This week President Biden launched his “Help is Here” tour as he goes around the country trying to assure working people and small businesses that he is on their side and ready to fight for them. Upon signing the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, named the American Rescue Plan, Biden said:
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country…and giving people in this nation — working people, middle-class folks, the people who built this country — a fighting chance.”
Included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus is $1,400 for those who make less than $75,000 per year, a $300 weekly increase to unemployment benefits, increased tax deductions per child, increased tax credits for health insurance costs, an increase in food stamp benefits, $350 billion in aid to states, and about $50 billion to support small businesses.
There is no question that this will provide some much-needed relief as working families, the poor, and small businesses have been crushed by the pandemic and many are struggling just to survive.
But this does not mean that President Biden has suddenly switched sides and abandoned his loyal representation of the ruling class in this country — the billionaires and the banks and corporations they own.
All of the extra funds in the relief package are temporary, and many expire in less than a year, and some are extended into 2022 at the latest. Even with the $1,400 checks — much of that money will be spent immediately on past bills and basic necessities.
Even though Biden campaigned for president promising debt relief to students and working class households, and promising an increase to the federal minimum wage — he refused to include any of it the stimulus bill.
And even with the loans and grants to small businesses, there are already over 400,000 small businesses that have gone bankrupt, and the waiting list for loans from banks already includes over 30,000 applicants — only time will tell just how many of them will ever see even a penny of relief.
When Biden was vice president, the Obama administration passed a similar relief package for households struggling to pay their mortgages. But by the time the program expired, the vast majority of applicants never received any relief, and about one-third of those that did still couldn’t afford to pay for their mortgages.
The reality is that this stimulus package is Biden’s attempt to buy some loyalty from the millions of working class families that have been hit the hardest by this pandemic. There has been an unimaginable 538,000 deaths from the pandemic in the U.S., hitting workers and the poor at much higher numbers than the rich. Over 10 million jobs have disappeared since the beginning of the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses have had to close their doors for good. And meanwhile, the wealth of billionaires in the U.S. increased by $1.3 trillion since March 2020, an increase of 44 percent — that amount alone practically matches the stimulus money going to working class households.
Ultimately, the limited and temporary relief provided by Biden’s stimulus package is nothing more than a peace offering, a hope that workers will accept the continued assault on our lives without a fight. But if this pandemic has showed us anything, it is that workers can never expect those in power to protect us — we have to stand together to protect ourselves.