Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
March 31, 2020
America needs a plan for reopening our economy as soon as possible in areas where it’s safe to do so. These decisions should absolutely be guided by our public health officials who are closely tracking the situation on the ground in our communities. But it is essential that in the face of this crisis and trauma, we also protect and preserve our economic future and our way of life.
Last week, I voted to approve a stimulus package that provides help to small businesses and unemployed workers. Not one senator voted against it, but I had significant reservations.
In the end, it was clear to me that the legislation was crucial in order to help the workers who lost their jobs, had their hours cut or are getting lower tips and small businesses that have been forced to close or have lost significant revenue.
I want to make sure the people that need help the most can get help, and get it now. But even in a crisis, we need to be responsible with taxpayer money.
The bill included more funding for our health care workers, personal protective equipment and expanded testing, and more support for small businesses. I was also glad to see negotiators include many of the recommendations I’ve been making over the last few weeks, including expanded unemployment insurance, a moratorium on evictions and restrictions on big corporations that receive taxpayer money, specifically a requirement that taxpayers get a return on their investment and prohibitions on buying back their stock and limits on executive compensation.
But there are provisions in the bill that I wholeheartedly disagree with. I don’t believe we should allow unemployment insurance payments that exceed a worker’s previous salary. Once this crisis is over, we want as many people as possible returning to the workforce as fast as possible. We shouldn’t create a disincentive by paying people more to be on government assistance than they could make in a job. This will hinder our economic recovery.
I talked with a restaurant owner in Vermont whose restaurant is closed but wanted to donate his best meals to health care workers. Unfortunately, none of his employees wanted to work since they made more on unemployment benefits under the stimulus bill.
I’m also concerned that sending taxpayer money to Americans who still have jobs and are receiving a paycheck is a policy that has not been well thought out. This money won’t stimulate the economy. In a time of crisis, people don’t spend money; they save it, and who can blame them? And many of the places they might be tempted to help stimulate are businesses that the government has shut down anyway.
We have to remember that $2 trillion in new spending means a $2 trillion tax increase somewhere down the road — even in a crisis, we need to be smart about how we spend taxpayer dollars. Funding for pet projects that the Democrats inserted that are wholly unrelated to responding to coronavirus, like the Kennedy Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and bailouts for mass transit are not a smart use of taxpayer dollars.
The price tag on this bill is staggering. This bill amounts to almost $6,000 in new debt for every man, woman and child in America. We should not fool ourselves into thinking this is something we can afford. When this crisis is over, Congress must propose a plan that cuts federal spending over 10 years by at least the total amount this bill spends.
Now that Congress has acted to help the workers and small businesses that are suffering, we need to turn our focus to getting our country back to work. I laid out a 30-day plan to stem the spread of coronavirus and start to get American families back to their normal lives.
If Americans stay home as much as possible — anyone with a fever should not be allowed to fly or go to school — and quarantine if they have tested positive for coronavirus or have come into contact with someone who has tested positive, the number of new cases will drop. That is the key to getting back to normal.
We need to maintain good social distancing practices and continue to ramp up our testing capacity. We need to make sure our doctors, nurses, first responders and all the health care professionals on the front lines — the true American heroes — have all the resources they need and don’t get overwhelmed because of the stupidity of individuals who think their fun is more important than the country’s health.
If we, as a country, take these steps, we can put this crisis behind us and begin planning to open our shuttered businesses. We need to start thinking about how and when the American people will feel comfortable enough to fly again, to eat at our favorite restaurants, exercise at our gyms, enjoy buttered popcorn at our local movie theater and visit Disney World.
Leaders in government and business must begin telling Americans their plan to reopen and keep us safe from coronavirus and any future virus that may come our way.
We can and we will get through this. Let’s all start working on a path to get American families back to their normal lives.
Rick Scott has represented Florida in the U.S. Senate since 2019.