Coronavirus

Bernie Sanders, Josh Hawley Join Forces in Push For Another Round of $1,200 Stimulus Checks

The strange alliance proves once again that the one thing politicians can agree on is spending taxpayers' money.

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In the most ambitious crossover since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and nationalist conservative Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) have joined forces to fight for another round of $1,200 COVID-19 relief checks.

On Thursday afternoon, the two senators introduced their proposal as an amendment to a one-month stopgap spending bill passed by the House earlier this week. Their proposal would provide a $1,200 check to every individual earning up to $75,000 (or a $2,400 check for joint-filing couples earning up to $150,000 ), plus $500 for each dependent.

"In the midst of this terrible pandemic and economic crisis, this amendment would make certain that working families get the urgent, direct support they need to survive," said Sanders in a press release. "It would be a dereliction of duty if Congress adjourns for Christmas without having a vote on providing working families with direct payments," added Hawley.

The odd-couple team of the left-wing Sanders and right-wing Hawley is generating a lot of buzz, despite the rather generic details of their proposal.

Their checks-for-all amendment is a carbon copy of the stimulus checks provision found in the March-passed CARES Act. People will recall that even that first round of stimulus checks attracted some strange cross-ideological couplings.

Legislators as different as Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) introduced bills for universal cash payments in the run-up to the CARES Act. Even Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) backed the idea, although he endorsed it as a substitute for other aid measures on the table.

House Democrats' $3 trillion HEROES Act, passed in early May, included another round of $1,200 checks. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has proposed a round of $600 universal payments as part of another pandemic relief bill currently under consideration.

Despite the increased partisanship and ideological polarization in our politics, sending each American a check in the mail seems to be the one idea most folks can agree on.

But any idea that's a little too popular in Washington, D.C. should make libertarians wary, and the demand for a second round of universal $1,200 payments is no exception.

The most compelling argument for stimulus checks in March was that Congress couldn't afford to tinker with eligibility requirements for more targeted relief programs like unemployment insurance or small business aid in the midst of an unprecedented, fast-moving crisis that was prompting governments to forcibly shut down almost all economic activity and putting millions out of work.

In that environment, mailing everyone a check seemed like the easiest way to assist people sheltering in place during the couple weeks or months it would take to flatten the curve and get the virus's spread under control with mass testing and contact tracing. (Those were truly better days.)

Nine months into a pandemic, however, these broad-based measures are far less appropriate.

While plenty of small business owners and workers have experienced hardship as a result of the economic damage done by COVID-19 and related shutdowns, it's also clear that lots of people have been able to continue to work and get paid without interruption. The unemployment rate is currently a little under seven percent, or about half of what it was at the peak of the pandemic.

That's one reason, despite the current recession, the savings rate has ballooned during the pandemic. Barron's noted in early November that the "combination of government checks and the threat of the virus has also been responsible for a massive increase in the household saving rate" worth about $1.3 trillion.

That's particularly important when considering the cost of what's being proposed. As of late August, the CARES Act stimulus checks cost taxpayers $269 billion. When all is said and done, the final costs of the program are estimated to be just shy of $300 billion.

Even in this era of money printers going "brrrr", that's still a gobsmacking price tag, and one that comes after massive increases in deficit spending. Last year's budget deficit was a record $3.1 trillion dollars. The Associated Press reported yesterday that the budget deficit for the first two months of this fiscal year is 25 percent higher than last year.

With so much money already spent, and with the uneven economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis better understood, now seems like a terrible time to just start cutting checks again.

Whether Hawley and Sanders' proposal will come to pass remains to be seen. Quibbling over a comprise $908 billion relief proposal is ongoing. The White House has thrown its support behind a $916 billion bill that would include the aforementioned $600 payments to all Americans.

Sanders is threatening to sink the stopgap spending measure in the Senate, which needs to pass in order to avoid a government shutdown, if relief checks aren't included in it. Hawley hasn't committed to that course of action, but has urged Trump to veto any relief bill that doesn't include his and Sanders' proposal.

NEXT: Stay Calm: COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Appear Not Much Worse Than Those of Other Vaccines

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  2. So once again it’s being held up by democrats playing politics. We already know why they said it out loud.

    Literally this TDS is killing us.

    1. I don’t see the hold-up being TDS related. Prior to the election, no doubt. Now, however, it looks like just Democrats doing Democrat things like bailing out Democratic cities so they can keep shoveling money to buy Democratic votes from the Fortunate Favored Folks.

