Trump should try to buy the election

Another round of coronavirus stimulus spending would help Americans, and could buy Trump a second term

President Trump.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

I have argued before in this space that President Trump should buy his second term. The closer we get to the presidential election, the harder it is for me to believe that he and congressional Republicans have not passed another major stimulus bill, or even promised one in the new year if Trump wins again.

The easiest way to do this at present would be to take up the package already being prepared by centrist Democrats in the House, which leaves out the $67 billion for dog yoga or crystal healing or whatever it was the GOP objected to back in May. The $2.4 trillion spending bill will include assistance for airlines, restaurants, and other businesses as well as a second round of direct payments to Americans, probably once more in the amount of $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples, with an additional $600 per child (with no cap on the latter, thank you).

It's not like this money would be lit on fire. No state has an unemployment rate as low as the national average was in February, when it hovered around 3.5 percent; in half of them it remains 7 percent or higher, including in crucial swing states like Florida (7.4), Michigan (8.7), and Pennsylvania (10.3). We are lucky that so far the ongoing recession has not been worse. (Insanely enough, some economists estimate that total personal income is actually higher than it was before the imposition of lockdowns even though wages have declined, thanks largely to increased government spending.)

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Trump's motivations here do not even need to be humane. He can think of it as an investment opportunity. After all, his entire career has involved throwing money around and hoping that it works. Sometimes Trump Tower gets built, sometimes your partners lose 90 cents on the dollar. Giving people four-figure checks with your name on them a few weeks before an election? For a guy who is supposed to be an evil authoritarian who will stop at nothing to maintain his hold on power, it seems odd that this painfully obvious solution hasn't been attempted yet.

What's the holdup here? I do not think it is Trump himself. If the moratoriums on evictions and student loan interest are any indication, he is perfectly willing to take sweeping, indeed arguably unconstitutional action if he thinks it will redound to his credit. (If only he had announced a debt jubilee and a jobs program as well.) Landlords are probably not thrilled with the president at the moment, but nobody as far as I am aware has any serious objections to a second round of Trump Bucks. He should take the money and run.

Rather than the president or members of his Cabinet, I think the blame for the last few months of inaction belongs to Republicans in Congress. If I didn't know better, I would swear that these people wanted to see Joe Biden in the White House. How else can you explain the bizarre red lines being drawn by prominent GOP senators around figures like $1.5 (as opposed to 2) trillion? While the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is probably not the best time to pick a fight with his own party over a spending bill, Trump should risk it. With the polls in purple states suggesting an election at least as close as the last one, he has nothing to lose.

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Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has also appeared in First Things, The Spectator of London, The Catholic Herald, National Review, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the Rev. Montague Summers. He is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.