You Really Want To Talk About Bailouts, Mitch? Really?

[ Posted Wednesday, May 13th, 2020 – 17:18 UTC ]

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just led off with a rather large opening bid to start the negotiations for the next round of disaster aid in Congress. Her bill, which the House will vote for on Friday, contains $3 billion in federal spending, much of it to help state and local governments devastated by the economic crash get through the crisis. This is an opening bid, mind you, because the Senate will obviously have a say in the negotiations to follow.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently isn't even convinced that another round of aid is even necessary. Even though the head of the Federal Reserve is now indicating that if we don't spend more federal money on aid right now, the American economy will suffer for years to come.

Even worse, though, is the fact that McConnell is trying to turn the entire discussion into a purely political one. He did so by sneeringly referring to any aid to state and local governments as "blue-state bailouts," insinuating that somehow the political persuasion of the leadership of the hardest-hit states is somehow remotely relevant right now.

This needs some very strong pushback by Democrats. It inspired me to write my own rant, which I hereby offer up to any Democratic senator who would like to read it out (or something very similar) on the Senate floor. Because Mitch needs a good hard slap in the face right now if he thinks he's going to turn this whole thing into some big partisan fight for no reason.


A rant for Mitch

It absolutely astonishes me that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to somehow denigrate providing needed aid to the states that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic as some sort of -- in his own words -- "blue-state bailouts." I would advise him to be very careful in his choice of words in the future, for multiple reasons.

The first is that the COVID-19 virus has no political persuasion. It does not vote, it does not support red candidates or blue, it just keeps on infecting people and killing far too many of them. It is a mindless virus, not some sort of political actor. Sure, right now, the hardest-hit are states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California, but then again we're nowhere near the end of this pandemic. Nobody knows what the final tallies are going to be. And you know which other states are moving up that list right now? States like Florida, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio. So that's one reason to tread lightly when pointing the political finger. Because the list of states that are going to require federal funds to get through this is not going to be exclusively blue, that much is pretty much already guaranteed.

Politicizing aid in a time of national emergency is, quite simply, not the way to go. It is not what the United States of America is all about, for starters. That's not the way we should operate.

There's a very big reason Mitch McConnell would do well to remember this and stop using inflammatory terms like "blue-state bailout," and that reason is the hard, cold fact that these blue states have been bailing out red states each and every year, when you add up how much in federal taxes they pay versus how much they get back from the federal government. Of course, the numbers vary each year, but you know which states are at the top of the list when it comes to being federal tax "donors" -- states that pay more in taxes than they ever see back from Washington? States like California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. The list of donor states from 2019 on a per-capita basis, according to Business Insider, is led by the following eight states: New Jersey -- the biggest donor state of them all -- followed by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and California. These are the states that donate all those federal tax dollars that the red states rake in, each and every year. And you know what state is routinely near the top of the list of states that haul in more federal money each and every year than they send? Kentucky. That's right -- the very same state that Mitch McConnell hails from reaps one of the biggest annual bailouts of federal money. So each and every year, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California are paying billions of dollars to Kentucky just so it can stay afloat. Each and every year, these generous blue states hand Kentucky -- and plenty of other red states -- a gigantic "red-state bailout," to use McConnell's language.

So if, in times of great need, states like Kentucky and the rest of them decide that they just can't be bothered to extend emergency aid to states like New York and New Jersey, then why on Earth should these states continue to bail out Mitch McConnell's home state on an annual basis? If we're going to address inequalities in federal tax money on purely partisan lines, then we can certainly talk about rectifying this unequal situation. But I seriously doubt Mitch wants to have that conversation, since his state is getting so many billions of dollars from the donor states every year.

To be honest, neither do we. For the most part, we don't mind that the wealth generated by the robust economies in California and New York has to help out other states each year, because that is part of the national social contract. And Democrats, for the most part, don't have a problem with that. But if Mitch McConnell wants to try weaponizing federal dollars -- right in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime emergency -- then we will be forced to re-examine the way we feel about the annual flow of dollars from blue states to red. We don't want to do this, but if blue states are going to be left on their own in emergencies, then perhaps the blue states need to rethink all the charity we've been sending elsewhere.

