Stop laundering COVID relief money through government agencies, just give it back to folks: Sen. Rick Scott

August 5, 2020

Fox Business
Op-ed: Sen. Rick Scott
August 5, 2020

Philosopher and essayist Henry David Thoreau once said, “that government is best which governs least.” It’s long been a rallying cry for American conservatives bent on restraining the size, scope and intrusiveness of the federal government.

Unfortunately, it’s a phrase – and a sentiment – that was forgotten long ago by many, if not most, in my Party.

Here’s a novel idea as we discuss the latest phase of Congress’s COVID-19 response: rather than launder taxpayer money through inefficient and wasteful federal agencies or state governments with no concern for fiscal responsibility, let’s just give taxpayers their money back.

Think about it this way: even if you assume the high-end estimates for total Americans unemployed (40 million) and you remove the Paycheck Protection Program funding that kept workers on payrolls, the total spent by Congress to respond to this pandemic and help workers amounts to $57,000 per unemployed American.

Now, do you believe that every unemployed American – or any unemployed American – has received anything close to $57,000? Of course not, because the money Congress spent has been laundered through myriad federal agencies, state and local governments, and new entitlement programs with bureaucracies to go along with them.

Every dollar spent by Congress seems to be spent in the least efficient way possible. Why would we keep doing this?

If $1 trillion is the number we’ve decided on that needs to be injected into our economy to save jobs and get the country back to work, then let’s make sure the vast majority of that gets back to the American people through reduced taxes, and ensure the remainder is efficiently spent on its intended purpose.

Over the last few months, Congress has spent trillions of dollars in response to the unprecedented economic crisis created by the Coronavirus. Some of that money has been spent well.

The Paycheck Protection Program, though lacking important guardrails and oversight to prevent companies unharmed by this pandemic from receiving forgivable, taxpayer-funded loans, has successfully saved millions of American jobs.

The money we’ve spent to help support state efforts to ramp up testing, PPE and contact tracing has helped us to combat the virus.

The boost to existing state unemployment programs, many of which – like Florida – were already well-funded, has helped tens of millions of Americans who lost their job (though Democrats’ refusal to cap the unemployment boost at 100% of income was a mistake that is hampering and will continue to hamper our economic recovery).

But unfortunately, there were huge amounts of waste, abuse and liberal pet projects in the CARES Act and previous COVID-related spending bills.

Remember the $25 million that went to the Kennedy Center for some unknown reason?

And remember, Republicans and Democrats are negotiating a new spending bill of at least $1 trillion more without a full reporting or even understanding on if or how the $3 trillion already allocated has been spent. In fact, we know that some programs are still sitting on millions or even billions of dollars in unspent cash.

Washington has gone off the rails.

If we want to inject capital into the economy right now and boost liquidity for businesses and consumers, let’s do it in the most efficient way possible: give taxpayers their money back.

A payroll tax cut would help boost hiring at a time when we need it most. A cut to the corporate tax rate for small businesses and manufacturers would go a long way towards helping these job creators weather this economic storm. A capital gains tax cut would inject capital into financial markets, increasing investment and liquidity.

There is a variety of tax cuts that could accomplish the goal of helping American families and small businesses get through the coronavirus crisis – and all of them would be more efficient and effective than laundering taxpayers’ money through inefficient bureaucracies with no concern for how they spend the money.

This is the American taxpayers’ money and for too long, Congress, federal bureaucracies and state and local governments have thumbed their noses at hard-working constituents while spending their money like a gang of drunken sailors.


It’s time to give it back.

Republican Rick Scott represents Florida in the United States Senate. He is a former governor of Florida.