  3. I wish someone would put him in a home already… and Sanders can retire anytime, too.

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  4. “The strange alliance proves once again that the one thing politicians can agree on is spending taxpayers’ money.”

    —-Christian Britschgi

    If Britschgi can’t differentiate between “spending taxpayers’ money” and sending the taxpayers some of their money back, that doesn’t surprise me.

    1. I wonder if he knows the difference between Keynesian stimulus and sending consumers money to spend.

    2. Does he know the difference between bailing out California’s and New York’s pension plans and sending money to consumers?

      Here’s a hint: One of them is wildly superior to the other from a libertarian capitalist perspective.

    3. The majority of “sending it back” isn’t sending it back to those who pay it in, and it certainly isn’t proportional. People who pay no federal tax and those who would become negative taxpayers as a result of this aren’t getting it back. They are going on the dole, and without any rationale for who gets it and who does not. This is exactly what Sanders has been schlepping for his whole life, redistribution of income and a prototype for minimum monthly income. Sanders is smart enough to understand that, Hawley isn’t. For him, it’s just good politics.

      A great rule of thumb, when you find yourself agreeing with Sanders, check yourself. Your buffoonery is showing.

      1. And still, there’s a big difference between spending the taxpayers money and sending some of it back to the taxpayers.

        There’s also a big difference between Keynesian stimulus, which takes money away from consumers. because of their marginal propensity to save, and the government sending consumers money to spend.

        There’s also a big difference between bailing out California’s and New York’s pension plans and sending money to consumers.

        1. One is called a Tax-Return the others are NOT…
          Stimulus payments are the basis of communism in every-way, shape and form…

          1. And yet the difference between the government taking money from the taxpayers to spend and the government giving the taxpayers some of their money back is fundamental–and the people who can’t tell the difference between those two things are obviously confused.

            1. I don’t think the distinction is as big as you’re making.

              Effectively, this proposal is for the government to take $1200 from me, and sends it to a “qualifying recipient” (a category of which I’m not included, for better or worse). It’s blatant redistribution under that fact pattern.

              If the government takes $1200 from me and spends it on, say, a public park—at least I’ve theoretically got a piece of the “distributed benefit,” in that I can use the park, just like anyone else.

              This latter example obviously can still be characterized as redistribution—not everyone is “contributing” towards the park in equal amounts, while still receiving “equal” benefit—but at least it’s not a bald redistribution like the first example.

              If there were no caps on eligibility, such that I received $1200 as well, this proposal would be more akin to the “park example”—everyone gets an equal benefit despite different contributions.

              As it stands, I think it’s even worse—in many/most cases, it’s just a blatant forced redistribution of funds from A to B.

            2. Phrased differently—I agree with your argument as a rebuttal to people that argue: “There’s no difference between tax cuts and spending.”

              But I don’t think this is fairly viewed as a tax cut, or a tax refund, or whatever. It’s more akin to welfare spending.

          2. Stimulus payments are the basis of communism in every-way, shape and form…

            Depends on how much you have already paid! LOL I'll tell you right now. No amount of stimulus packages thus far are going to make me break even. Every year I send the gov enough money to buy a new vehicle.

            The more I have to pay and not get back - That's communism! That money is going into the redistribution purse. Checks I get back - those feel more like tax cuts.

          3. Donald Trump said he thinks stimulus checks are necessary. Do you think he is a communist?

  5. I’m going to have a hard time getting on my glibertarian high horse about “government spending” when a huge percentage of the American workforce has been either fired, laid off, furloughed or just plain put out of a job because of Science. Especially when that spending is a direct check from the government back to the people that were previously paying into the system back when… you know, the government so graciously allowed them to have a job.

    1. “…Their proposal would provide a $1,200 check to every individual earning up to $75,000 (or a $2,400 check for joint-filing couples earning up to $150,000 ), plus $500 for each dependent…”

      If they are earning that, they’re not out of a job.

      1. They based the last round on 2019 tax returns.

        That’s how my step-father received one. He’s been dead since February 2019.

        1. Who did he vote for?

          1. Two guesses.

  6. Stimulus? We Koch / Reason libertarians know the most effective way to stimulate the economy during a pandemic. It’s actually the same plan we promoted before the pandemic: unlimited, unrestricted immigration.

