Lawmakers on Tuesday continued to finalize a COVID-19 stimulus bill that will attempt to revive an economy that has been clobbered by the global pandemic. Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.), arguably the most libertarian member of Congress, released his own idea for an economic relief program. It consisted of just one thing: checks for all Americans.
Congressional leaders are wasting time on slow, convoluted proposals. Americans need fast, direct relief. Start getting monthly checks to people now.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 24, 2020
The latest draft of the Senate stimulus bill does include one such payment, though it's means-tested and exempts those who pass certain income thresholds from qualifying. It also includes a slew of other complex provisions, including half a trillion dollars for corporate loan guarantees, along with loan guarantees for small businesses and expanded unemployment insurance.
"Provide $1,250 per adult and $500 per child for each of the next three months, unless the lockdowns end sooner," said Amash.
The means-tested method of doling out dollars has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle. Although the final draft of the stimulus may resolve the debate, the recent GOP proposal would fund the checks via tax credits—"recovery rebates"—based on an individual's or family's 2018 tax return.
"Relying on 2018 or 2019 income for a 2020 crisis is deeply misguided; many people who were doing fine are now in crisis," tweeted conservative writer David French of The Dispatch.
In the latest Senate version of the stimulus, those checks would not only phase out by income, but they would also phase in by income. Those who did not make enough to owe income tax would receive $600, and those who made less than $2,500 on his or her 2018 tax return would receive nothing at all. In other words, someone making $75,000 a year receives a check for $1,200, while someone who was a college student and without a job in 2018 wouldn't get anything—a condition that stumped both Republicans and Democrats.
There are reasonable objections to be made to sending checks to the wealthy—or to anyone unscathed by the current crisis. Amash noted that Congress could "consider recouping payments made to high-income households" at a later date. It's an idea that might appeal to those on the political left, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), the self-proclaimed democratic socialist.
Amash also criticized the proposed $500 billion fund that the current stimulus bill would set aside for corporate loans, a program that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would oversee.
"Neither Congress nor the Treasury secretary should be picking winners and losers. Corporate welfare is not only unjust but also reflects government conceit," said Amash. "Only consumers, not politicians, can appropriately determine which companies deserve to succeed."
"The government can't know how to serve everyone's needs; that can be decided only by millions of people making individual choices," Amash argued. "The best way to serve everyone is for the government to allow the people to make decisions without interference to the greatest extent possible."