It’s robbing season, but Americans reeling from the economic crisis — a crisis spurred by the nation’s horrific handling of the Covid-19 pandemic — aren’t stealing items typically coveted during the holiday season.
In a recent Washington Post article, reporters Abha Bhattarai and Hannah Denham highlight that shoplifting has been up since the pandemic began earlier this year. According to the retailers, security experts, and police departments they spoke to, however, this isn’t like previous economic downturns. Instead, people are reaching for items to help satisfy the barest necessities.
“We’re seeing an increase in low-impact crimes,” said Jeff Zisner, chief executive of workplace security firm Aegis. “It’s not a whole lot of people going in, grabbing TVs, and running out the front door. It’s a very different kind of crime — it’s people stealing consumables and items associated with children and babies.”
In October, Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, says more than 54 million people in the United States could soon face food insecurity — an increase of 17 million since the coronavirus outbreak. The group has since said that one in six Americans, and a quarter of the nation’s children, could face hunger because of the pandemic. Alongside all this is a sharp rise in homelessness nationwide, exactly what many of us feared would happen without additional relief provided by the government.
I’ve seen some of the shoplifting firsthand, but considering how much the rich steal from the rest of us, I shrugged my shoulders and went back to searching for decent seasoning in the grocery aisle. But the pain can be seen wherever you look, be it the supermarket or the GoFundMe pages where people are asking for money to get food. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
As much fault as Donald Trump deserves for creating this nightmare, there’s someone else who has long had the power to make life a lot less painful for those suffering through no fault of their own — and hasn’t acted on it. And that person is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Thanks to our media’s compulsion to turn this into an issue that only “both sides” can fix, McConnell’s inaction has seemingly escaped people. In May, the House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill; McConnell couldn’t be bothered to schedule a Senate vote to approve it.
But somehow, it’s other folks’ fault that nothing has been done.
Last week, a congressional reporter for Fox News told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “A lot of Republican senators are arguing that you and McConnell just need to get in a room and iron this out.”
Her response was rightfully pointed: “Is that what they think? Good for them. Tell them to go meet with McConnell.”
This isn’t something that happened only on Trump’s former favorite cable-news network: Pelosi had to make a similar point to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in mid-October. Yet, goofy people in the media fixated more on Pelosi’s tone than the truth of her words (or the fact that Blitzer, Soul Train Awards presenter or not, didn’t know what he was talking about). In doing so, they overlooked the most pressing reality at the center of this political shitshow: people are suffering because the Senate has failed to act.
This is not a defense of Nancy Pelosi, who, like so many other Democrats in leadership positions, should learn to stop blaming “defund the police” for the party’s electoral losses when it’s their own fault for not prioritizing the economy and the suffering of the working class all damn year. Likewise, as much as I blame the media for Mitch McConnell not being the most hated man in America right now, it’s also the fault of the Democratic Party collectively for not tailoring its messaging to people’s actual concerns.
Finally, at least some of them are doing so on their own.
On Twitter, Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz wrote, “Mitch McConnell is blocking bipartisan aid. Any characterization of this situation as ‘Congress at an impasse’ is a lie. There is a bipartisan, bicameral agreement. The President even wants something. The problem is McConnell. He’s blocking the deal.”
I’ve seen some question this critique, noting that if Trump really wanted a deal, he could scare some Republican senators the way he’s scared them by demanding fealty during his clown-ass coup attempt. But we already know that sociopathic fuck couldn’t care less about people dying under his watch. He’s too busy somewhere in the White House residence bitching and moaning about losing the election for what feels like the millionth time.
This is on McConnell, and not enough people recognize that he’s the one holding up putting money in the pockets of those who need it most.
As much fault as Donald Trump deserves for creating this nightmare, there’s someone else who has long had the power to make life a lot less painful for those suffering through no fault of their own — and hasn’t acted on it.
In an op-ed for NBC News, California congresswoman Katie Porter writes, “For months, McConnell has insisted that Congress should take action to protect corporations that are alleged to engage in wrongdoing and endanger their employees, consumers and patients. Companies that don’t provide protective equipment or mandate physical distancing in the workplace, for example, would face no civil liability when their workers become sick.”
Yes, he wants corporations to kill you without consequence.
McConnell has indeed been claiming there is an “epidemic” of coronavirus-related lawsuits that must be addressed. Apparently that’s the reason McConnell couldn’t be bothered to deal with any relief package and, in more recent weeks, is pissing on any potential deal — even those worked on by members of his caucus. He wants to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
Maybe he’d agree to some type of relief package if Democrats would just agree that corporations shouldn’t be held legally responsible if their workers get Covid-19 on the job. Not the $3 trillion Democrats first proposed, though. Or even the $2 trillion plan they released months later in search of a compromise that was never going to happen.
What makes me angriest about McConnell’s strategy is that it’s working.
On Tuesday, Pelosi’s office announced that she will host the three other most senior congressional leaders — McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — to work on a compromise bill. Yet the current numbers being discussed fall far short of delivering aid Democrats claimed was vital throughout this ordeal; the bill would leave out state aid and direct payments to people. Not so shockingly, the figure matches the “skinny bill” McConnell pushed for months ago.
And from the looks of it, the bill will likely include that liability protection McConnell wanted, to boot.
Adam Jentleson, a former aide to Democratic ex-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, aptly sums up this vile situation: “On COVID aid, [Mitch] McConnell’s goals appeared to be to inject the least amount of aid possible into the economy but still pass a bill before the GA runoffs, while preventing any hard deadlines that could force another round of negotiations next year. He’s poised to achieve all three.”
More blunt is Bernie Sanders, who said on MSNBC, “When we go to war, there’s endless amounts of money. Tax breaks for billionaires, endless amounts of money. Corporate welfare, endless amounts of money. When children are going hungry in America today, suddenly we don’t have enough money — that’s crap. That’s wrong.”
Other industrialized nations have provided far more generous and consistent relief than the world’s richest nation, but the widespread suffering in the United States is likely to continue — if not worsen — unless control of the Senate changes.