Are $2,000 stimulus checks a good way to help the economy and fight poverty or a misuse of government resources?
The centerpiece of President Biden’s coronavirus economic relief plan — to send Americans another $1,400 in addition to the $600 already authorized by Congress — polls well with the public, but some economists and politicians from both parties have reservations.
In The Morning newsletter, David Leonhardt lays out three main arguments both for and against the idea, based on his conversations with experts:
The case for the checks
1. People need help. Almost 10 million fewer Americans are working now than when the pandemic began, and normal life is still months from returning. The checks will let people decide for themselves how to spend the money, and much of this spending will stimulate the economy and create jobs.
2. It’s simple. At a time when many people don’t trust the government, easy-to-understand policies can build trust. The Obama administration designed a complex stimulus program in 2009 and didn’t get much political credit for it.
3. It’s surprisingly progressive. The check means much more to a poor or working-class family than it does to an upper-middle-class family. (Very affluent families don’t qualify for the checks.)
The case against the checks
1. Many people don’t need the money. Neither house prices nor stock prices have fallen — and many people’s expenses have declined — leaving most Americans financially better off than a year ago. As a result, many people will save the money the government sends them.
2. It’s possible to target the money. Mr. Biden’s stimulus could instead increase unemployment benefits even more than it now proposes. Or it could do more to help small businesses stay open. Or more to expand child care.
3. F.D.R. wouldn’t have done it. Sending people money does little to address the country’s deepest problems — like climate change and the underlying causes of inequality. Those problems require coordinated government action.
“I don’t ever remember F.D.R. recommending sending a damn penny to a human being. He gave ’em a job and gave ’em a paycheck,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has said.