DATA FOR PROGRESS OP-ED: WITH COVID RELIEF, BIGGER IS BETTER — AND IT’S BIPARTISAN

President Joe Biden’s robust American Rescue Plan is smart policy and smart politics. An overwhelming majority of Americans from both political parties support more relief now — even if Republicans fail to come on board.

Read the latest analysis on the politics and policy of public investment from Zac Petkanas, senior advisor to Invest in America Action, on the Data For Progress Blog

Our nation is in crisis. With 400,000 small businesses permanently shut down, one in four children facing food insecurity, and weekly unemployment claims continuing to outpace even the worst weeks of the Great Recession, we need our leaders in Washington to go big on public investment that will rescue our economy now and spur growth in the future.

President Biden’s robust American Rescue Plan is the first step forward on that path. 

It’s smart policy. The legislation tackles the public health and economic catastrophe by boosting vaccine distribution, increasing direct checks to $2,000, extending unemployment insurance, helping states keep essential workers on the job, funding to reopen schools safely, and keeping small businesses open.

This is desperately needed. Without more stimulus, The Congressional Budget Office says we won’t see a return to pre-pandemic employment levels until 2024. However, with the American Rescue Plan in place, prognosticators from the International Monetary Fund to S&P Global Ratings to Brookings say that the US will experience massive GDP growth and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says unemployment will drop sharply in 2022.

That’s why more than 120 economists, over 200 former officials in President Barack Obama’s administrationformer and current Federal Reserve Chairs, and a breadth of experts and former presidential advisors from both political parties have urged Congress to follow President Biden’s lead and invest heavily in economic relief. They agree that the biggest risk we face today is doing too little — not too much.

However, passing big, robust stimulus and relief isn’t just smart policy — it’s also smart politics. There’s been a lot of talk lately about bipartisanship and unity. A poll from Data for Progress and Invest in America earlier this month showed that the way to unify the country in a bipartisan way is to pass the provisions in the American Rescue Plan.

They are overwhelmingly popular. In fact, every major plank of the plan has the support of more than half the country — and nearly all receive more than 70% approval. What’s more, the poll found that a vast majority of Americans in both parties want relief now — even if Republicans fail to come on board. 

The poll also showed that the main arguments from Republican lawmakers against the proposal aren’t particularly persuasive. Senator Susan Collins argued that President Biden’s COVID relief plan is “premature,” despite Mainers’ clear message to her that they are “out of work and out of cash.” The majority of voters disagree with her “wait and see” argument, and say we need relief as soon as possible — including 70% of Independents and 50% of Republicans. Senator Mitt Romney opposed the President’s plan in the name of decreasing the national debt, but most voters agree that Congress should prioritize relief over deficit reduction, including 55% of Republicans.

The evidence is clear: if you want to control the pandemic and get our economy out of a ditch, you should listen to experts and support a big, robust Covid relief bill.

If you want to unify the country and act in a bipartisan way, you should listen to the Republicans, Independents, and Democrats who overwhelmingly support the American Rescue Plan.

It’s time for Congress to leave the petty partisanship in the past, suppress the urge to underinvest in our nation’s future, and do something popular: pass a stimulus bill that meets the urgency of the moment we are in, and make the public investments that will help our country build back better.

Zac Petkanas is senior advisor to Invest in America Action and President of Petkanas Strategies LLC, a Democratic strategic consulting firm.

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