You know what will happen if state and local governments don't get an influx of money soon? They're not like the federal government, they can't run huge deficits. So they're going to have to start cutting expenses. And what's the biggest expense local governments have? Salaries. For police officers. And firefighters. And nurses and doctors at the municipal hospitals. Do we really want to be throwing such frontline responders out of work right now? That would be insane. But that is precisely the situation Mitch McConnell would like to see, apparently. Hey, at least the blue states will use any federal emergency funds to pay such people and keep them on the payrolls when they are most needed, and not even contemplate using $200 million of it to build a new statehouse -- as Alabama is now apparently considering doing. Give the money to blue states, because at least we promise we'll spend it on the actual emergency rather than on a wish-list item from the Republican state legislature to construct a fancy new building.

And I have one final reason why Mitch McConnell really ought to change his tune, right quick. The coronavirus is a national emergency, with cases in all 50 states. Obviously, though, some states were hit harder and need more aid right now. And yes, many of them are indeed blue states. But that won't always be the case for every emergency. And we will remember what happens now.

Disasters can strike anywhere, especially medical ones. But natural disasters are much more common, and some of them are more of a worry for red states than blue. So you can be sure Democrats will remember being left out in the cold right when we needed aid the most the next time a gigantic hurricane hits a red state.

How often do big hurricanes strike? A lot more often than pandemics like this one. And where have the most recent big storms hit? New Orleans. Houston. Florida. And, if you believe Donald Trump, Alabama. Those are all pretty red states, aren't they?

Normally, during such emergencies, Democrats bend over backwards to provide federal aid for areas hit by hurricanes, because we know that that is the right thing to do when fellow Americans are hurting. But if Mitch McConnell has his way and politicizes the idea of sending aid to the hardest-hit states in the current pandemic -- solely because they are states run by Democrats -- then we will surely remember. If this is truly the way the political game is going to be played during emergencies, then Mitch and every other Republican who now blocks state and local government aid better be prepared to go it alone when tragedy and disaster strikes their neck of the woods. Because we will remember.

This is precisely why Majority Leader McConnell needs to reconsider his rash words as soon as possible. Because if disaster aid during a once-in-a-century medical emergency is going to become a partisan football for Republicans to kick around, then we'll all know what rules we'll be playing by in the future. And we'll all know who wrote these rules.

We really don't want it to come down to such vicious partisanship, though. We as Americans don't really think the federal government should be run on such brutal principles. Instead, we would like to return to disaster aid being a nonpartisan issue. When one region needs help, then the others band together to provide that help, because that is who we are as Americans, plain and simple. Or, at least, that's who we used to be and should still be, at any rate.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


17 Comments on “You Really Want To Talk About Bailouts, Mitch? Really?”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    You should send this a column, or one revamped to be especially in tune with the senate leader's state, to all the major newspapers in Kentucky and perhaps to other states that are net federal tax receivers.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, I came across this little gem and felt the need to share …

    Yeah, well, whatever … I guess the need to unify the party must come before the task of unifying the country.

    But, all in all, off to a good start!

  3. [3] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Excellent rant.

    A little empty, perhaps? The Democrats, bless their noble liberal souls, really do not, as you say, begrudge the regular federal wealth transfer from blue to red in the course of the national social contract. So it's kind of hard to believe the threat you issue here, that the Dems will suddenly change their stripes and get vicious with Florida over aid for the next hurricane, or with Kentucky over the next funding bill for federal welfare and poverty programs. I imagine McConnell's pretty used to empty threats from liberal commentators about how this outrage, no this one, is the final straw and now we're going to get tough on you.

    And in the opening paragraph, probably 3 trillion, not billion. I bet it's hard to write 3 trillion; it's not a number that comes up a lot in the usual discussions of federal bills for this and that.

