Pandemics versus Other Disasters:  Bush versus Biden-Trump

Pandemic Safety Net Workers

            Marble Falls     I can already hear the squealing even more than a thousand miles from Washington, DC.  Despite a miraculous pandemic recovery in many areas, especially jobs, there will be some redcoats jumping up and down about fraud connected to the bailout through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and other programs.  I quickly add that they will not be yelling as loudly about the numerous business scams with their billions from the bailout that dwarf any evidence of fraud connected to the PPP designed for worker protection.  Regardless, I come to praise PPP, not to bury it, and to point out how much better the PPP and other programs were for people in this crisis than other programs to deal with more localized, but equally devastating disasters.

News recently will stir up this pot.  Reports indicate that “there are currently 500 people working on pandemic-fraud cases across the offices of 21 inspectors general, plus investigators from the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service. The federal government has already charged 1,500 people with defrauding pandemic-aid programs, and more than 450 people have been convicted so far.”  A lot of the onus should fall on the so-called “fintech” operations that pushed out money over the internet to god knows whom, but, there’s no question, scamsters had a payday.  Between the Trump administration’s $3.1 trillion and the Biden addition of $1.9 trillion there was a lot of money sloshing around, and there’s no question some of it leaked out, which is why all these government folks are doing to get it back or have people pay the piper.  So be it.

It was still the right way to roll.  Get the money out, and get it out fast, so that families and businesses can stay afloat. It worked.  Think back, if you will, seventeen years ago to Hurricane Katrina as one of many examples and remember how the George W. Bush administration handled the problem.  Billions were designated to rebuilding homes, but not so much businesses.  Even with homes, there was such a fear of fraud that it took forever to have the money trickle down to families to rebuild their homes.  How long was that forever?  A year and more.  People were displaced throughout the American diaspora.  They had to have a place to live, yet the money was stuck because of political fear that a nickel would go missing.  People couldn’t get home, so they had to rebuild their lives wherever they came up for dry land.  New Orleans is still missing more than 80,000 people.  Bush didn’t reckon with the fact that people can’t make it without income and shelter.  Both Trump and Biden understood that better, and it’s the difference between an America on the rebound, and a New Orleans and some parts of the Gulf Coast still caught in the Katrina cycle and recovery seventeen years later.

Many businesses have shuttered in the wake of the pandemic.  Our Fair Grinds Coffeehouse is one, but without the PPP program not only would our workers have lost their jobs, but we would have gone under even faster and been, as Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, “deeper in debt.”  The first and second PPP loans allowed us to not only make payroll, but keep the credit card, utility, insurance, and other companies at bay.  Believe me none of those outfits wanted to hear pandemic shutdown sob stories.  They just wanted their money and PDQ.  The previous owners were closed almost two years trying to get everything together after Katrina.  We closed the second location, but the main one, we cut hours, but never closed for the good of our workers, customers, and community.  Without the quick and generous injection of PPP monies, we wouldn’t have made it and might have still have been paying money back seventeen years from now, just like some Katrina survivors are still trying to get home at this late date.

I said then, and I’ll say now, that it’s better to have some people steal a couple of dollars, than to destroy families, communities, and, even businesses, because you are so worried about making a mistake, that you don’t do the right thing when it matters.  Bush taught us that lesson along with some misadvised governors and others, and thank goodness Trump and Biden learned from that and did better, even if there’s still some rough edges dragging.