Americans need a federal bailout

Americans need a federal bailout
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A crisis is often an opportunity for aggressive action to unite Americans and set the country down a bold new path. After the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt instituted the New Deal. During the Cold War, John Kennedy aspired to put a man on the moon. Facing the financial crisis, George Bush bailed out banks and the auto industry. While each policy prescription is different and can be criticized for unique reasons, what cannot be criticized is the fact that the government acted swiftly.

As the stock market plummets, unemployment skyrockets, and so many people struggle to make ends meet, dramatic federal action is needed. It is time to bail out Americans. I do not mean handing money to the airline industry and hoping it trickles down to workers. I mean pressing the reset button on our financial system and wiping away the debt of all Americans. At first glance, this may sound insane, but take a minute to think about it. The total stimulus package could reportedly cost up to $12 trillion, while erasing the debt of all Americans would cost around $13 trillion.

With a record number of people seeking unemployment benefits, we face a pivotal moment in history. We can continue to bail out corporations, or we can bravely seize this opportunity to level the playing field. The Wall Street bailout over a decade ago was highly unpopular. While Americans were left to fend for themselves, the same banks that were foreclosing on the most vulnerable were given billions of dollars to fix the very problem they created. With corporations using funds for stock buyback programs rather than hiring workers or raising wages, how can the government still throw money at such bad behavior at the expense of Americans?

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This is why it is time to bail out the people instead. Our total consumer debt is almost $14 trillion. According to economist Emmanuel Saez, the top 10 percent of Americans earn more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. That is not just atrocious, but it is the recipe for civil unrest. Groups like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party had resulted from the pattern of corporate bailouts. If we fail to go big and address the systemic issues that have exacerbated this crisis, we will only deepen the resentment and anger that have driven the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Their messages of grievance politics resonate across the country and will draw more support until there is a solution.

The Federal Reserve can pump $2 trillion into our economy at the flip of a switch. That is something I like to call funny money. Those are not dollars that are just sitting around in government coffers waiting for a rainy day. Those are dollars that were printed out of nowhere. If the government is simply printing money to address our financial instability, that means the issue of economic inequality deserves our undivided attention.

We used to believe that we could do big things. This is the moment for it. By wiping away the debt of all Americans, the government can deliver the people something that dreams are made of. We can lift the burden off the mother struggling to pay her mortgage and feed her child. We can lift the burden off the public defender and doctor struggling to pay their student loans and put a little bit away for a rainy day. We can lift the burden off the new business owner struggling to figure out how to keep the lights on. We can lift a burden off this nation. We can finally have a fresh start.

Life is about choices, and we have a choice on how to move forward. Our country has no doubt been here before. When Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, when Harry Truman ended the war, and when Franklin Roosevelt introduced the New Deal, they each made choices, and these were brave decisions that reshaped our country for the better. The same can be true today. We can take the kind of ambitious action that our country used to be famous for. After years of predatory lending and political corruption, corporations do not need another bailout. Americans deserve a bailout. We can afford whatever we want. The question now is whether we have the courage to be bold. For the sake of the people, I hope we do.

Michael Starr Hopkins is the founder of Northern Starr Strategies and the host of “The Starr Report” podcast. Follow his updates @TheOnlyHonest.