  4. [4] 
    dsws wrote:

    [27] of previous thread:
    I have seen Biden put his hands on peoples' shoulders and head and back - but only ever to show empathy or to give encouragement.

    The people you cite are up to something else. And, if you can't see that, ...

    It doesn't matter what I personally can or can't see, nor does it matter what you can. It does matter how it looks to millions of similarly situated people. What I can see is Biden losing what should have been part of his base. But I can't see him being able to afford that loss.

    [32] of previous thread:
    WTF? Why would he want to be, much less NEED to be, tolerable to ”people who consider it axiomatic that a man has an absolute entitlement to put his hands ...

    Because this is the U. S. of A., where 62,979,636 people voted for putting babies in cages. The voters here really are that extreme. They voted for it as part of a package deal, not à la carte. But there was nothing in the package that was much better.

  5. [5] 
    dsws wrote:

    And now for something completely different.

    I'm frequently annoyed that the universally accepted solution, when the Constitution says something someone doesn't like, is to ignore what it says and just pretend that it says something else. And that if you can win a majority of seats on the Supreme Court, this is accepted as completely legitimate. Some things really are blurry. What does it mean, exactly, to deprive a person of liberty without due process of law? But some things are entirely clear and unambiguous. The current example is that states choose presidential electors however the legislatures say to, and then those electors vote. Not the states. Not the ordinary voters of the states. Yes, we should get rid of the electoral college, and either go to a meaningful parliamentary system where the electors make a real choice, or else go to a system where the president is actually elected by the voters on election day. But we shouldn't do it by closing our eyes and saying "I do believe in fairies" over and over.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It doesn't matter what I personally can or can't see, nor does it matter what you can.

    I know. But, I still think it matters what YOU think, Dan.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    there's a lot of constitution to interpret, so it's not always clear-cut where to draw the line between pretending it says something it doesn't and realizing it already says something we hadn't considered.


  9. [9] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Seems to me that people in blue states should realize that this is evidence of the charade that the two party system is and reject both parties as the model clearly doesn't work since it does not make the red states capable of being productive on their own instead of being a constant drain on the blue states.

    You missed the whole point of CW’s article! The system is working the way it is supposed to work — sending federal tax money (which is neither blue nor red) to the places that need it the most. We know that many states won’t be able to produce enough in federal tax money to cover what they need in federal assistance. That’s the reason that we pool all of our tax money before we distribute it to where it is needed.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Sounds like a good system to me. It's like what we call in Canada 'transfer payments to the provinces'.

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:

    The 4th Circuit reinstated the DC and MD emoluments cases against Donald Trump today.

    Heh. :)

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Hopefully, that won't be the only judicial reinstatement in the works - if you know what I mean and I'm sure that you do!

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    New column up! (with a fine link)

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just led off with a rather large opening bid to start the negotiations for the next round of disaster aid in Congress.

    "Rather large"? You spelled "breathtakingly ginormous" incorrectly, and there is no way in Hell that Pelosi's bill is ever going to pass the Senate.

    Her bill, which the House will vote for on Friday, contains $3 billion in federal spending, much of it to help state and local governments devastated by the economic crash get through the crisis.

    Three "billion"? You spelled "trillion" wrong.

    Have you been drinking alcoholic beverages? ;)

  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: How often do big hurricanes strike?

    Category 5 hurricanes strike the United States an average of once every 3 years.

    A lot more often than pandemics like this one.

    A way lot more often than global pandemics.

    And where have the most recent big storms hit? New Orleans. Houston. Florida. And, if you believe Donald Trump, Alabama. Those are all pretty red states, aren't they?

    No. New Orleans and Houston are cities. Also, Louisiana has had a Democratic governor since 2016 and isn't very "pretty" either. :)

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Have you been drinking alcoholic beverages? ;)

    not nearly enough, clearly.

  17. [17] 
    Kick wrote:


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