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Dec. 26, 2020

The Stimulus Check And You (EP.291)

The Stimulus Check And You (EP.291)
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Congress has passed the $900 billion Covid relief and an Omnibus budget bill totaling $2.3 trillion. Joe Biden called it a mere “down payment” and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it is “a first step.” And the President wants to more than triple the individual $600 payment. 

Do you believe that what you might be getting is fair? Do you believe that the overall spending package is fair?

That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode. 


Pause for a definition. Do you know what a trillion is? Start by imagining a thousand of something. That’s pretty easy; think of a sports stadium that seats, say, 20 thousand people and picture 5% of that total. Now try and picture a million, a thousand thousand. Now a billion, a thousand million. Still with me? Now conjure up an image of a trillion, a thousand billion. I got lost at a million. The point here is that concepts like billions and trillions of dollars can easily lose their meaning, and get tossed around like rent money. Keep in mind that we are talking about staggering amounts of real money. Our money.

We see clear indications that many people believe the $600 individual payment is not only insufficient, but a slap in the face; “crumbs” as Speaker Pelosi called the Trump tax cut as it applied to the very same people who are eligible for this payment. But neither this payment nor the previous $1,200 individual cash payment has any necessary tie to COVID economic pain. Both look back to historical documents, e.g., one’s 2019 tax return. If your 2019 taxable income qualified you for 2020 payments, then you are in. For tens of millions of people, their income has not been affected by COVID, but they still get the money. A simplifying and reasonable assumption is that half of the cash recipients have income that is not affected by COVID; the other half do. Why are we shotgunning money, in any amnout, to those who need it as well as those who don’t? And is anyone of the half whose income was not affected looking to give away their windfall? 

$286 billion of the $900 billion is going to the direct payments and to extending the federal portion of unemployment assistance at $300 per week. That is half of the $600 per week under the previous CARES ACT, but remember that over half of those recipients made more money unemployed than when they were working. Don’t we already have too many employment disincentives? 

$325 billion is going to forgivable loans through the PPP, the Payroll Protection Plan, allowing small businesses to keep going, and to keep employees paid. There were some abuses in the earlier version, but overall the reasoning is sound.

There is more information about how our money is being spent, but, let’s ask a more fundamental question now: Is this $2.3 trillion in spending a well thought out plan to rescue those affected by COVID and to boost the overall economy, or is it a hastily and sloppily constructed bill designed to meet a few glaring needs, buy votes, make points vs the other party–and allow the politicians to get home by Christmas? As you think though your answer, remember:

  1. The 535 members of the House and Senate had only a few hours to read the complex, 5,600 page, $2.3 trillion dollar bill.
  2. Many separate subjects, everything from individual payments to eviction protection to transportation to national defense were all thrown into one bill: read fast, and decide as a package.
  3. All of this was delayed until after the election. Why? Both Biden and Pelosi have told us all along that when we have a new administration in place, many more trillions will be flowing into millions of pockets, including individuals, state and local governments and businesses.

All of this stinks. There is no possible way that our $2.3 trillion can be spent at all rationally, spent in a way to give the correct relief to affected individuals, families and business, and to get the biggest boost to our overall economy for the money invested. Our elected–and well-paid–representatives are almost literally throwing trillions of dollars at a wall hoping that enough of it sticks to: 1. Get re-elected and 2. Damage their political opponents. That’s a helluva way to run our country.

We must insist that our political leaders act far more responsibly:

  1. Politicians and bureaucrats must keep our best interests at heart, not theirs. The term public servant should not be an oxymoron.
  2. Huge bills like this covering almost all areas of need and all parts of our economy must be broken up into their component parts, e.g., defense, COVID relief, transportation and other infrastructure, welfare, healthcare, climate change, foreign aid, immigraton and so many more areas of concern. No more take it all or leave it all, and no more demands to make momentous decisions with mere hours to prepare. Each critical subject area deserves a deep dive and in-depth public discussion. 
  3. Prioritize spending, then stopping when we run out of money. Yes, run out of money. If you want to increase payment in one area, e.g., the individual payments, where do you cut back an equal or greater amount? There are certainly plenty of areas of massive overspending and sheer waste that could yield hundreds of billions of dollars in savings, whether spent elsewhere or, gasp, simply not spent at all. Government cash is not an infinitely renewable resource. Is yours?
  4. Stop asking us to unite until you do. You embarrass yourselves and the nation with your infighting and jockeying for position, then telling us to “come together.” Lead, don’t preach.
  5. Along with providing safety nets for those who truly need them, dig in and emphasize opening up the economy and getting students back to in person learning. Workfare, not welfare, is our future. As are our students.

At the beginning of this episode, I asked two questions that bear repeating. Do you believe that what you might be getting from this package is fair? Do you believe that the overall spending package, the COVID relief with the omnibus spending, is fair?

What are your answers?

Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know. 

As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.


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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.