Commentary / Coronavirus

Congress Halts Aid to Small Businesses – Stays at Home, Paid

democratsCongress has been “out of session” for a month. The Democrat-controlled House will only return May 4th – at the earliest. They are getting paid. Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration’s Payment Protection Program (PPP), lifeline intended to save jobs and solvency for 25 million American small businesses – has run out of money. Where is Congress?

Inexplicably, when the US Senate convened last week and sought $250 billion in added support for SBA’s PPP program, which has now run dry – the move was blocked by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) for Senate Democrats, House Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Why?

Said Cardin: “The SBA doesn’t need money today to process the Paycheck Protection Program.” House and Senate Democrats argue no bill should pass without $150 billion more in payments to state and local governments and hospitals, while targeting at least $60 billion for minorities.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pleaded for quick action to save America’s small businesses, promising not to address other needs. Said McConnell: “We need more funding — and we need it fast” for PPP. “To my Democratic colleagues, do not block emergency aid you do not oppose just because you want something more … We do not have to do everything right now.” Democrats blocked it anyway – and stayed out of town.

What of Cardin’s contention that SBA “doesn’t need money” for PPP? According to SBA, they are officially “unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding” and “are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time.” Why? They have no more money.

The remarkable nature of this impasse is made more remarkable by another fact: Small businesses across Democratic states, as well as Republican states, are desperate for money to survive. This is their D-Day, their make it or disappear day, their keep employees on or go broke day. Taken as a whole, small businesses make up 90 percent (or more) of businesses in most states (99 percent in California) and provide between 50 and 80 percent of all jobs.

Incredibly, the only purpose of PPP is to save small businesses and those jobs, allowing loans to cover 2.5 times payroll, forgivable after eight weeks if no one is laid off. Could it be simpler?

Unlike the rationale behind bankruptcies and restructuring, which is forgiveness and encouragement of risk-taking, these businesses need loans no fault of their own. These are loans that mature into grants for companies that made no mistakes – they were solvent. They simply suffer now from laws that closed them down and destroyed their customer base.

How in the name of fairness, decency, equity and free markets can Pelosi, Schumer, Cardin and the Democrat socialist machine deny to these businesses their survival? When these are the very Americans who put life savings – and their lives in many cases – into these companies? And when they employ more than half the country? This is the heartbeat of capitalism.

These Democrats are either unschooled in how the economy works, imagining small businesses can vanish and reappear willy-nilly, or they do not care, or they want them to fail, opening the door to socialist control and defeating President Trump. Either way, blocking this critical legislation is patently wrong.

The irony is that small businesses are central to California, New York, and Maryland. They are where production and consumption, employment and spending originate. Government bureaucrats do not make things; the private sector does. These businesses that the Democrats would let fail are the jobs – and voters – on whom these same representatives depend.

So, what gives? Somehow House and Senate Democrats believe – once again – that the big game is defeating Donald Trump. Accordingly, they will starve the program he initiated to save our economy, save small businesses, save these jobs. Somehow, they imagine defeating this SBA effort, in the name of greater equity, federal control, and directed resources will win votes.

With no crystal ball – and little faith in crystal balls – I cannot say what will happen in November. I cannot assure that these members will lose votes from those whose lives they are changing forever. But that is my guess. This is an indefensible act of venality and hubris, allowing American businesses to fail in the name of crass politics.

As America’s essential workers, doctors and nurses, grocers and truckers, public transit drivers, pharmacists and family bill payers struggle to make it – struggle to help America survive –members of Congress refuse to return to Washington to cast votes, even to reopen the session, for fear of coronavirus.

What an ironic time we live in – essential workers in masks, taking risks for us, while Congress hides at home for fear of a virus, refusing aid that will save these and other jobs. Non-essential businesses are left to struggle and fail, effectively shut down by government.

Members of Congress – of which 261 are millionaires, including Pelosi and Cardin – earn an uninterrupted $174,000 base salary. They enjoy handsome paychecks, now with time at home on extended “recess,” toilet paper, fancy food, tax breaks, special healthcare, and a monetary policy that popped their stocks – while the majority of America suffers. Is that right?

If there was ever a message to the voters – this would be it. These members seem to care less about the average Joe or Jane, Sam or Sue, Mac or Mary. They care about themselves. November cannot come soon enough.

Meantime, SBA’s PPP program funding should be approved by unanimous consent in both chambers – immediately. Maybe that will happen by mid-week. Odds are even it will not, unless Democrats get smart and relent. Note to Congress: Like small business, your jobs are essential. So, please come to work.

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