    #OpenBordersWillFixEverything
    #ImmigrationAboveAll

    1. Give the immigrants the $1200. They earned it!

    2. You are to be congratulated. It’s rare to see a caricature satirize himself so thoroughly.

  7. Moar evidence Josh Hawley is not a conservative.

  8. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and … Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) have joined forces to ….

    Whatever it is, I’m against it.

  9. It’s so cute that Bernie thinks that he is still relevant to anyone other than his family, close friends, and pets.

  10. Two facts: 1) Democrat Party, Republican Party and Trumpian Party will spend it any chance they get. 2) SCOTUS 1, TRUMP 0! Round 2, ding ding ding!

    1. “SCOTUS 1, TRUMP 0! Round 2, ding ding ding!”

      SCOTUS 2, TRUMP 0

      1. True but the Trump loyalists that pollute the Reason comment section with conspiracy theories say the Pennsylvania case is not legit because….. you know.

    2. Poor unreason. Alito aligned with thomas. Bad for Biden,

  11. $1200? Why not $120,000? Then everyone can take next year off.

    1. Now we’re talking!
      What office are you running for?

  12. What better way to help the nation out than to saddle the taxpayers with more debt….

  13. Can buy a lot of 9MM and 5.56 for $1,200.

  14. I’d much rather see direct cash transfers than opaquely distributed subsidies for businesses.

    Also, I wonder how people here would perceive these aid measures if they were billed as “early tax refunds” rather than aid payments.

    1. “early tax refunds” – would run in direct violation to the GROWING debt. It’s “commie-money” anyway you want to twist it.

  15. The strange alliance proves once again that the one thing politicians can agree on is spending taxpayers’ money.

    Feels good to get back to normalcy with that crazy-ass Trump out of the way, doesn’t it? We can just sit around and quietly watch this country slide down the toilet like God intended instead of trying something a little different, something a little out of the mainstream. Good luck ever getting a Libertarian elected, we’ve learned our lesson about electing anybody who’s not a bog-standard professional politician and a solid member of the Uniparty ruling class.

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  17. Given that the federal empire is in decline, that more people than ever before are questioning its continued legitimacy, and that open civil conflict at some point seems to be becoming more of a real possibility, I’ll gladly take any cash upfront that our imperial “betters” dole out to try to bribe their lowly subjects into accepting the illusion of unity while it still has some purchasing power. After all, ammo–when you can find it at all–ain’t cheap these days.

    Fuck the empire. God bless Texas.

  18. These right-wing populists (like Tucker Carlson and Josh Hawley) are basically Sanders without the SJW stuff. Someone once described them as part of the “economic left and cultural right” and I think that’s an accurate definition.

  19. Harley is wrong here. Doling out welfare checks won’t do much of anything to stimulate the economy. The best way to stimulate the economy is to get the gubernatorial jackboots off the economy’s neck.

    “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
    -Lao Tzu

    1. Get a man a wife and he has sex once a week, teach a man to jerk off and he doesn’t need the wife.

  20. Legislators as different as Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) introduced bills for universal cash payments in the run-up to the CARES Act. Even Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) backed the idea, although he endorsed it as a substitute for other aid measures on the table.

    Biden hasn’t even taken office yet and we’re already seeing the unity he’s constantly preaching rather than the hatred and divisiveness of that nasty old Trump. It’s great isn’t it? Don’t you just love to see it? I can’t wait to see all the agreements Biden is able to get out of Congress on how to spend shitloads of money regulating the American people even more closely. It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about all the peaceful cooperation we’re going to get.

    1. Yeah! And I can’t wait ’til he makes us all wear masks as a compulsory demonstration of our patriotism!

  21. Bernie and RHINO’S join forces to push for “Communism”…

    Wait, wait; Is there a delegated power in the U.S. Constitution for them to collect and pass-out “Commie-Money” for any excuse at all???

    When’s this massive amount of “commie-money” going before the Supreme Court? So far all they’ve done is push-the buck; although probably rightfully so, so far.

    The more this country pretends it doesn’t have a foundation to sit on; the more it will blow-away with the wind.

  22. Hard to believe that I would agree with Josh Hawley on something; but it is important for Americans to receive stimulus checks and for much needed money to be injected into the system.

    1. …i.e. much needed theft and enslavement.
      Until you can figure out how to disconnect money from being the representation of man labor and assets.

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