Fourth, assurances that we can afford any stimulus package as long as we tax the rich are hiding the fine print. Stripping the 400 richest Americans of their wealth completely would yield a $750 per month stimulus check for one year. The next 400 in line would barely last for a month. “Tax the rich” would morph into “Tax the middle class” very quickly. Just look at Seattle’s newest extra tax on those making more than $150,000, which conveniently excludes government workers.
Fifth, and as many others have argued, $600-per-week unemployment benefits are more than some people made on the job. If you are a rational person, not terribly happy about your job, what would you choose? Safety of home, staying with kids, and getting more money? Or work, not having a place to leave your kids, exposure to COVID, and less money?
Sixth, extending the $600 federal unemployment benefits until unemployment numbers go down could become an infinite extension because unemployment may never sink to earlier numbers even if we beat COVID-19. Many European countries have had double-digit unemployment numbers in part because it pays to be unemployed. The safety net has mutated into a hammock.
Any way politicians look at it, the current situation is difficult. Keep businesses closed and continue giving people money for not going to work, and you will run out of money. Cut the unemployment checks, and many families will suffer. Either choice is painful.
Perhaps we need to start thinking about how to get back to work with COVID. It does not have to be mindless, reckless, unnecessarily dangerous, or pretending COVID does not exist. Perhaps rather than spending trillions on keeping people safe from work, we could let entrepreneurs figure out how to make work safe for people?
And perhaps rather than devoting so much energy on whom to tax, whom to give money to, and what impact it will have on November elections, how about fighting the common enemy that prevents people from working, creating wealth, and collecting a paycheck? That’s a platform many can get behind.
Zilvinas Silenas is president of the Atlanta-based Foundation for Economic Education, a non-profit organization that educates young people across the United States about economic principles and the entrepreneurial spirit.