[Commentary] Here’s What You Didn’t Know Is Stuffed Into Coronavirus Relief Bill
Senate Republicans have invoked any number of cliches in the past 48 hours as they completed legislation to finally provide financial relief to millions of Americans suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. They were “on the five yard line” and had to “push the ball over the goal line.” The one analogy they didn’t use, but should have, was “we’re stuffing the pork barrel.”
That’s because included in the $2.3 trillion legislation that Congress will have to vote to approve and that Donald Trump will have to sign before midnight Tuesday to avoid a technical government shutdown are provisions that have nothing to do with helping average Americans pay for housing, food, medicine or other basic necessities or helping local governments administer COVID-19 vaccines. Two in particular do nothing except benefit special interests.
One section of the bill allocates $1.4 billion to go for construction of Donald Trump’s vanity project southern border wall. While he touted it as the be-all and end-all of national security when he first took office, the reality is that very little new construction has taken place and new sections that have been built have collapsed due to poor design (which Trump insisted upon). It’s the definition of a boondoggle.
Another includes a tax break that will benefit corporations by allowing them to deduct 100 percent of corporate meal and entertainment expenses. Dubbed the “three martini lunch” tax deduction, that provision has been pushed since the spring by White House negotiators, principally by Treasury Secretary and wealthy former Wall Street investment banker Steve Mnuchin. Democrats had steadfastly opposed it, but in the interest of getting some help – any help – to Americans dropped their objections for now.
Currently businesses are permitted to write off half of the amount of money they spend wining and dining current or potential clients. For example, if a “dinner meeting” for six business associates cost $100 each, or a total of $600, the company could only write off $300 of that total for tax purposes. But after today, when Trump signs the legislation, a company will be able to write off the full amount of that one dinner, or $600.
That’s exactly the same amount that millionaire Republican senators, including Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, think is a sufficient amount of money for an average American to live on over the course of eight months. Six hundred dollars, for eight months. U.S. senators are paid an annual salary of $174,000, which equates to $476 every day. Four hundred seventy-six dollars, every, single, day.
Yeah, my outrage meter just pegged too.