#ChecksChecksChecks is a Conservative – and Good – Idea

Christopher Johnson

Christopher is an energy policy/public affairs professional based in Washington, D.C., focused on market-based carbon policy.

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50 Responses

  1. DensityDuck says:

    Seen recently on Twitter: someone arguing vehemently against the idea of Helicopter Money and UBI, because it would “allow Republicans to cut SNAP, welfare, Medicaid, EITC…” Apparently UBI is a Republican Plot To Destroy Government Assistance.

    and I’m like…that doesn’t seem like a secret, that seems like one of the things advocates tout, the idea that you replace the entire public-assistance bureaucracy with a simple Department Of Writing You A Check. You get rid of the idea of employment requirements, of targeted assistance, of “nudges”, of encouraging particular behaviors by providing funds that can only be used for those behaviors, and you get rid of the vast armies of government clerks making sure all the forms are properly filled-in.

    and then I’m like…”oh, that’s why liberals don’t like it.”Report

    • greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Liberals think all the support progs would be cut and then UBI would go away. If we have permanent UBI then getting rid of most/all support programs could make sense. If there is temp helo money drop that is not a reason to get rid of the perm support since this will all end at some point. Temp is temp; emergency. Long term help is a different issue.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to greginak says:

        Or that the Universality of Universal Basic Income would work against the actual need;

        Because needs vary widely*; there are some people for instance who need massive amounts of very expensive assistance, while others need none whatsoever;

        So the check would almost certainly be set at the minimum (as in, “Basic”) level, leaving those with higher needs abandoned.

        *For example, a $1,000 check would be a nice little treat to most of us; However, banks and airlines need a million times that level of welfare.Report

        • greginak in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Depends whether we are talking temp help through this crisis or perm UBI. I don’t see consertives suddenly being in favor of UBI nor do we know how it would work on a large scale. How to structure it is still a big question.

          I think temp help is good and is going to come and if C’s offer that as a reason to get rid of social welfare progs will be entirely in bad faith. Temp help should go to some businesses, not casinos, that is for sure.How to set up all the temp help is a good question though checks or little bags of money with dollar signs on the side like in cartoons would be a good start.Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    Maybe not as much as expected. The COVID-19 recession is largely a supply-side recession, not a demand side recession. https://cepr.net/quick-thought-on-the-targeting-of-a-stimulus/

    “The reason is that, unlike in past recessions, it will not lead to much of boost in spending, and therefore have little impact on economic activity and employment. In past recessions, the reason most people did not spend is because they didn’t have money. If you gave them more money, they would likely spend most of it, creating demand in the economy, shoring up employment, and in that way having a second round spending effect from the workers who get or stay employed.

    In this case, the main reason that spending is being cut back is because people are scared to spend. They don’t want to go out to restaurants, movies, or travel. Giving them $1,000 will not change this fact.

    For people who are losing their jobs because they are in the most affected industries, the $1,000 will lead to a boost in spending, but it is likely to provide them little help if they lose their jobs. For someone earning $20 an hour (a bit more than the median wage), this is enough to replace 50 hours of pay. These workers will need considerably more money if they are to get through a period of six or nine months before the economy starts to get back to normal.”

    So there are people that can use cash, mainly laid off service workers, but they need a lot more than $1000.00. For other people, means tested or not, they will just likely save the money and not spend it. Which might or might not be a good idea. We have not had a supply-side recession in a long time. I don’t know if we have ever had a pandemic recession.

    New reports are that social distancing might need to keep up for up to a year to really get everything under control. I doubt people can do that.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      In this case, the main reason that spending is being cut back is because people are scared to spend.

      The empty shelves I see in the stores suggest the opposite.Report

      • greginak in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Huh? A huge amount of discretionary spending is going to go down. Not many new cars or tv or stuff being bought. People were panic buying food stuffs which isnt’ really saying they are fine with spending.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      You’re saying it’s a supply-side recession, and you’re correct in part, but what you’re describing is a pure demand-side story.

      The supply-side issue here is that people aren’t going to work. If people aren’t going to work to avoid spreading disease, then less work gets done, regardless of how much demand there is. This reduces aggregate supply, causing a recession.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    Nobody ever expects the Spanish influenza!Report

  4. This has been championed on the Right as an answer to deflation and recession for decades.

    Like from 2017-2018, when they had complete control of the government?Report

  5. Stillwater says:

    This has been championed on the Right as an answer to deflation and recession for decades.

    I think it’s a good idea, but I’m a bit of a political junkie and Mitt Romney’s proposal over the weekend was literally the first time I’ve ever heard a conservative advocate this policy. I’m not saying Freidman didn’t also mention this back when he supported Pinochet’s vicious coup in Chile, but I always associate him with concepts like a negative income tax or more conventional UBI.Report

  6. InMD says:

    Id feel better about it if not for all the unnecessary tax cuts on the credit card. Its probably the right thing to do but when do we get to the part where we exercise some fiscal discipline?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

      I’m more concerned about responsibility than discipline. No corporate bailouts (only low or zero interest loans) for airlines, supermarket chains, small businesses or sectors like the hotel and golf course “inDUStries”.Report

    • Jesse in reply to InMD says:

      Going into debt, when it’s literally cheaper to go into debt than to pay for spending, is probably the right time.

      It’s not 1985 anymore – if anything, governments have underspent for the past ten years since the Great Recession, and it’s partly why we’re in the populist moment we are now, because of worries about deficits that even center-right economists are now throwing water on.Report

      • InMD in reply to Jesse says:

        It isn’t running deficits in hard times/emergencies that bothers me. It’s running them in good times then diving even deeper when the down turns come. The idea that such an approach can go on forever strikes me as flawed, whatever economists of any particular political persuasion say.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

          Airlines are a good example. From what I understand, during the recent boom cycle they used profits on stock buy-backs, which probably makes good business sense in the short-term, but only because they believe they’ll get bailed out during a recession. #rainydaymoneyReport

          • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

            The line of moral hazard has been crossed too many times in too many industries. It’s at the point where it doesn’t make sense for certain sectors to believe they wouldn’t be bailed out. And they act accordingly.

