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Politics

Bring Forth The Checks

US President Joe Biden speaks before signing executive orders related to immigration in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 2, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Those had better be the checks in there.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Where are the economic stimulus checks? That is what I want to know. Where are the checks.

A poll by Quinnipiac University shows that 78 percent of Americans are in favor of the government sending out $1,400 economic stimulus checks to people. That is a huge majority of people! Meanwhile, according to what’s obviously true to anyone with access to a mind, 99 percent of Americans, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1, will, if they receive a $1,400 check from the federal government, be relieved and/or glad to have 1,400 more dollars than they had before that.

Presumably some Republican politicians might be like, “Ah shit, nearly everybody in America will be glad about this. That’s not great for us, the people who are in the opposite party from the people responsible for it, therefore I don’t like it.” Presumably some billionaires will never even notice that they received that tiny a sum of money and thus not be happier for it. But there are not many of those people. Everyone else will be like, “It’s good that this happened!”

Giving people money seems like pretty straightforwardly good politics to me. Everybody wants some money! You give them some money and they go, “Dang, this was great, let’s do it again sometime.” And then you tell them about how you and your pals were able to do it because you had control of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, and then it’s easy for them to see how voting for you can be a way of advancing their interest in having a government that will send them some money from time to time.

Giving people money also seems like pretty straightforwardly good economics, particularly during a deep and protracted downturn in the economy. You give people money and that stimulates them to pay for stuff with it, creating demand for goods and services! Creating business for businesses that are having a hard time weathering the ongoing pandemic! In some cases those will be businesses that sell the bare necessities of life, like toilet paper and medicine and bags of flour and whatnot—but takeout joints and tea shops and florists need business too. It is also good to stimulate those businesses, so it is good to give some money to people who make use of them. Then there will be all of those additional dollars circulating through “the economy,” keeping it moving, maybe even long enough for everybody to get vaccinated and return to something like the ordinary patterns of life.

Setting aside both politics and economics, lots and lots of people need money, desperately, right now. At this point it scarcely warrants mentioning that giving people money, during an ongoing crisis that has disrupted virtually every facet of life in this society—a society already poisoned by appalling material inequalities even before COVID-19 showed up to reiterate and deepen pretty much all of them—is a simple and obvious moral good. It is only one form of the help they need from their elected government, but it’s the easiest one to dispense, and the one people can use most quickly. It is morally good for money to flow from places of abundance (the government can write as many checks for $1,400 or $2,000 or $40,000 as it wants) to places where it is needed (perhaps hundreds of millions of Americans are broke or struggling right now). This is all very clear.

Naturally, the Democrats, who presently have control of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government—and who attained that in part by portraying themselves in the 2020 campaign as The Party Of Cutting The Damn Checks Already—are dithering among themselves over who, exactly, should be excluded from receiving some money. According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration’s latest idea is to send $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals who reported adjusted gross incomes of $50,000 or less, heads of households who reported adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 or less, and married couples who reported combined adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or less, in either 2019 or 2020 (this part hasn’t been decided). People who reported more income than that reportedly would receive smaller checks, or no checks at all.

Realistically speaking, this still means that a great majority of American households would receive some money from the federal government, because the great majority of American households don’t make a lot of money. The Post‘s story cites a guy who estimates that 71 percent of Americans would get the $1,400 payment, and another 17 percent would get smaller amounts. That’s certainly better than nobody receiving anything.

It’s also classically characteristic of the dumb, self-defeating Democratic Party: fretting needlessly over how exactly to append stupid and pointless means-testing to an already paltry and overdue benefit supported by the overwhelming majority of people, for the sake of (in the absolute most generous possible interpretation) showing off their Budgetary Thrift and Bipartisanship merit badge to the entirely imaginary cohort of people who value that shit more than they value suddenly having more money than they did a second ago. What is the fear here? That people who made $58,000 in 2019 will get a $1,400 check from the federal government and be like, Awful. Disgusting. Too much money for me?

This is supposed to be stimulus. A $60 carryout order is not inherently more stimulating to the struggling restaurant down the road if it came from somebody who made $42,000 last year than if it came from somebody who made $76,000. For that matter, they may both have had their work hours slashed or benefits gutted in the interim. The latter may be buried under a pile of COVID-related hospital bills a puny $1,400 check will not even meaningfully dent. There’s just simply no good reason to spend even a second differentiating between them. Just cut the dang checks! They’re already smaller and later than they should be.

If a candidate for the presidency won 68 percent of the vote, it would be the biggest blowout in 200 years, and only a fool would challenge the idea that this implied, for the winner, a clear public mandate. $1,400 stimulus checks are polling at 78 freaking percent, man! Everybody wants them. They’re good politically, economically, and morally. Stop negotiating against yourselves and bring forth the friggin’ checks.