The year might be coming to an end, but the astonishing list of things Donald Trump is right about — Mike Leach, the video for "November Rain," trade policy — continues to grow. The president was right weeks ago when he began calling for the American people to receive a second round of direct stimulus payments over the objections of his advisers, the brain trust that lost an election to a senile career politician who spent half the campaign hiding in his basement and the other half greeting voters with "Hey, Fat!" and other terms of endearment after challenging them to push-up contests. Now he is right in saying that his party has a death wish.
It is difficult to disagree with him here. I know this will come as a surprise to Rep. Blueblazer McEntrepreneurship, but a majority of Americans think that $600 — less than a third of an average month's rent in many places, but still an improvement upon their initial offer of nothing — is a pretty paltry sum in comparison with what we could afford to spend. If the word of the president and a handful of maverick GOP senators isn't enough, they should take it from David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the only two Republicans up for re-election next month in the Georgia run-off elections. Both of these erstwhile limited-government shills have come out in favor of Trump's demand for $2,000 checks. I somehow doubt it's because they are taking a bold stand unpopular with the Republican base in their home state.
Trump is also right to suggest that, even if Republicans are uninterested in such mundane considerations as whether another much-needed round of stimulus payments is the right thing to do, they should proceed out of naked self-interest. Free money is good politics. (I know this because I recently put the question to a focus group, i.e., the four people sitting at an illegal bar in Michigan; one of them even promised to give a fourth of his check to the bartender on the grounds that he owed her months of tips for beer that he had been forced to drink at home.) Millions of Americans need to pay rent and heating bills. Those who are fortunate enough not to find themselves in precarious situations can donate the money to their parish churches or buy jet skis or old boxes of Dale Earnhardt Wheaties.
Never mind helping people, though. Set aside electoral considerations. Perhaps most important, ignore the argument about fiscal responsibility. (This is a party that lit trillions of dollars on fire three years ago so that Ford could pay lower taxes while continuing to make cars in Mexico.) The only possible remaining explanation is the one Trump gave: Republicans want to die, at least figuratively.
I wish I were capable of convincing myself that Mitch McConnell's vague last-minute proposal to attach $2,000 payments to Trump's other lame-duck demands — a repeal of the Section 230 protections for the tech monopolies — was him playing hardball. But come on. Democrats are the party of Silicon Valley. They would not vote for a bill eliminating liability protection enjoyed by Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms if McConnell personally promised to rope in Medicare-for-all, the Green New Deal, and free remaindered copies of How the People Trumped Ronald Plump for every Zoom kindergartener in America. (You have to admire their tenacity here: the GOP was at least willing to create two new Smithsonians and goodness knows what else in the most recent stimulus bill if it meant getting to home a day early.) McConnell isn't trying to revive the increased payments. He is sending them to the one place he knows they are definitely going to die.
Which brings us back to the death wish argument. This isn't about saving money or principles. It's about heaping up their own funeral pyres. I say this not because I think $2,000 checks are the single most important policy question facing the American people, but because of what they represent: a totally undeserved gift from Trump to the GOP, the opportunity to break, however slightly, with economic policies rejected by their own base.
"Though this may be play to you," Aesop's frog told the boys throwing stones at the pond, "'tis death to us." At the end of 2020, the frogs are hitting themselves with the rocks.