Americans are dying as the government looks on

February 13, 2021 — by Atrey Desai

Waking up on Dec. 28, Americans found that the 5,000 page combined COVID relief and spending bills finally passed through Congress after months of deadlock. Yet as the days passed by, it became clear that the bill provided money to unnecessary causes that could have otherwise been used to support Americans in need.

Why was $40.4 million given to the Kennedy Center, a privately funded endeavor, for repair and restoration? What about $14 million for the Wilson Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.? 

Similarly, why was $10 million given to Pakistan for "gender programs"? 

Sure, the world might be better off knowing that the Wilson Center has a think tank now or that the Kennedy Center has a cooler elevator, but instead of such far-flung spending, the government should focus on helping the average American.

These are unneeded programs that can be re-evaluated as possible funding candidates when the government can afford to do so again later, but now is not the time for such trivial spending when Americans are suffering.

Over 10.1 million Americans are unemployed right now. Such people function as the backbone of the government and pay taxes that fund it each year. In these trying times, every dollar counts and the government should be especially cognizant of the people’s struggles, especially after the mediocrity of the first COVID relief package last spring.

While the HEROES act, Congress’s first stimulus bill, helped Americans in immediate need, beyond the stimulus checks and temporary unemployment insurance benefits, it guaranteed no safety net for the American people. 

Meanwhile, it gave billions of dollars to corporations with no strings attached. It is not the federal government’s job to give such kinds of bailouts which also sets a dangerous precedent for wasting money on those who don’t need it while letting those in need suffer.

Such bailouts were already abused by companies that didn’t need them. The  Paycheck Protection Program gave loans to small businesses that couldn’t survive with them. Yet, companies like Shake Shack, which already had $104 million in liquid assets, managed to get a $10 million loan. It was only returned after a huge online backlash. Other undeserving companies like  Ruth's Chris Steak House and the Los Angeles Lakers only returned their money after a similar backlash.

The government has failed its duties and its citizens. It has prioritized corporations over the homeless and think tanks over the food bank.    

I have faith that Congress and the Biden administration will pass a third bill that will focus on helping the millions of Americans who were impacted the most. But in his next bill, there should not be any unnecessary spending when the average person in America suffers: There should be another round of stimulus checks, longer unemployment benefits and absolutely zero funding for inessential programs. 

As Congress argued over whether or not to give $600 checks to Americans in need last fall, the real devil was in the details. Eliminating unnecessary programs would allow the average struggling American to directly receive more aid while stimulating the economy further.