WaPo’s syrupy headline on COVID-19 bill brings down the house (of cards)

WaPo’s syrupy headline on COVID-19 bill brings down the house (of cards)
Biden announces Senate passage of "his" "COVID" "relief" bill from the White House. (VP Harris sticks the landing once again on her stage mark.) AP video via USA Today

Throughout the last few weeks, we’ve been hearing about the congressional tussle over the COVID-19 “relief” bill, which notoriously flags less than 10% of its $1.9 trillion in spending for actual coronavirus-related necessities, and puts the rest into a massive debt-funded pork-fest demanded by Democrats.

First it was “the House bill,” which passed along party lines (minus one Democratic dissenter).

Then it was “the Senate bill,” which on Saturday passed along party lines with no votes crossing the aisle.  (One Republican, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, was away for a funeral, resulting in a 50-49 vote.  His vote would not have made a difference, hence his absence.)

Now it goes back to the House for the final reconciliation this week.

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But immediately upon approval by the Senate, it suddenly became … “Biden’s bill.”

Little prior reporting had seemed to implicate President Biden in the bill much at all.  (Certainly his unsteady performance in the White House announcement about the Senate vote seemed to indicate Biden wasn’t deeply engaged on the bill.)  But on Saturday, it not only became his accomplishment; it became Great Leader Biden’s beneficent will for his people.

I’m not kidding.  This was the Washington Post headline heralding the bill’s passage in the Senate.

Screen cap by author, 6 March 2021

Yes: “Biden stimulus showers money on Americans, sharply cutting poverty in defining move of presidency.”

I doubt there’s any real need to elucidate how closely such a headline mirrors the propaganda organs in totalitarian communist states.

Social media erupted with all the expected riffs; e.g., on Biden, er, showering things on the people, and on the idiocy of proclaiming that something Biden hasn’t even signed yet is “cutting poverty” in any fashion.

I think we all understand that nothing “Biden” can do has any ability to “cut poverty,” regardless of when he signs it, or even when we judge its effects.  Cutting poverty, to the extent it has grown under the COVID lockdowns (and now under the regulatory job losses imposed by Biden), is a matter of reopening America for business.  The states have to do the reopening.

The “defining move of his presidency” clause might be more interesting as a discussion topic.  What most people are aware of is that a check for $1,400 is coming, and unemployment benefits have been extended.  Since President Trump dispatched a total of $1,800 in monetary relief to Americans, and also extended unemployment benefits, the defining move seems like kind of a dead end.

Maybe the “defining move” in the headline refers to the pork-fest in the 91% of the spending that isn’t about COVID relief.  At any rate, someone seems to have thought better of the headline at some point, as it is now appearing in this form:  “Biden stimulus showers money on Americans, sharply cutting poverty and favoring individuals over businesses.”

The text of the article is absurd, framing the extension of unemployment benefits as “showering money on Americans.”  The charts WaPo uses to demonstrate how Biden is carpet-bombing you with thousands and thousands of dollars feature unemployment benefits as the biggest chunk of the money dump.

Graphic credit: The Washington Post. Link in text

Most Americans now receiving unemployment are old enough to remember receiving unemployment last year, and during the Obama years, and don’t recall it being celebrated as a magnanimously compassionate shower of money on them.  It was more of what it actually was this time around: a political bone of contention, with Democrats ultimately deciding to go with less money per week ($300) than some of them wanted ($400).  (Republican views matter little in this Congress.  As long as the Democrats can muster all 50 of their Senate votes, the bill will pass regardless of what Republicans think.  A filibuster can still stall the vote, so we may duly acknowledge that the Republicans didn’t try that.)

It’s also sleight-of-hand to effectively depict the “Biden” bill’s support to small businesses as support for individuals, when similar expenditures in the 2020 bills are called “support to business.”

We could go on about that all day, in fact, as regards most of the other spending categories.  Just a couple of points.  One, as Hans Bader has pointed out at LU in a series of very sensible articles, the COVID “relief” bill is actually pretty much certain to have a damaging effect on the U.S. economy.

The WaPo article tries to get ahead of that criticism by acknowledging that “the bill … injects the economy with so much money that some economists from both parties are warning that growth could overheat, leading to a bout of hard-to-contain inflation.”

That leaves the reader thinking the “shower of money” will prompt an orgy of consumer spending.

But we are not, contra Richard Nixon, all Keynesians now.  People on unemployment, and with less than $120 extra per month over 12 months from their $1,400 checks, aren’t going to overheat the economy.  They’re going to juggle bills hoping to somehow remain in their homes with the lights still coming on, and food in the refrigerator.

They’ve been getting unemployment benefits, with an additional $1,800 a head in cash since the March 2020 bill, and that’s what they’ve been doing with it.  The reason that’s all they’re going to do with it?  They’re unable to work!  (Which is the number one reason this “stimulus” is utterly incapable of “cutting poverty.”)

What the bill actually does is lard up the national debt by another 8% of its current $23.3 trillion, in one fell swoop. The federal deficit for fiscal year 2021 is already projected to be $2.3 trillion without the COVID bill.  Add that to the price of Biden’s Great Leader Bill and the national debt will take a whopping 18% jump in one fiscal year.

The inflation that looms over this impending train wreck is from devaluing the currency, not from stimulating the public to rush out and buy two of Kyrsten Sinema’s Lululemon bags, plus a hybrid crossover SUV and a 62-foot yacht.

But even that, important as it is, is not the main point you want to ponder about the WaPo headline.  No, the point you want to ponder is this.  The same people who perpetrated that headline have been writing the headlines since 2016.  They’ve been writing the copy since 2016.

They’ve been framing everything just as they did in the WaPo Great Leader article: prejudicially, in the accents of laughably obvious propaganda.  They use charts that obscure a blunt, unimpressive reality you can discern with a few seconds’ thought (e.g., unemployment is unemployment – something that’s not “additional,” something lesser, with a cutoff date, that you receive because you don’t have a job; it’s not a “shower of money” from the POTUS).  They use words that intentionally trigger your emotions and test your tolerance for fatuity (the appeal to pay no attention to the currency devaluation; you’re being showered with $44,000! — because our Great Leader favors you over “businesses”!).

What else have the same copywriters been trying to sell you that doesn’t necessarily pass the smell test – since 2016?  Or before?

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.

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