Columnist begs: For the love of God can Mitch McConnell do the right thing once in his life?
Sen. Mitch McConnell, photo by Gage Skidmore

Columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. issued a stern warning for Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as he stalls pushing through economic relief to millions of Americans struggling with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Dionne Jr. canvassed a group of mainstream economic thinkers "I respect and, in some cases, have worked with. Their warnings against inaction should be taken seriously," he wrote in Sunday's The Washington Post.

“There is a consensus among economists that more fiscal stimulus is needed,” said Isabel V. Sawhill, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The reasons? Monetary policy has run out of gas with interest rates close to zero. State and local governments are on the front lines of the pandemic but their revenues are falling. They must balance their budgets and so will have to cut spending, which will exacerbate any downturn as well as make it much harder for them to fight the virus. They, along with the unemployed, essential workers and low-income families should be a priority.”

Dionne Jr. corresponded via email with Michael R. Strain, director of Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

"His estimate for what should be spent is lower than where I would put it — he said that '$1 trillion is both appropriate to the need and politically feasible' — but double what McConnell is offering," Dionne Jr. wrote. Strain said that the new spending goals should involve “reducing the spread of the virus, safely opening schools, alleviating human suffering and keeping faith with our special obligation to the poor and vulnerable, and preserving the productive capacity of the economy.”

And Jacob Leibenluft, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, highlighted the social and human damage of just letting things ride.

“Absent action,” Leibenluft said, “we will see not only a drag on the overall economy, but deep, unaddressed pain for millions of families who — even as higher-income families may be largely unaffected — will struggle to afford food, shelter and basic necessities ... Millions of unemployed workers [are] set to lose all of their unemployment insurance at the end of the year and the eviction moratorium [is] set to end on December 31.”