Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Here’s What Democrats Prioritized Over “Emergency” COVID Spending

Only one week after announcing a student “loan forgiveness” program that independent experts suggest could cost more than $1 trillion, the Biden administration proposed yet more federal spending. Just before Labor Day, the administration requested $47 billion in supplemental funds to add to legislation funding the federal government past September 30, with no offsets for these new funds.

Of the $47 billion requested, $26.9 billion more would go towards covid and the monkeypox outbreak, with the remainder funding military assistance to Ukraine and disaster relief at home.

The covid funding in particular should draw scrutiny from conservatives, given that taxpayers have already shelled out trillions in the name of covid. The administration has publicly asked for even more covid funds since the spring, and Democrats could have included such funding in the reconciliation bill Congress passed in August—a bill that Republicans could not procedurally block. Democrats chose not to do so.

Having already engaged in myriad spending sprees for the past 18 months, Democrats apparently consider Republicans so gullible, or eager to support expansions of government, that they will gladly agree to throw more gasoline on to Washington’s raging inflation fire. Conservatives should not take this bait, and should instead highlight all the pork projects and unnecessary programs that the left spent the past year funding.

Wasteful Spending Priorities

Given that President Biden won election pledging to “shut down the virus,” it’s worth listing some of the items in the misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act” that Democrats chose to prioritize ahead of even more spending on covid after an unprecedented amount has already been appropriated and much of which is still unspent.

For instance, Section 12001 of the bill extends the enhanced Obamacare subsidies that Democrats passed last year through 2025. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that approximately 15 percent of the benefit of those enhanced subsidies would accrue to households making over five times the federal poverty level. With the three-year subsidy package totaling approximately $64 billion, that means roughly $9.6 billion will fund subsidies for households earning at least $138,750 for a family of four.

The law also provides myriad pots of money for vaguely-defined environmental and social justice programs. Section 60201 spends $3 billion for a new environmental and climate justice block grant, while Section 80002 appropriates $23.5 million for Native Hawaiian climate resilience programs. Section 40002 gives $150 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “for the construction of new facilities”—again, while providing not a dollar for covid tests or vaccines.

Section 50141 of the bill appropriates $3.6 billion to the Department of Energy, to guarantee as much as $40 billion in new loan funding for climate-related projects. Section 50144 gives the Department an additional $5 billion, to guarantee up to $250 billion in infrastructure reinvestment financing. In Section 50145, an additional $75 million appropriation would increase guarantees for tribal projects to $20 billion. All three programs would put more Solyndra-like projects on the federal government’s books, with taxpayers potentially incurring losses if the government picks the wrong programs to back, as it often does.

Section 10301 euphemistically “enhances” the IRS, providing $80 billion in new funds, with the majority, or $45.6 billion, going towards enforcement. Democrats claim that the nearly 87,000 employees the IRS wants to hire with this money will not target lower-income households. But the fact that the IRS declined to audit Joe Biden’s returns for 2017 and 2018, even after multiple tax experts publicly questioned the legality of his conduct, reveals the IRS’s true priorities for tax enforcement—and they have little to do with pursuing “the rich.”

Defund the Green New Deal

Add it all up, and Republicans have a compelling series of pots with which to fund the administration’s proposed new spending: Eliminating Obamacare subsidies for wealthy households; closing down vague slush funds; stopping new Solyndra fiascos before they start; and preventing the middle class from IRS harassment.

If Democrats reject these possibilities, then Republicans should agree to provide exactly as much money for the “covid crisis” as Democrats did in their party-line reconciliation bill last month: Zero.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.