Pelosi isn’t just failing as a legislator. She is failing at basic politics | Carl Gibson - GulfToday

Pelosi isn’t just failing as a legislator. She is failing at basic politics


Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris. File

Carl Gibson, The independent

It’s been more than two months since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, and the resulting economic catastrophe has left tens of millions of Americans in financial ruin. Despite unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression and 36 million now out of work, Congressional Republicans have refused to pass a second stimulus bill. And rather than respond to this complete lack of leadership from President Trump and Senate Republicans with something revolutionary, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — and House Democrats by default — have completely failed their working-class constituents.

Current negotiations over a second stimulus bill show Pelosi is backing a $3 trillion aid package that would provide much-needed relief to state governments, hazard pay for essential workers, aid for the US Postal Service, and funding for widespread national coronavirus testing. These are all good measures, but the fine print in the 1,800+ page bill shows that, once again, workers who are most in need of assistance are being left behind in favour of corporate special interests.

According to Greenpeace, the second stimulus does not include language that would prevent the Trump administration from using taxpayer dollars to bail out the oil and gas industry. And Speaker Pelosi herself has thrown her weight behind a controversial section of the bill that would allow corporate lobbyists (classified by the IRS as “trade groups”) to qualify for Paycheck Protection Program loans meant for struggling small businesses. The only healthcare assistance it provides is an expansion of COBRA subsidies, which does little more than give more money to private health insurers. And workers who have been unemployed for more than 30 days won’t even qualify for those subsidies.

While billion-dollar corporations and their influence-peddling operations are getting help in the latest stimulus package, all ordinary workers have to look forward to so far is another one-time payment of $1200. I don’t know about you, but the initial $1200 payment barely covered my rent, and left me and millions of others to fend for ourselves when trying to pay numerous other monthly expenses like student loans, car payments, utility charges, phone bills, and groceries.

Speaker Pelosi could have fought for policies that progressives have pushed for in both chambers. Senators Kamala Harris, Ed Markey, and Bernie Sanders are pushing for regular monthly payments of $2,000 for all Americans during the crisis, and for three months after the crisis. Rep. Pramila Jayapal is advocating for a salary guarantee for Americans earning up to $90,000. Sen. Sanders is fighting for all Americans’ healthcare expenses to be covered by Medicare during the pandemic. Any concern over the cost of these proposals should be laughed out of the room, given how quickly trillions of dollars were injected into financial markets at the onset of the pandemic. Pelosi is in an even better position to push for these policies herself, since Democrats run the House, and since Democrats will all follow her lead as Speaker. By daring Republicans to vote against a relief package for working-class Americans during an election year, Pelosi may even win valuable concessions. Instead, she’s playing prevent defence and letting down millions of destitute workers in the process.

Speaker Pelosi isn’t just failing as a legislator — she’s failing at basic politics. Given that most Americans either have no current employment or know someone currently unemployed, backing bold policies to keep money in workers’ pockets and food in their refrigerators should be a political no-brainer. The severity of the crisis requires bold leadership, not capitulation. Speaker Pelosi unfortunately doesn’t appear to be up to the challenge. Maybe a progressive grassroots primary challenger like Shahid Buttar is exactly what Pelosi — and the rest of the Democratic establishment — needs.

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