Originally, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted that the Trump administration would report to the public about the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars to businesses around the country as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is a forgivable loan program designed to support businesses amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. More recently, Mnuchin said that the Trump administration actually would not be reporting any of the names of companies that got some of the loans. During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday morning, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow adamantly defended the administration’s lack of publicly accessible transparency.
Initially, he claimed in response to questioning from Jake Tapper that the situation wasn’t as precarious as the host claimed because there would be internal government oversight. In the age of Trump, who has fired oversight officials across the government, that internal oversight can’t exactly be trusted.
Tapper noted that the set-up seemed “swampy,” since companies would be getting huge payouts from the government without the public’s knowledge, and Kudlow retorted:
‘Well I don’t know that I would judge it that way… the Congressional Budget Office, which is non-partisan, said this is the most efficient distribution of emergency rescue funds ever, alright?.. So far as naming each and every company, I don’t think that promise was ever made, and I don’t think it’s necessary. I think what is necessary is to make sure that the legalities were observed, that the process of credit and lending was observed, and that people who can qualify would, in fact, get it… It’s probably one of the most successful rescue packages in American history.’
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) June 14, 2020
Does Kudlow seriously expect Americans to just take the president’s team’s word for it when it comes to basic issues of legality? They’ve never seemed to care much about the concept in the past. Besides, the only options here aren’t revealing the names of every single company that got a loan and revealing nothing. Kudlow came up with no systematically effective reason why businesses that get a loan of hundreds of millions of dollars from the Trump administration shouldn’t have that information disclosed publicly.
Mnuchin has faced a lot of criticism for his decision to hide all loans. During a recent MSNBC appearance, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) noted:
‘There are already numerous examples of abuse of the PPP program. We saw it with requests from Ruth’s Chris [Steakhouse] and others. Then, the PPP limitation has been plagued by inequities. Different states not given the same amount of resources, minority-owned businesses, smallest, most vulnerable businesses not getting help… This is why… Senator Kamala Harris and I are calling on the Treasury to disclose this information.’
Indeed — if the Treasury Department released the information in question, then the issues that Porter mentions could have a better chance of getting worked out.
Yet, the Trump administration has again stuck to their commitment to no transparency. Although the president’s businesses were specifically excluded from eligibility for a lot of the Coronavirus-tied bailout money in question, that lack of transparency has previously been used to hide Trump making money off the presidency via government expenditures at his properties.
There’s no shame in securing a public loan, but immense shame in hiding where taxpayer dollars are flowing. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan TRUTH Act, to disclose all loans over $2mm and ensure transparency and accountability. Spread the word. https://t.co/DjrfT7S6I5
— Rep. Dean Phillips (@RepDeanPhillips) June 14, 2020