Rich Harvard gets a rescue – while the rest of us are fighting

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One thing that our new normality has made clear: the gulf between those who have and those who don’t have grows more painful and harder to overcome each day.

Our latest example comes courtesy of Harvard University, the richest in the country, with a fund of $ 40 billion.

Guess which university will get help for coronavirus?

Yes. Harvard has received and receives $ 8.7 million in federal aid – and only half of that must be set aside for emergency student financial aid. Consider that in fiscal 2019, Harvard spent $ 1.9 billion in its fund to cover the shortfalls for needy students, and ended the year with a surplus of nearly $ 300 million.

Meanwhile, 22 million Americans suddenly lose their jobs, many waiting for a $ 1,200 federal emergency check – which, as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested, could keep most Americans for 10 weeks. New Yorkers in particular have even struggled to apply for unemployment, so the state’s Labor Department system is overwhelmed.

In the midst of the devastation that hit the lower and middle classes, large companies took advantage of the money allocated to the Small Business Program, which reached the (current) ceiling of $ 350 million three days ago. Anyone who missed – and many did because of the Small Business Administration site crash, structural log jam, and the high volume of paperwork required – don’t need to apply anytime soon.

“The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for a Withdrawal Protection Scheme based on available resources,” said SBA spokeswoman Jennifer Kelly. “Likewise, we cannot sign up new PPP lenders at the moment.”

Do you know who has not missed SBA loans? Major chain restaurants such as Ruth’s Chris steakhouse ($ 20 million loans, $ 468 million sales last year, approximately 5,600 employees), Potbelly ($ 10 million loans, $ 410 million sales last year, 6,000 employees – and same day , the company paid a $ 100,000 signing bonus to a new director) and Shake Shack ($ 10 million loan, last year sales of $ 574.6 million, 6,101 employees).

Only Shake Shack, keeping face, is PPP loan repayment“For the restaurants that need it most to get it now,” CEO Randy Garutti said, arguing that Shake Shack, with around 45 employees per restaurant, “can and should seek to protect as many of our employees’ jobs as possible. how it’s possible. “

Technically, this may be true, but the optics and the reality – real small business owners desperately trying to navigate the complex, bureaucratic sclerotic web while domestic multi-million dollar corporations easily step in and run away with millions – are grotesque.

This all seems too reminiscent of 2008, when the federal government bailed out big banks while millions of ordinary Americans lost their jobs, health insurance, savings, and homes. We were going to learn a lesson from this kind of top-down safety net.

As Lev Menand and Ganesh Sitaraman recently wrote in The American Prospect, the federal government cannot miss this chance to prioritize Main Street. “Stabilizing household balance sheets,” they write, “will take care of one of the roots [this] crisis and lay the groundwork for economic recovery ”.

But in the kind of illogicality inherent in the federal government, it is not that the Congressional Oversight Commission has any oversight here. Commission member Bharat Ramamurti told NDP over the weekend that the commission “has no jurisdiction over the small business program.” So what is it for?

In addition, Ramamurti said he sent a letter to the Federal Reserve chairman last week asking for details of which companies they are lending money to and how they manage these loans.

But just like a fired waitress or a bartender calls the unemployment office, Ramamurti got no answer.

Over the weekend, PBS re-aired “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” Ken Burns’ amazing multi-part documentary. One episode described in horrific detail how close FDR – and the Americans who so desperately relied on his New Deal – had lost their minimum wage, the National Labor Relations Act, Social Security.

Seen from our new point of view, a sick America on the brink of an economic apocalypse, wilder than the Great Depression, it seems inconceivable that such resistance, such heartlessness, should again be met with the neediest of us.

However, almost a century later, this little guy is still struggling to break through.

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