From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Crumbs for the Hungry but Windfalls for the Rich
Date May 29, 2020 5:39 AM
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[ Billions are going to zillionaires under the guise of pandemic
relief. While President Trump and his allies in Congress seek to
tighten access to food stamps, they are showing compassion for one
group: zillionaires.] [[link removed]]

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Nicholas Kristof
May 23, 2020
The New York Times
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_ Billions are going to zillionaires under the guise of pandemic
relief. While President Trump and his allies in Congress seek to
tighten access to food stamps, they are showing compassion for one
group: zillionaires. _

A line to receive application forms for unemployment benefits in
Hialeah, Fla., last month., Credit: Cristobal Herrera/EPA, via
Shutterstock // The New York Times


Their economic rescue package quietly allocated $135 billion
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yes, that’s “billion” with a “b” — for the likes of
wealthy real estate developers.

My Times colleague Jesse Drucker
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Trump himself, along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may benefit
financially from this provision. The fine print was mysteriously
slipped into the March economic relief package, even though it has
nothing to do with the coronavirus and offers retroactive tax breaks
for periods long before Covid-19 arrived.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Representative Lloyd
Doggett of Texas, both Democrats, have asked
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Trump administration for any communications that illuminate how this
provision sneaked into the 880-page bill. (Officially, the provision
is called “Modification of Limitation on Losses for Taxpayers Other
Than Corporations,” but that’s camouflage; I prefer to call it the
“Zillionaire Giveaway.”)

About 82 percent
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the Zillionaire Giveaway goes to those earning more than $1 million a
year, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Of those
beneficiaries earning more than $1 million annually, the average
benefit is $1.6 million.

In other words, a single mom juggling two jobs gets a maximum $1,200
stimulus check — and then pays taxes so that a real estate mogul can
receive $1.6 million. This is dog-eat-dog capitalism for struggling
workers, and socialism for the rich.

Many Americans understand that Trump bungled the public health
response to the coronavirus, but polls suggest
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they don’t appreciate the degree to which Trump and Congress also
bungled the economic response — or manipulated it to benefit those
who least need help.

The United States simply accepted that the pandemic would cause vast
numbers of workers to be laid off — and then it provided
unemployment benefits. But Germany, France, Britain, Denmark
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other countries took the smarter path of paying companies to keep
workers on their payrolls, thus preventing layoffs in the first place.
The United States did a little bit of this, but far less than Europe
— yet the United States in some cases spent a larger share of G.D.P.
on the bailout than Europe did.

So the unemployment rate in Germany
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Denmark is forecast to reach about 5 percent
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United States it may already be about 20 percent, depending on how
you count it
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It’s not fair to viruses to blame our unemployment crisis simply on
the pandemic. It’s also our national choice.

At the same time, it has become increasingly clear that money intended
to rescue small businesses has often gone not to those with the
greatest need but rather to those with the most shameless lawyers.
They are part of our national equation: Power creates money creates
more power creates more money.

One provision in the rescue package provides a tax break that benefits
only companies with more than $25 million in gross receipts.
AutoNation, a Fortune 500 company, received
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million in small business funds, although it returned the sum after
The Washington Post reported its haul. For-profit colleges, which are
better known for exploiting students than educating them, have raked
in $1.1 billion.

A Brookings Institution study
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that young children in one in six American households are not getting
enough to eat because of the worst economic crisis since the Great
Depression, and we’re rushing to help … tycoons!

A Kaiser Family Foundation study found
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because of layoffs, 27 million Americans as of May 2 were at risk of
losing employer-sponsored health insurance. You might think that this
would lead to a push for universal health coverage. But, no, the
opposite: Trump is continuing to support
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lawsuit to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act — and allow
millions more to lose coverage.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt responded
boldly to economic desperation by creating jobs, passing Social
Security and starting rural electrification. In this crisis, Trump is
trying to restrict food stamps and health insurance while giving free
money to real estate tycoons — probably including himself.

Of course, America does remain a land of opportunity, if you have the
wealth. A new study
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that in the two months since March 18, roughly the start of the
economic crisis, America’s billionaires saw their wealth
collectively grow by 15 percent. And another 16 Americans became
billionaires in that period. It’s great to see people pulling
themselves up by their bootstraps!

The House of Representatives is trying to repeal the Zillionaire
Giveaway, but Trump and his congressional allies are resisting. Trump
meanwhile sees little need to help states and localities, which in
April alone laid off more employees
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in the entire Great Recession.

Trump was elected in part by voters angry at the way the system was
rigged. But under Trump, the economy has become rigged ever more
decisively, even as children go hungry and ordinary workers lose their
jobs and their lives.

_[Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The Times since 2001. He
has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the
genocide in Darfur. You can sign up for his free, twice-weekly email
newsletter [[link removed]] and
follow him on Instagram
[[link removed]]. His latest book
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"Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope." @NickKristof
[[link removed]] • Facebook
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