11 June 2020

Money, money, money

It looks like we may be in for another round of stimulus checks.  Senate Republicans are recalcitrant, but Trump is leaning in favor of the idea, which means enough of them will eventually come around that the Democrats plus a few defectors will pass this thing.  Which is fine, but they're doing it wrong.  They need to start means-testing this stuff.

The first round of checks sent $1,200 each to about 200 million adults, which works out to two hundred and forty billion dollars (actually more since smaller amounts were sent for dependents).  That's a lot.  The deficit is quite properly not our main concern right now, but it's still a concern.

I myself got a $1,200 stimulus check last month, as most American readers presumably did.  I didn't turn it down, but I didn't need it.  I still have a job.  If the payments had been targeted specifically to the unemployed -- only 40 million or so people rather than 200 million -- each individual's payment could have been made much larger, at a smaller total cost to the government, and the help would have gone to those who really need it.

It should be possible to come up with a reasonably comprehensive list of jobless people based on the unemployment insurance databases of the states -- yes, I know some people haven't been able to apply yet due to the systems being overwhelmed, but there must be some way of correcting for that without just sending checks to everybody in the country, most of whom don't need them.  We can't afford to just scatter a quarter-trillion dollars in all directions every month or two from now until the end of the pandemic.

(It goes without saying that the last round of stimulus included even worse wastages, such as the notorious $500 billion slush fund and the "small business" assistance which was largely hoovered up by giant conglomerates.  Those things need to be stopped too.)

This pandemic is very far from being over, and we're going to need to spend a lot more money on dealing with it in the months to come.  And at some point in the future that steadily-growing national debt will need to be addressed -- hopefully by tax increases on the wealthy under a Democratic administration, but it will need to be addressed.  If the government wants to shower me with money I don't need, I'll be happy to take it, but it's not good public policy.


Blogger Tommykey said...

The funny thing is that the stimulus payments being sent out now aren't even checks anymore. They're debit cards. I got one in the mail and almost threw it out before I did some research to confirm that it was legitimate. In one article I read, some people talked about how they did throw out the debit cards, believing it to be a scam. About a week or so after getting the debit card I got one of those letters from Mango Mussolini about how my Economic Impact Payment was coming in the form of a debit card. I was like "Shouldn't I have gotten this letter before getting the debit card?"

11 June, 2020 17:23  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Isn't it really just a way for Trump to "buy" people's votes? That's why it's not mean-tested and his name is on the actual cheque.

11 June, 2020 17:37  
Blogger Mike said...

I totally agree with you. I didn't need the money but I'm not going to throw it away. It will make a few medical bills a little easier to take this year.

11 June, 2020 17:46  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

i get social security so it was deposited into my account the same time as my monthly check. a couple of days later I got a letter from the Fuhrer..I kept it incase I ran out of toilet paper

11 June, 2020 20:41  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Cheeto is just trying to trick the stupid.
The 'checks' are his idea of tit for that. Nothing is free in a capitalist, consumerist society like ours.
It could have also been more effectively planned as you said. Not to mention that the small-business incentive went to big businesses mostly.
A con man conning the stupid. Sounds about Orange.


12 June, 2020 03:24  
Blogger The New York Crank said...

The thing about those "stimulus" debit cards is that they'll stimulate just a little bit less. Everybody's fine until they're down to the last, say, $1.79. Now you go to the supermarket and buy sixty bucks worth of stuff. It gets mighty inconvenient to find a $1.79 item to charge, and then ring it up and charge it — before you start again and put the rest of your groceries on some other card. So for many, the $1.79 goes unspent.

Now lemme see....$1.79 times, well let's just take a wild stab at it and say that 40 million Americans run into this problem....That's a pleasant little chunk of change the Treasury never really has to disburse. So we're free to spend it on the Secret Service accompanying Uday and Qusay Trump on their next exotic big game hunting trip. A windfall saving for you, a windfall saving for me, and a windfall saving for the Treasury. Good news for everybody except a couple of hapless elephants.

