The senselessness of waiting to help

 

By Kathleen Stoll
Nov 19, 2021

It was June 2020. Not realizing how quickly the tide rises in Maine, three teenagers found themselves trapped on a sandbar 1,800 yards off the coast. As dangerous crosscurrents grew stronger by the minute, a 21-year-old lifeguard swam across the channel and brought the youngsters safely back to shore.

“It’s what we’re hired to do,” he said.

Can you imagine a lifeguard saying, “That’s OK, kids, I’ll just wait till the tide goes back down before I come help you.” But that’s exactly what some people think Congress should do when it comes to Build Back Better legislation.

“Let’s just wait until inflation goes back down,” they say. But people need help now. Inflation is taking a chunk out of every West Virginian’s wallet. The Build Back Better bill would give hard-pressed families the resources and support required to cope with today’s tough times.

Stripped down to the basics, Build Back Better does two things: It helps people earn more money at work and it provides direct financial help to pay rising costs for struggling families.

The legislation is a financial life vest for families. It will cut child care costs in half and will increase the availability of home health workers to care for elderly and disabled family members. With loved ones cared for and safe, workers are better able to get out and earn the money they need to pay higher food and gas costs

Build Back Better would create tens of thousands of West Virginia jobs, cut health insurance costs, slash prescription drug prices, lower housing costs and give every family with children a tax break to help pay the costs that come with the blessings of raising them.

The primary reason for current inflation is COVID-19. It takes time for production and shipping to gear up after being shut down during the pandemic. People are ordering more goods and services as unemployment falls and people return to work, but the supply can’t keep up.

When high demand teams up with low supply, you don’t need an economics degree to know what happens: inflation.

President Joe Biden is working hard with ports, shippers, retailers and wholesalers to accelerate production and speed the flow of goods to market. But the supply chain took time to break, and it will take time to fix.

The questions our congressional representatives face are simple: Will West Virginians get help in the meantime, as America’s public- and private-sector leaders work together to bring the COVID inflation under control? Or will West Virginians be stranded, forced to pay ever-rising prices for life’s necessities without the rescue offered by Build Back Better?

Will Build Back Better make inflation worsen? No. First, Build Back Better does not increase net government spending. Its investments are offset by revenue increases (fair-share taxes on the very richest Americans and corporations).

Second, inflation rates in Atlanta and St. Louis, located in states that spend relatively little on their people, are nearly twice those in San Francisco and New York (7.9% and 7.5% vs. 3.8% and 4.3%, respectively).

Internationally, the highest inflation rates among major countries are all in countries run by Donald Trump’s populist allies — Russia (6.9% higher prices during the third quarter of 2021 than the third quarter of 2020), Brazil (9.6%) and Turkey (19.3%).

Sadly, the scourge of inflation is now worldwide. During the recently concluded third quarter of this year, prices in the United States were 5.3% higher than the year before — not much different from the 4.6% inflation rate experienced by the world’s 20 largest economies combined. All the world is suffering.

But here in America, our people have a shot at getting the help they need to cope, if only our elected representatives will heed economists like Lawrence Summers, Harvard University professor and past president, and treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001, who argues for the passage of Build Back Better.

Spurning the help offered by Build Back Better won’t do a darn thing to bring inflation under control. It will just sweep West Virginians deeper in debt in today’s challenging economy.

Our elected representatives need to show the courage exhibited by that young lifeguard in Maine: Please get us the help we need now, before it’s too late.

Kathleen Stoll is the policy director for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care (wvahc.org) and operates a policy and economic consulting business, Kat Consulting.


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