Eight Bad Ideas That Have No Place in Future Stimulus Bills

Policymakers in both parties should keep taking bold action to fight this historic pandemic without embracing these counterproductive or wasteful policies.

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by Ben Ritz, Director, and Brendan McDermott, Fiscal Policy Analyst, of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for Funding America’s Future.

The enormity of challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and the speed at which crises can take root, demand that our leaders act boldly and quickly. But the need for decisive action also gives leaders an unfortunate opportunity to “not let a good crisis go to waste” by slipping unrelated policies into must-pass legislation. Congress has largely avoided this temptation to date, and it should continue to avoid it while preparing the next rounds of investment, relief, and stimulus.

Unfortunately, some of President Trump’s proposals for the next comprehensive relief bill would not meet this standard. Instead, these ideas risk exacerbating the spread of the disease while recklessly giving money away to those least in need. Although significantly less harmful, some Democrats have also put forth proposals that would do little to mitigate the current crisis and have no place in stimulus legislation. Policymakers in both parties should keep taking bold action to fight this historic pandemic without embracing these counterproductive or wasteful policies.

  1. Limit Business Liability for Employees Who Contract the Coronavirus: Among the worst ideas proposed by the administration and its Republican allies in Congress is offering businesses immunity from legal liability if they make decisions that cause their employees to get sick. These decisions could include opening their business too quickly or failing to abide by social-distancing guidelines. There is no debate among top economists that social distancing should continue for as long as is necessary for the good of public health, including partial or full business closures. Liability protection would incentivize businesses to take risks with their employee’s health, likely exacerbating the spread of the disease. Moreover, it may not even achieve its goal of hastening the recovery — if consumers do not think it is safe to shop, then businesses will not thrive even if they have legal protections. This proposal would only double down on the public health blunders Trump has already made, such as cutting staffing and financing for vital public health offices, downplaying the virus’ threat, and neglecting states who tried to buy lifesaving equipment.

There is no shortage of good ideas to fight the coronavirus and mitigate the economic damage it’s doing to businesses and families. Lawmakers should reject inferior alternatives that would waste important public resources or otherwise exacerbate the crisis.

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Radically Pragmatic. We seek to advance progressive, market-friendly ideas that promote American innovation, economic growth, and wider opportunity.

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