02.06.21

Targeted

I was talking to a friend the other day about the effectiveness of online advertisements. When you’re scrolling through social media, you’ll often see ads for products you’ve previously looked at online or items related to your search history. “It’s kind of scary,” my friend said. “It almost feels like they know what I want to buy before I do.”

This past week, I was greeted by a surprise when I returned home to Ft. Pierre. Jean handed me something we had received in the mail while I was working in DC for the week - a stimulus check from the IRS. Clearly, that’s not right. I am a member of the United States Senate and should not have been a recipient of this money. There’s something wrong when a small business can do better targeting with a few bucks and a Facebook page than the federal government can with trillions of dollars.

Earlier this year, President Biden announced his proposal for COVID-19 relief, which he calls the “American Rescue Plan,” that costs $1.9 trillion and includes, among other things, direct payments up to $1,400. While all the specifics haven’t been fully laid out yet, we are expecting that the Democrats will use one of their previous bills as a starting point. In one of their proposals, a married couple with two children making $300,000 per year would still receive a stimulus check. It’s no wonder President Biden’s proposal would cost taxpayers $1.9 trillion.

Now, just how expensive is $1.9 trillion? The quick answer is too expensive, especially when we passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill just over a month ago and much of that money has yet to be spent.

To be frank, the Democrats’ proposal reads more like a radical wish list than a practical plan. Their proposal is filled with items that have nothing to do with COVID-19, like a provision that more than doubles the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. This alone would be a major job killer and devastating to small businesses and workers in South Dakota. I’ve already talked to several business owners in South Dakota who have indicated they will be forced to cut staff just to stay open should this drastic hike to the minimum wage take place. 

On Monday, nine of my Republican colleagues and I met with President Biden to discuss our conservative alternative to COVID-19 relief. Our plan costs one-third of the price and specifically addresses the pandemic by targeting relief to those who need it most – families, schools, hospitals and small businesses. It also focuses on the expansion of testing and vaccines for states and tribes. Importantly, it omits unnecessary proposals, like the minimum wage, that are not specific to COVID-19 relief but were included in the Democrats’ proposal. We told President Biden if he continues to submit to demands from the left-wing of his party, he will likely be the first president to run the country $30 trillion in debt.

While our meeting with the president was productive, it does not appear that it will change the outcome. This is evident by the fact that Senate Democrats passed a Budget Resolution proposed by Bernie Sanders in the middle of the night. This is a legislative procedure that will allow Democrats to shove through their relief package even without the support of any Republicans.

If Democrats pass this legislation, it will be the sixth COVID-19 relief package that Congress has passed since the start of the pandemic. However, it will be the first that does not have wide bipartisan support. When the pandemic first began in March, members of Congress worked together to pass the CARES Act, a bipartisan bill (passed 96-0 in the Senate) which helped speed up the production of vaccines and save countless small businesses and jobs.

A pandemic is not an excuse to pass a partisan agenda that will saddle future generations with debt they’re forced to pay back. Now is not the time to play political games. Now is the time to lead our country from the center, not from the left. Our goal should be to respond to this pandemic with targeted and specific relief to those who need our help the most.