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Let Them Expense Cake!

The Republican party shows Americans just what it thinks about them.
July 28, 2020
Let Them Expense Cake!
Art by Hannah Yoest

If anything represents the bass-ackwards approach Republicans are taking to the coronavirus response, it might be the proposal, supported by President Trump, that Senator Tim Scott put into the latest round of coronavirus relief.

Scott wants to raise the deduction for business meals from 50 percent to a full 100 percent, which he says “will lead to more customers, more opportunities for hardworking waitstaff and kitchen staff, and much-needed revenue for small businesses across the country.”

Um, what? Almost 150,000 Americans are dead, millions of kids won’t be able to attend in-person classrooms this fall, people still can’t get fast accessible testing—and one of our top priorities is allowing a full deduction for business meals? Calling this “out-of-touch” would be generous because it would imply it was somewhere within the realm of actually being “in touch.” The only way this makes sense is if you want to skew “relief” towards steakhouses in Washington and New York. Trump Hotel may be a lobbyist hotspot, but your local pizza place most assuredly is not.

Besides, who in the world is traveling around the country, hosting client meals and events, in the middle of a highly-contagious and deadly pandemic? For goodness sake, Google is keeping its employees home until July 2021.

At the same time, billionaire hedge fund manager-turned Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has a plan! Cut the $600 per week federal unemployment benefit to $200 a week. “It wouldn’t be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home than they would get working and get a job,” Mnuchin told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Yes! Fairness! That’s what Republicans are after!

Well, if that’s the case, do the restaurant workers, retail workers, and other working-class folks the Trump administration thinks are busy milking the system for a paid vacation get the meal deduction? BWAHAHAHAHAHA. Don’t bother keeping those McDonald’s receipts. These benefits aren’t for the Dollar Menu crowd, you fool.

Or maybe, Republicans want to help those kids and working familiars who are going to be learning, working, and eating from home for the foreseeable future. Can they expense meals? No? How about all the new “office equipment” needed to set-up makeshift school rooms at home? Those desks, chairs, and camera-ready laptops aren’t cheap. No? They’re not expensable, either? Maybe mom and dad should set themselves up as a private company and then apply for the next round of PPP funding? Maybe they could carry forward some inflated business losses like all those real estate investors do. That’s how to do it, right?

What do regular Joes need to do here to get their cut, like President Trump’s son-in-law and White House aide Jared Kushner family (more billionaires!), Kayne West (another billionaire!), or the random Florida man who scammed $4 million in coronavirus relief funding and blew it on a Lamborghini Huracán, jewelry, and the Setai Hotel in Miami Beach. (Hey, at least we found someone who would expense their business meals and help those poor hospitality workers. Hope he tipped well.)

When it comes to the rich and reckless, there’s all kind of money sloshing around. Those $1,200 stimulus checks are pennies compared to the billions shoveled out the door to well-connected companies. And we were supposed to consider it a victory that the government even disclosed the names of the companies who got the money, remember?

The government has thrown at least $6 trillion at coronavirus spending, and the latest round is expected to throw at least another trillion on the pile.

And not that a dime of it will do much good as long as conservative “thought leaders” are still debating the merits of basic mitigation strategies such as masks and social distancing.

We’re six months into this largely preventable crisis—which most of the developed world has gotten under control—and our president now wants a cookie because he finally put a mask on. In the midst of this, tremendous political minds at the Republican National Committee decided it wouldn’t be safe to hold an in-person convention with thousands of people traveling the country to come together in an enclosed arena to breathe all over each other. And Kansas Republican senatorial candidate Kris Kobach is out on the hustings talking to anti-vaxxers and telling them “I am 100 percent against mandatory vaccines, be it for COVID, or the flu, or anything else.”

There’s not enough money in the world to paper over this kind of idiocy.

And so our country remains hostage to the coronavirus. We have ended up with the worst of all worlds: Massive spending, massive loss of life, massive disruption to our lives—and a still-uncontained viral explosion.

What’s the Republican party doing about it?

The White House inserted $1.75 billion in the new coronavirus spending bill to renovate the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington rather than have the bureau move and free up real estate for a potential hotel competitor across the street from the Trump International. (No one wants to own up to how this money got there, either.)

Our government gave more money to a prop up a single airline than to all child-care facilities in America.

People went to bars all summer long and drank their summer away while kids went without playdates and summer camp.

The National Football League plans to test all players daily so their games can go on, while regular plebes wait, wait, and wait some more for their test results. None of it makes any sense.

As my former boss, Senator Ted Cruz said, “What in the hell are we doing?

Let them expense cake, I guess.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.