Unquestionably a large segment of our population requires tangible assistance in coping with the overwhelming personal hardship posed by this
relentless pandemic.

The $900 billion pandemic stimulus initiative awaiting the president’s signature was spearheaded by efforts of a moderate bipartisan group including Democrat Senators Joe Manchin III and Mark Warner, and Republican Senators Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. This influential group managed to push Senate and House leaders of both parties into direct negotiations they had previously avoided.

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Key provisions of the measure include personal stimulus checks to the majority of Americans, expanded unemployment benefits, aid for small
businesses, extension of the moratorium on evictions, additional funding for schools and colleges, and expanded support of nutrition and child care
programs.

While I applaud the bipartisan effort to craft a middle ground proposal, as I will discuss later I have serious reservations regarding two key
provisions of the measure as it currently stands. In addition, as the funding will be attained through increasing our national debt, we need to be aware that our current president has already increased our national debt from $14.4 trillion when Obama left office to $21.4 trillion – a whopping increase of close to 50 percent!

Critique of personal stimulus checks:

I believe that mass distribution of stimulus checks to close to half our population constitutes a wasteful shot-gun approach that would provide an
unnecessary windfall to millions who don’t need these funds (myself included).

Recently our president upped the ante by proposing stimulus checks of $2,000. Democrats have clamored for approval, and Trump is now
pressuring Republicans in both houses to approve this windfall. As of this writing (12/30), approval by both houses appears imminent. If the $2,000
distribution gains full approval, the price tag for the pandemic stimulus proposal will increase from $900 billion to $1.35 trillion.

Numerous pundits claim that Trump’s proposal constitutes a disguised effort to ensure that the two GOP Georgia senatorial candidates
will win the January run-off election, riding on the coattails of this largess. I also believe that our current president’s rabid insistence on the $2,000
distributions reflects his enormous obsession with self-aggrandizement, as the checks will prominently bear his name.

Thoughts concerning how the proposed allocation for personal stimulus checks could be better spent include:

  • Including under the school funding allocation a program that would incentivize college graduates to serve as teachers in schools serving predominantly low income ethnic minority students. This would be accomplished through providing full or partial student loan forgiveness to graduates who agree to accept these assignments for a designated period of time.
  • Government sponsored television infomercials that would drive home to all Americans the pressing need for everyone to follow all
    CDC-designated precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19. This is critically important as the prevalence of coronavirus, which
    is already claiming over 3,000 lives each day, will escalate throughout the winter despite the availability of vaccines.

At this point it appears that the adopted stimulus proposal may well provide a distribution of $2,000 to roughly 150 million Americans. Some
economists predict that a distribution of this magnitude will have a highly inflationary effect on our economy. While a $2,000 per person windfall is definitely tempting, I strongly urge everyone who does not truly need this money to either give it to persons truly in need or donate it to charity.

Critique of extended unemployment benefits proposal:

Unquestionably unemployed Americans, particularly those who have been jobless for an extended period of time, are in need of financial
assistance. I do, however, have reservations concerning the proposal’s current supplemental unemployment provision.

According to University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan, the currently proposed provisions would disincentivize many unemployed workers from seeking gainful employment. He argues that the proposed $300 a week supplemental benefits, on top of the average state benefit of $320 per week, would create a situation in which half of all unemployed workers would receive more money in unemployment benefits combined with food stamps than they would from working.

I advocate replacing the current provision for extended unemployment benefits with a provision that would combine a designated federal
supplemental unemployment benefit with targeted job placement assistance. Unemployed workers must be incentivized to secure gainful employment, rather than maximizing their dependence on unemployment benefits.

In closing, I recognize that my critique of two key provisions of the current pandemic stimulus proposal represents a contrarian position that
many readers may disagree with. We must keep in mind, however, that any national debt increase constitutes passing an additional debt burden on to our children and future generations. In light of that reality, we must ensure that all stimulus provisions are allocated to those areas where they will do the most good.

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