In recent days, outside-the-box Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Andrew Yang have said Americans should be issued monthly “universal basic income”–style checks by the federal government during the coronavirus crisis in order to compensate for the lost wages and reduced spending associated with closures of nonessential businesses.
On Monday, the very embodiment of buttoned-up fiscal conservatism, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, proposed something similar. His statement:
Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy. Congress took similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions. While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options.
The 2012 Republican presidential candidate—who was famously caught on tape during his campaign complaining that Americans who don’t pay income tax believe they are “entitled” to have the government meet their basic needs—is right about the 2001 and 2008 stimulus “tax rebates” (i.e., government checks). Those, however, were one-off payments of only $300 and $600 per person, respectively, and if the length of time that the outbreak has taken to peak in other countries is any indication, more than one coronavirus-related stimulus may end up being required to keep the U.S. economy from crashing this time. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended suspending gatherings of 50 or more people for eight weeks, and many local authorities have begun implementing related closures of businesses like restaurants and movie theaters.) Romney is not yet in the Yang-Ocasio camp calling for ongoing monthly support, but his office told Salt Lake Tribune reporter Thomas Burr that future payments could be “considered.”
Romney’s announcement follows his February vote to remove Donald Trump from office over the article of impeachment that accused him of abusing the power of his office. Being very popular in a state whose Republican voters are uniquely disdainful of Trump has its benefits!
Will “everyone benefits when public funds are used to keep workers and consumers healthy and solvent” get added to the list of previously controversial ideas that the coronavirus has revealed to be common sense?