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

12 June, 2020 07:21  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Odd .... you're the first person that I know, that has even brought this up, or even thought about it. In fact, over just the last week (and this is weekly, because folks I know in Dallas, ask me these things, because they know I follow this kind of stuff) I had at least 6, 7 people or so ask me how does the stimulus thing look, and how soon do I think they will be mailing out the next round? I just told them, I figure one is coming (may be a little less, too), but don't look for anything before at least late july, and the deal as is, will probably have to make some adjustments, because "as is", the republicans will stop that shit in the Senate quick. I know a few folks that never got one either, but I think that is because they don't file taxes regularly, and do contract stuff. But looking at this latest round, I just looked at some of it and said to myself "no way, Jose", I don't even think that democrats expected it to get passed, I figure they just made it as generous as possible for showcasing and highsiding during elections, because all the goodies that is in it, they of all folks should realize that it won't make it through the Senate. My wife and I got our checks like super quick ($1200) each, neither of us even used it yet, it's still sitting in the bank ... we got it so fast, because we actually file joint taxes annually like clockwork (as Americans should do, so I explain that to those who didn't get anything, if they haven't kept up with taxes). I have a buddy, get this ... his small 10 employee company went under/ closed, he told me he is getting the unemployment from our state deal, plus he is getting another $600 a week on top of it, from federal ... he said he is making more now, than he did while working ... I never got that much in unemployment myself ... last time I drawn, was like back 2003 or so, I think I was getting like $325 to $350 a week, but less than I made working. Most of the folks that asked me about getting checks, when do I think we will?, etc ... actually have income, and frankly, are not really hurting. One guy I know (guitarist), I think, spent all his on cocaine ... I know that sounds shameful, but I know how heavy the guys habit is, because he makes decent money, and even most of that goes to cocaine ... but he's asked me what I heard about the next round like clockwork {:-) But you are the first person I know that has even mentioned "means testing", I know that Pelosi asked something about it before from what I read. I myself, believe there will be another one coming, as I tell folks, but I also tell them ... don't expect to be getting these checks every so many months. I didn't like how they went in phases at first, because I knew every time they put a stimulus through, we are all going to have to shell out 10 fold to the corporate/ billionaire class. Some of the billions that was supposed to go to small business, is not being distributed fairly, in my view ... but I expect this in America ... I expect for the largest entities of capital/ wealth to get the upper hand ... and that is just American culture, as far as neoliberal economics/ culture. I don't have any answers, just playing it by ear, and figured I would add my 2 cents here.

12 June, 2020 09:53  
Anonymous Roger Fox said...

It would be wonderful if all this blow should have been dealt not to people, but to state finances. But the realities are different. I think that the government from the very beginning incorrectly coped with this crisis and still copes badly with it.

12 June, 2020 09:54  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I know a lot of people that needed the checks. Mot of the jobs here in Vegas are from the Hotels and when they all closed down, everyone was out of work. You're the first person I know of to say they didn't desperately need the check they got.

13 June, 2020 09:16  
Blogger jenny_o said...

Actually we are having the same problem in Canada - there's no doubt there are a lot of folks who need financial help, and I can understand there was a hurry at first to get that help out to citizens, but after the first few weeks they needed to be putting more thought and finesse into the programs. As it stands, either our taxes will have to go up or we will be dealing with the deficit for a long, long time. And like you said, it's not even over yet. Far from it.

13 June, 2020 16:24  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Tommykey: Mine was a check -- perhaps they switched at some point? Yeesh, I can't believe some people threw out their debit cards. I should have checked my neighbors' trash.:-)

Debra: I'm sure he hoped that. He originally wanted to have his signature on the checks, but since he couldn't do that, everyone got separate letter ($100 million more in postage cost) announcing the check, which did have his signature.

Mike: I don't think anyone turns down free money.

Jackie: Good point -- the letters do have some value.

Sixpence: And they're still trying to hide what that half-trillion-dollar slush fund was spent on.

14 June, 2020 02:42  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Crank: I ran into that problem when I was on unemployment insurance, which (at least in Oregon) comes on a debit card. I was able to take it to the bank that issued the card and get the last couple of bucks off it in cash, though.

Ranch: I'm just mind-blown by how much all this stuff is costing. I realize it's an emergency, but the government is already deep in the hole because of the Republicans' giant tax cut for the wealthy (which the Democrats need to rescind immediately once they're in power). The money should go where it's really needed. Glad to hear your friend at least used his check to stimulate our country's vital cocaine industry.

Roger: I think the states got some help too, or will next time. But sending money to individuals was a good move -- people who've lost their jobs need help quickly.

Mary K: Then you see my point -- instead of sending checks to people like me who didn't need them, they should have used the same money to send bigger checks to people like your laid-off acquaintances.

Jenny_o: I hope in Canada they at least didn't have to bribe wingnut politicians with hundreds of billions for their cronies in order to get something passed for the ordinary people.

14 June, 2020 02:50  
Blogger RO said...

You make a good point. It was frustrating for me to know that there are so many homeless people in their cars or in the street, who had no idea how to get that $1200 because they weren't computer literate, or didn't know anyone who was. Some never knew it existed. I'd like to see if there was a way to reach these people, and to help them get ID cards, etc. Or to provide some type of address for people to go to to get the debit cards, etc. That money may be just enough to help someone start his or life over. Hugs, RO

23 June, 2020 09:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Unfortunately it can be very difficult to help people in that position. Local authorities would probably have better luck. Unfortunately, there's historically not been much interest in doing so.

23 June, 2020 15:38  

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