- - Thursday, May 14, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just introduced the Zeros Act. Well, that is not really the name, but it seems like they took out their liberal wish list and added zeroes to it. The overall price tag? $3,000,000,000,000.

ALERT: The federal government is already spending beyond its means. When Mrs. Pelosi was first elected to Congress in 1987, the entire federal debt was less than what this one piece of legislation will cost.

Today, the federal debt is more than $25 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal debt will exceed 100 percent of the gross domestic product by the end of this fiscal year. Soon, every dollar borrowed by the federal government will be used to cover interest payments on the debt. They’re adding zeros to the check without regard to whether there is money in the account to pay for it.

Plus, taxpayers should not have to bail out states like Illinois for decades of irresponsible spending. Politicians there continue to ignore their financial crisis.

But Illinois is not alone. The State of New York had a $6 billion budget deficit long before the coronavirus crisis driven by a shortfall in Medicaid. Years ago, I warned about taking the expansion under Obamacare. Now, places like the Empire State are paying the price.

Poor fiscal choices are not limited to Democrats. A report this week “It’s not Alabama’s State House that needs replacing” suggested that some Republican leaders in the state Senate want to use $200 million of the coronavirus-related federal funds earmarked for their state to rebuild their capital. Yet another reason not to airdrop more corona-cash to state and local governments.

Instead, they should enact real reforms like we did in Wisconsin when faced with a fiscal crisis in 2011 after the last recession. Declining revenues because of a weak recovery and lost revenues from the last federal “stimulus” were the main reasons we faced a $3.6 billion budget gap. We filled it by enacting real reforms. Today, Wisconsin is in a better position to face the current COVID-19 impact because of our positive reforms.

Mrs. Pelosi’s plan repeals the cap on the state and local tax deduction. This is a big gift for her fat-cat donors in high tax states like California, New Jersey and New York. Taxpayers in other parts of the country should not have to pick up the tab for high tax jurisdictions. Even the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called the provision “poorly targeted.”

The Democrats’ package extends the Federal Enhanced Unemployment Benefit of $600 per week from July 31, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2021. We should all be scared if Democrats believe the economy will not be open until the start of next year.

The federal payment of $600 per week for each person on unemployment — on top of their own state benefit — is a significant deterrent to returning to work. For example, a person who normally makes $400 per week at a $10-per-hour job now makes twice as much with the federal benefit. Why would that person go back to work under the enhanced benefit? Extending this federal benefit to January will just delay the reopening of the economy.

Unfortunately, it seems that Democrats in Congress want to keep our economy closed and people unemployed through next year. Could that be related to the presidential election this fall?

A better approach is to encourage people to go back to work. Make them whole until the program runs out at the end of July or even give them an added bonus as I’ve suggested in the past. Just don’t pay them more not to work.

And never letting a serious crisis go to waste, Democrats loaded the proposal up with all sorts of other left-wing policies that have little or nothing to do with fighting the impact of coronavirus. Voting and immigration are two of the more obnoxious provisions you will find in this package.

Mrs. Pelosi’s bill expands voting by mail and neuters voter ID requirements. They literally say that states must allow voters to meet the photo identification requirement by self-certifying to their own identity. What’s next, self-certification for bank accounts? Imagine the number of people who would want to self-certify to make withdrawals from Bill Gates’ bank account.

And at a time when unemployment in the United States is fast approaching levels only seen during the Great Depression, Democrats in the House want to extend permission to remain in the United States to both temporary guest workers and some illegal immigrants. Presumably, these individuals would be competing with Americans for jobs and/or government benefits.

The only thing that really makes sense in the bill is the “mere” $75 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing to track the spread of the virus. Pass that and forget about anything else. Literally.

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him @ScottWalker.

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