            But this is why I think Jesse’s comment isn’t really responsive to the issue. While I think it’s more important to protect consumers and individual citizens than strategic businesses, high finance, etc., adding them to the gravy train doesn’t address the reasons we keep finding ourselves here over and over again. It also doesn’t account for the fact that eventually there will be consequences and the deeper we’re in the worse it will be.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to InMD says:

          That. That exactly.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to InMD says:

      Next time a Democrat is in the White House.Report

  7. George Turner says:

    Elizabeth Warren is insisting the the emergency corona virus plan must include student debt forgiveness. It’s not like the public needed more reminding that she’s just not very bright, but she delivered anyway.

    I could see her taking charge in some disaster situation where a bunch of passengers end up on an island, and in episode 1 Warren says “Wait! Before we help the injured, we must build a sauna!”

    Kentucky’s new governor has been impressing people by making the right calls time and again, and treating this situation very seriously. He told the state legislature to pass an emergency bill and he doesn’t want to see one piece of politics in it.Report

  8. Brandon Berg says:

    Making it universal results in it being far more expensive than it needs to be. I’m happy to get $1,000, but I don’t need it. Neither do any of the other people who still have jobs. Aid should be targeted to people and businesses which are negatively affected by pandemic control measures, not just indiscriminately handed out to everyone.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      I saw this and I liked it.


      • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        Just to be clear: Is his suggestion that part of the bailout money be used to create a government-run ad campaign engaging in social engineering? (The downside risk and unintended consequences arguments from the libertarianish sure seem to be selectively applied these days…)Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

          Send 50K to the Ad Council and see what they come up with. Get some celebrities on board. Have Leo DiCaprio brag about donating his check to a local food bank (and then allow him to declare that public service on his taxes).

          Heck, ask Bernie to talk about donating his.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

            So, a government run social engineering program.

            I mean, I just want to be clear about it…. 🙂Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

              Also, still chuckling about the $50K number…Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

              What’s the point of the social engineering? “People who have enough should help people who don’t have enough”?

              I am 100% down with that.

              The only problem is that if people don’t know that already, having Bernie Sanders tell them that won’t be useful.

              It’s not like we can have ads showing a handful of crowd scenes from Tale of Two Cities/Les Miserables.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird, I’m just uhh … observing* … that you’re 100% down with government-run social engineering. So long as you agree with the goals, obviously. 🙂

                *and noting!Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Remember what you said earlier?

                “The downside risk and unintended consequences arguments from the libertarianish sure seem to be selectively applied these days”

                What are the unintended consequences of *NOT* doing this sort of thing?

                To me, they include… erm… divorce or war.

                So, please, for all our sakes’: ask Leo to get on board with telling people who don’t need the $1000 to donate it to a food bank.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird, I get it. You’re 100% on board with government run social engineering. You don’t have to keep apologizing for it. 🙂Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                It’s more that I prefer it to… well. What seems likely to happen in September.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

                has Jaybird…said that he’s not on board with government run social engineering?

                you keep blasting this like you’re Mega Fucking Owning him but he hasn’t ever really said different things from the thing you say he’s saying now…?Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Stillwater says:


                We have used social engineering to get people to try to stop smoking, support the war, not have abortions, get an education, don’t do drugs, and so forth.

                Mostly these efforts hit the radar as well intentioned, sometimes they are also useful, sometimes they’re worthless.

                However it’s hard to see how they’re destructive, the amount of money spent is limited and these programs don’t live forever. I’m fine with the occassional gov nag, even if it’s on an issue where I disagree, as long as there’s no bite behind that bark.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

                There was an interview the other day with a guy talking about a social nudge program that worked, and the host asked him about programs that failed spectacularly, and why.

                The guy had a list. It was impressive.Report

              • Urusigh in reply to Dark Matter says:

                “However it’s hard to see how they’re destructive, the amount of money spent is limited and these programs don’t live forever.”

                I disagree entirely. There’s few things in this world as enduring as a “temporary” government program, ANY money spent on this is private funds taken from private citizens that needs to actually be justified by effectiveness, and for “Destructive” moral nagging by the government has a bad tendency of displacing more effective social pressures and polarizing the issue (i.e. look at how many Democrats suddenly flip-flop on policies they supported right up until Trump supports that policy.) If you really want to encourage people to do x, don’t saddle x with widely unpopular spokesmen (like politicians or actors).Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

          I don’t think libertarians are especially upset at the idea of a government-run ad campaign engaging in social engineering, actually. I think they’d be upset at the idea of the government saying “our government-run ad campaign engaging in social engineering didn’t produce the desired result so let’s make some regulations.”Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater says:

          I don’t think this is a particularly good idea because a) very few people will do it, and b) it doesn’t do anything to reduce the total cost, but I can’t see how the government running a PSA campaign telling people to donate money to the down-and-out can do much harm.Report

    • The simplest thing is to pull it back in income tax. That also covers the case of people who did well last year but whose business the quarantine will hurt badly.Report

  9. Rufus F. says:

    All my life I’ve been hearing that Democrats are those fools who want to give out free money because it’s the only way they can get elected! Now, the economy is melting down and the President is a complete flop and so we *need* to give free people money! It’s the conservative thing to do!

    And, uh, besides, Democrats are those fools who want to suspend student loan payments! It’s the only way they can get elected!Report