individuals with an Adjusted Gross Income of $75,000 or less and joint income tax filers with an AGI of $150,000 or less began entering beneficiary accounts by the second week of April 2020.
People who did not have records of banks entered in their tax records with the IRS received their payments through prepaid debit cards, Economic Impact Payment cards, and paper checks which were issued immediately after, but reached beneficiaries late due to postal delays.
The Second round of aid was a $900 billion packaged and provided a one-off check of up to $600. This time householders were able to claim an additional $600 for child dependents up to the age of 16. The cut-off figure for the full stimulus check was identical at $75,000 for individuals.
The third stimulus check was unveiled barely a week after the second round of stimulus payments are completed. President Biden entered the office and immediately divulged his American Rescue Plan that proposed a third round of stimulus checks, and a whole lot more covering every aspect of pandemic relief. It covered many groups who had missed out on the earlier rounds of payments, mainly Blacks and Latinos, and non-filers.
A vital component of the Rescue Plan was the support it gave local governments including states. This part of the funding has helped states across the US give out stimulus checks to residents to cope with the record inflation that has thrown residents into the same economic desperation they faced immediately after the pandemic.
While any change of the fourth round of stimulus checks remains gridlocked at least until the midterms, it seems unlikely at this stage as the Republicans have successfully managed to portray the inflation as a direct result of the third stimulus check initiated by President Biden.