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Universal basic income and the end of the republic

The U.S. economy is sinking, and some on the far left have a preposterous plan to prevent Americans from drowning in more unpaid bills and debt: Stay home and don’t worry about anything. The government will send you a check for $2,000 every month

If only it were that easy.

Since the onslaught of shutdowns to flatten the curve and prevent the nation’s health care system from being overwhelmed, more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed to 14.7 percent. Families throughout the United States are struggling to buy food and pay their bills because the government will not let them return to work.

To date, Congress has allocated more than $2.4 trillion in coronavirus-related economic aid. From the CARES Act to the Paycheck Protection Program, Congress has tried to keep businesses afloat and employees on payrolls. Obviously, as the most recent unemployment report shows, this stopgap strategy is not working. 

Perhaps we should pause and reassess the necessity of the draconian shutdown strategy. After all, we have flattened the curve, and at this point it does not seem that health care facilities are in danger of being overrun. Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to focus on how to safely reopen the economy so Americans can return to work and retain their self-reliance?

Yet, according to prominent Democrats in Congress, instead of smartly reopening the economy, we should double-down on Keynesian economics and just print more money than ever. In other words, Americans ought to stay home and get “paid” by the U.S. government.

According to Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), “The government has told people we need to shelter in place to keep safe. So it’s the government’s obligation to provide for basic expenses while we’re telling people not to work. It’s really that simple.” Khanna is just one of many congressional Democrats who are calling for the federal government to send Americans monthly payments for who knows how long.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) recently tweeted, “Bills come in every single month during the pandemic and so should help from our government.” Harris has endorsed a plan called the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, which would send $2,000 per month to Americans who make less than $120,000 per year. Married couples would receive $4,000 per month, as well as $2,000 for each child.

Oh, and the checks would be sent for up to three months after the coronavirus crisis ends. This raises an interesting point: When and how will we know the “crisis” has ended, and the payments will be stopped? This alone should raise one’s eyebrows. 

American history is full of examples of government programs that were intended to be temporary yet continue to this day. In fact, several provisional measures and programs enacted during the Great Depression are still in place today.

A cynic might say that some Democrats are using the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to push their progressive agenda. For years, many on the far left have advocated for monthly government programs in the form of a universal basic income (UBI). Andrew Yang, a contender for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, made the UBI a pivotal part of his campaign and received lots of attention and acclaim for doing so. Remember the “Yang Gang”? 

Moreover, the Green New Deal — a wish list for the far left — contains a UBI to provide “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.” Yes, the architects of the Green New Deal want the U.S. government to pay Americans, even if they just don’t want to work. 

Keep in mind, all of this fervor over the UBI in far-left circles predated the COVID-19 pandemic by a few years, at least. So, given the historical context, is it such a logical leap to assume that some on the left are using the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to introduce another “temporary” welfare program that is almost assuredly going to be popular among Americans who receive it?

Benjamin Franklin reportedly said, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” Could a UBI in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic inadvertently lead to this nightmare scenario?

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.orgis an editor at The Heartland Institute.

Tags Andrew Yang Basic income Benjamin Franklin CARES Act Coronaviridae coronavirus Coronavirus Paycheck Protection Program Ro Khanna Social Security Universal Basic Income

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