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Why Economists Support More Stimulus

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Independent economists overwhelmingly favor the passage of more stimulus money before the end of the year — and the prospects for such a bill seem to be improving.

Democratic leaders in Congress yesterday signaled their openness to a bipartisan $908 billion stimulus package. Democrats would prefer a bigger package, like the $3 trillion bill that the House passed in May. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, released a statement saying that the bipartisan plan should become “the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.”

The next move is up to Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans, some of whom have previously supported a $500 billion bill. There are political reasons that both sides want to appear responsive to Americans’ economic pain: The Senate runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 will determine which party controls the Senate.

The economy already seems to have slowed in recent weeks, as virus caseloads have risen. And the situation will probably worsen if Congress does not pass another stimulus. Many provisions enacted since the spring are set to end on Dec. 31. Among the effects:

  • About seven million freelancers, contract workers and other Americans who don’t qualify for traditional jobless benefits will lose their emergency aid. On average, it now equals $1,058 a month.

  • Close to five million more people who have been out of work for at least six months will also be cut off from aid — which now averages $1,253 a month. The usual limit on jobless benefits is 26 weeks, and a provision that extended it to 39 weeks is expiring.

  • A tax credit that has given more than 125,000 companies an incentive not to lay off workers will expire. Companies will also lose the ability to defer payroll taxes and take deductions for business losses.

  • Aid to state and local governments — $150 billion — will expire. Without more aid, those governments will likely need to make cuts to schools, police forces, health care and other programs.

Moody’s Analytics forecasts that without more aid, the economy will fall into a new recession early next year, with the unemployment rate approaching 10 percent. And Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman, has said that the history of economic crises suggests Congress usually passes too little stimulus, not too much. “Some fiscal support now would really help,” Powell told a Senate committee this week.

Even if the two parties can come to an agreement on Capitol Hill, there is one more hurdle. President Trump would have to sign the bill in his final weeks in office.

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Every major U.S. sport that has tried to play during the pandemic has successfully completed its season. But none of the ones that did so this fall — like pro hockey, baseball and both men’s and women’s basketball — had to cope with virus caseloads nearly as high as today’s. Those caseloads are now creating chaos for both pro and college football.

The N.F.L. had to postpone a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens three different times, before finally playing yesterday — on a Wednesday afternoon, bizarrely. (The Steelers won, 19 to 14.) On Sunday, the Denver Broncos had to play without any quarterbacks, and the result was what Bill Simmons, the podcaster, called the worst football game he ever watched.

College football has even bigger problems. At least one team, Ohio State, is in danger of missing the playoffs because it has canceled so many games. “History will wonder whether this messy, muddled, and repeatedly interrupted season was worth all the risk,” Jemele Hill writes in The Atlantic.

Some public health officials have decided the answer is no. Santa Clara County, Calif., has banned all contact sports for the next three weeks, which means the San Francisco 49ers can’t play home games. The 49ers will instead play near Phoenix, where case numbers are higher than in Santa Clara.

Both the pro and college seasons still seem more likely to finish than not, given how badly the officials running the sports want to hold their lucrative playoffs. But the finishes may be messy and end up contributing to further spread of the virus or to other injuries, as athletes find themselves playing new positions on depleted rosters.

For more: Kurt Streeter, a Times sports columnist, calls on the N.F.L. to end its season early.


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