Of Course Mitch McConnell Is Fine With Blue States Going Bankrupt
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The cynical Senate Majority leader, quick to bail out corporations, is balking at helping COVID-ravaged states—a position that could also extend to Trump country. “This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time,” says Andrew Cuomo.

When it came to corporate coronavirus bailouts, Mitch McConnell had no compunction about providing millions to big companies with little in the way of oversight. “We have an obligation to the American people to deal with this emergency,” the Senate Majority Leader said last month, summoning as much indignation as he could muster after Democrats blocked his initial “slush fund” of a rescue package. But when it comes to providing relief to the economically-stressed state and local governments on the front lines of the crisis, the Kentucky Republican feels no similar obligation.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, McConnell blithely suggested revenue-starved state and local governments, facing dire budget shortfalls and unable to count on Donald Trump’s administration for assistance, will not be getting any help from Capitol Hill Republicans. Accusing local governments of looking to use the COVID crisis to get the federal government to “[solve] their pension problems,” McConnell said states and municipalities should not receive federal assistance and should instead be forced to “use the bankruptcy route.” “My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that,” the Senate Majority Leader said. “That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.” The implication that states squeezed by the crisis, almost all of which have balanced budget requirements that the federal government does not, are in the position they’re in because of their own mismanagement would seem as bad politically as it is cruel. After all, such a dismissal would apply not only to the governors in Democratic strongholds with whom Donald Trump has feuded—like Andrew Cuomo in New York and J.B. Pritzker in Illinois—but also conservative states and swing states like Michigan, which are poised to play a significant role in this fall’s election. But lest any local Republican leaders feel slighted by McConnell’s remarks, his office later Wednesday made clear exactly which states he was talking about, describing requests to provide federal assistance to state and local governments as “Blue State Bailouts.”

“It really is offensive,” Cuomo said of McConnell’s comments. “You talk about one issue where you think you can get past partisanship and pettiness, and now you talk about helping communities where people are dying, and you say they are blue states?” Cuomo continued in Thursday’s press conference to rip McConnell’s “vicious,” “ugly,” and “reckless” comments. "This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time,” he said.

https://twitter.com/CBSNews/status/1253362575992958982

It wasn’t just Democrats outraged by McConnell’s assessment. New York Representative Peter King, a Republican, also blasted the Senate Majority Leader. “McConnell’s dismissive remark that States devastated by Coronavirus should go bankrupt rather than get the federal assistance they need and deserve is shameful and indefensible,” King tweeted Wednesday. “To say that it is ‘free money’ to provide funds for cops, firefighters and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate.”

Precisely what McConnell and the Republicans have to gain by stiffing state and local governments isn’t clear. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman pointed out Wednesday, it’s not just blue states that need assistance; the red states that Trump and McConnell actually care about are also facing dire economic circumstances thanks to the pandemic. And, as Dylan Matthews explained over at Vox, state and local governments don’t have the tools the federal government has to deal with their budget issues alone; where the federal government can borrow at will, most states and the District of Columbia have balanced budget requirements. What’s more, they can’t print money like the federal government can, making deficits riskier. Declining to help states face their COVID-induced budget shortfalls doesn’t only stick it to Democrats—just in the last decade, it proved to exacerbate the Great Recession. Given Trump’s preoccupation with resuscitating the nation’s dormant economy, seeing its recovery at all costs as vital to his reelection this November, it would seem to make little practical sense politically for the GOP to take action that could further jeopardize rebound efforts.

That McConnell would nevertheless take a hard line against states—not just “blue” states, as he characterized those in need, but all states—reflects the Kentucky Republican’s unique brand of political nihilism, an empty embrace of power for power’s sake that has suited him so well to lead the party of Trump. King’s condemnation notwithstanding, the right has largely embraced the incorrect notion that coronavirus is mostly a problem for Democrats in crowded cities—and therefore something they need not concern themselves with. “We Cannot Destroy The Country For The Sake Of New York City,” beamed an instantly-infamous Federalist headline earlier this month. Far from exclusive to the party’s fringes, the sentiment— screw the liberals, let us get haircuts!—trickles down from the top. Trump, deflecting blame from his own abysmal response, has shown preferential treatment to states governed by Republicans while picking fights with Democratic governors, against whom he has invited uprising. “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment,” he wrote in a recent tweet encouraging supporters to protest shelter-in-place orders in several states. “It is under siege!” McConnell’s insistence that states—blue states only, of course—have gotten themselves into this mess and must get themselves out is simply an extension of that line of thinking. “What he’s saying is the blue states are the states that have the coronavirus problem,” Cuomo said on CNN Wednesday. “They are Democrats—so why should he bail out the blue areas?”

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From: VANITYFAIR