This suggests that merchandise sales are weak mainly because consumers are not going to restaurants and related venues (bars, sports events, theaters, concerts, and so forth) due to the pandemic — not because of a shortfall in purchasing power. If this is true, the most important consumer stimulus is to end the pandemic.
Of course there are millions of households in real need, and they should be targeted for urgent assistance as I’ve argued earlier. But there is no reason to spend more than is needed, especially because we face urgent needs in many other areas where we will want to spend funds (e.g. for health care, education, infrastructure and building the green economy in the recovery phase of the Biden plan).
Controlling the epidemic is everybody’s business. If the Republicans call for changes in Biden’s rescue plan and want a trimmed package that still meets the urgent needs of Americans, the Democrats should accept the opportunity to work together. If overall consumer demand were to flag down the road, both parties should then agree to boost through more stimulus.
A party-line victory is possible through budget reconciliation — and would prove to be the right option if the Republicans are purely obstructionist — but it will be vastly better to collaborate and compromise, if possible.
Why? Put simply, our country will work much better if we are not at each other’s throats politically, but are at the negotiating table working out a path forward together.