When Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders agree on a proposal, it must be either very good or very bad public policy.
When it comes to the plan to send out $2,000 stimulus checks, plunging the government deeper into debt, count us among those who think it’s a bad idea.
The 2020 federal fiscal year ended Sept. 30, and Uncle Sam took in $3.4 trillion while spending $6.6 trillion.
That meant a $3 trillion deficit, triple the shortfall in 2019. The deficit represented 15 percent of GDP, up from less than 5% the year before.
The measure would add $300 billion to $400 billion to the deficit in 2021.
The coronavirus crisis was going to increase the deficit no matter what, and the relief bill passed last month calls for $600 stimulus checks.
But piling on debt to send out money is an inefficient way to boost the economy.
For one thing, the aid would be distributed across the board to those who are hurting and those who are not. Moreover, Americans are not spending as they did before. The savings rate is up. Some of that is owed to government shutdowns, but even with no restrictions, many Americans would choose on their own not to travel or eat out until vaccines have vanquished the threat.
It would make more sense to target aid to those who have been damaged by the pandemic, like hospitality workers or musicians, and to boost struggling employers, like restaurants.
Such an approach would also offer more benefit to states like Louisiana, which have been more deeply damaged by the loss of tourism. And it would better serve the stated purpose of providing economic stimulus, since this money would be spent, not saved.
Three Republican members of our delegation sensibly voted against this inefficient giveaway: Garret Graves, Mike Johnson, and Steve Scalise. In doing so, they bucked a president who is getting more erratic and irresponsible as his time in the White House winds down.
Two voted in favor: Democrat Cedric Richmond and Republican Clay Higgins. The sixth, Republican Ralph Abraham, who is leaving office, did not vote.
Higgins tweeted an explanation for his vote.
“There’s no such thing as ‘federal money.’ It’s the People’s treasure.”
That might be accurate if the federal government were running a surplus, and the choice was between tax cuts and more spending.
But Washington is hemorrhaging money, and the dollars Higgins wants to distribute will have to be repaid by our children and grandchildren.
The federal debt is $27 trillion.
Every time a baby is born in America, he or she owes $83,000.
Are there any deficit hawks left in Washington?
Today's voters might enjoy getting bigger checks from Washington.
But tomorrow’s voters will be thanking Graves and Johnson and Scalise.