When Democrats push back against GOP tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, Republicans always tell us, “It’s not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money” and they’re returning it to its rightful owners. Now that the state of North Carolina has put $5.5 billion into the Rainy Day fund, the GOP is singing a different tune. They are unwilling to spend it on people who desperately need it in the midst of a global pandemic that has left millions unemployed and may leave millions homeless once eviction restrictions are lifted. 

Republicans have been crowing about how their fiscal oversight has left the state with a surplus that can help us weather economic downturns and natural disasters. Well, we’re in the midst of both right now. Unfortunately, now they’re hoarding our money instead of getting it to families and small businesses who desperately need it. 

The effect of the pandemic and its economic impact on Americans is extremely uneven. Food pantries are going bare while food lines are growing. At the same time, the stock market is reaching new highs and investors are thriving. Companies like Amazon benefit from the realities caused by the measures necessary to contain the pandemic, while small businesses like local restaurants and bars are shuttering. People who worked in offices are now working on Zoom, pocketing the money they once spent on commuting and lunches downtown while people in the service industry have no place to go and no work to do. 

Sitting on $5.5 billion as people face hunger and homelessness is heartless and irresponsible. That said, the reason may have to do with Republicans’ view of the money. The people who need it now paid far less taxes than those who might need it in a bigger recession. They are less deserving of money that they didn’t contribute, despite the work they put into helping those that did pay higher taxes earn their profits. Republicans see helping the poor as redistributive. Democrats see it as humanitarian. 

We have a lot of people who are being hurt through no fault of their own. They are disproportionally harmed by government regulations to control the spread of the virus. They are also disproportionally affected by the virus itself because of the jobs they do and the places they live—smaller domiciles housing more people. And, sure, they paid less into the $5.5 billion Rainy Day than their wealthier fellow citizens, but they need our help now and to deny it is wrong. 

With a vaccine on the way, we just need to make it a few more months. Our experience so far indicates that we won’t be plunged into the deep recession so many predicted. The stock market is at an all-time high and that means people who make their money from investments can help their fellow citizens that don’t. And the people who control a $5.5 billion dollar surplus should realize that it’s raining on a whole lot of folks. Give them a damned umbrella.

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