Georgians Are Starving — And Their Millionaire Senators Refuse to Force a Vote on Aid

Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue could actually force a Senate vote on $2,000 checks for almost two thirds of Georgia households. After all, their state is in the middle of a calamity. Instead, they are issuing belated, meek platitudes.

Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue wave to the crowd at a campaign event on December 21, 2020 in Milton, Georgia. (Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images)

It’s an almost too-on-the-nose reflection of America’s oligarchy that the fate of $2,000 survival checks for starving people will be decided on by a Wall Street magnate and a corporate executive who ran a retail chain that preys on low-income communities — and it will all play out in a state facing rising joblessness, poverty, and starvation.

But here we are, with Georgia and its senate races likely to decide it all.

If you were writing a Hollywood screenplay about this, you would almost certainly set it in the Peach State and its special election.

One of the senate races features Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was plucked out of the financial industry and appointed to the Senate. There, she quickly made lucrative stock trades after a government briefing about the pandemic, and also got herself named to a panel regulating the agency that polices her husband’s business empire.

The other senate race features Republican David Perdue, who has also spent his time in the Senate making stock trades to boost his personal wealth after running Dollar General, where he faced allegations of wage theft.

As if this cartoonish corruption wasn’t enough for a made-for-TV drama, the two zillionaire Republican incumbents are running against Reverend Raphael Warnock, the anti-poverty crusader who runs Martin Luther King Jr’s church; and Jon Ossoff, a Pete Buttigieg–like Saturday Night Live caricature of a blank-slate political candidate who has rightly zeroed in on the issue, calling the GOP’s proposal for just $600 “a joke.”

And this is all taking place amid Georgia’s economic meltdown.

Loeffler and Perdue Could End This, but They Refuse

Loeffler and Perdue are in a position to immediately end this battle right now, if they chose to actually use their power. Senator Mitch McConnell may want to own the libs and economically punish his own destitute state by blocking the $2,000 checks, but an even bigger priority for him is holding onto his job as majority leader — but he can only do that if the Georgia incumbents win reelection.

That means if Loeffler and Perdue publicly demanded passage of the $2,000 checks legislation — and if they explicitly aimed their criticism at McConnell for holding things up — it would almost certainly happen.

Up until the last few days, Loeffler and Perdue have not made unequivocal statements fully supporting the bill — in fact, Perdue has previously opposed direct aid. Only today did Loeffler meekly say she would vote for $2,000 checks, and Perdue tweeted a similarly muted statement of support.

Notably, though, the two senators are not saying they will back Sen. Bernie Sanders’s move to force a vote — they are only indicating that they would support the legislation if it somehow happens to make it to the Senate floor.

That’s the tell here — it signals that these two aristocrats still aren’t serious and that these gestures are fraudulent in comparison to what they could do.

The theatrical performance of Georgia’s Republican senators pretending to support the initiative while doing nothing to force a vote almost makes you wonder if these two notorious wheeler dealers are quietly day trading on poverty futures.

Georgia Senators Have Let $2,000 Checks Stall, as Their State Faces a Calamity

The situation in Georgia is much like the situation in McConnell’s own state — the difference between meager $600 checks and $2,000 checks is potentially a life-and-death issue for hundreds of thousands of people.

Even before the pandemic started, 1.3 million Georgians were living at or below the federal poverty line. That includes nearly one out of every five African Americans, and one out of every five kids.

Since the pandemic began, food scarcity — defined as sometimes or often not having enough food to eat — has increased by 32 percent in Georgia, according to census data reviewed by the Daily Poster.

Meanwhile, unemployment is rising in the state — the jobless rate jumped more than 25 percent last month to 5.7 percent. And as of last month, almost a quarter of Georgia renters were behind on their payments, the fourth highest rate in the nation.

That’s where direct aid can help make things a little less horrible. Nearly 60 percent of Georgia households make $75,000 or less — which means they would fully qualify for the $2,000 checks.

Georgia Republicans Don’t Seem to Care

These figures paint a very clear picture: Loeffler and Perdue’s refusal to use their power to force a vote on the proposal would deny additional emergency aid to at least two million households in their own state during an economic calamity, and during a closely contested election that will decide the fate of the US Senate.

The two incumbents’ nonchalance about this nightmare is not anomalous — their behavior is emblematic of their party. Yesterday, a majority of House Republicans voted to block the $2,000 checks. Not a single Georgia Republican in the lower chamber voted for the proposal, despite the emergency unfolding in their state.

Things on Capitol Hill seem to be fluid now that Sanders is using hardball tactics to force a vote. Suddenly, a few more Republican senators are suggesting they would support the $2,000 checks.

They clearly feel the heat — but keep your eye on the Georgia incumbents. They have far more power than anyone in America to force McConnell to pass the legislation.

If the bill fails, it is because Georgia’s millionaire senators knowingly allowed their state to starve.

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David Sirota is editor-at-large at Jacobin. He edits the Daily Poster newsletter and previously served as a senior adviser and speechwriter on Bernie Sanders's 2020 presidential campaign.

Andrew Perez is a writer and researcher living in Maine.

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