By The Viewpoints Editorial Board
Welcome to the Great Depression 2.0.
Our country’s unemployment has not reached such dismal levels since the 1930s. While the U.S. Department of Labor reported a 0.9% decrease in unemployment in July, amounting to 16.3 million unemployed people, the department admits an overall increase of 10.6 million unemployed people since February.
This is no secret and it does not take a bureaucracy to tell us what is going on for us to notice how many people are out of work. Business has slowed across the economy, millions of workers have been furloughed, and millions have been flat out laid off.
It has been months since people received their measly Donald Trump-signed $1,200 stimulus checks and, as always, the working class has been left with the uncertainty of how they will survive.
Congress must provide a second stimulus to the American people as soon as possible.
To the average person, a $1,200 check every now and then is a sorry excuse for relief. People are struggling to feed their families day in and day out as they watch loved ones fall ill and die from COVID-19. Some students have had to put their education on hold while they look for ways to contribute to their families’ income.
But lawmakers, unburdened by need, have failed to do anything in months and even had the audacity to take a vacation until September. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi only decided to call representatives back to work Aug. 17 due to the threat that Trump might sabotage voting through the U.S. Postal Service.
As important as it is to ensure the upcoming election is untampered with, the whole fiasco displays the tendency of Democrats and Republicans to put the potential votes that will keep them in power above the immediate needs of their constituents.
Those constituents are bearing the brunt of an economic depression and a pandemic that had claimed 168,696 lives in the U.S. as of Aug. 16. This number will only keep climbing along with tension and frustration.
Trump signed a series of executive orders Aug. 8 that defer student loan payments and payroll taxes through 2020 for people earning less than $100,000 per year. The orders also discourage evictions and extend unemployment benefits, but at $400 per week rather than the previous amount of $600, which recently expired.
But not everyone is on unemployment benefits. It is also unsettled if Trump’s benefit plans will go through, as the executive orders bypass Congress’s power of the purse. Just like the president must take responsibility for his bumbling pandemic response getting us into such a prolonged economic crisis, Congress must take responsibility for the lack of aid provided to the people.
The CDC reported 11% of American adults seriously considered suicide in June, up 50% from 2019. It also reported 40% of Americans are experiencing some type of pandemic-related substance abuse or mental health issue. It cannot be denied that financial struggle plays a part in these troubling statistics.
Lawmakers must step away from their summer vacations at their lavish summer homes and act now.