If someone called any American on the phone saying they had for you either a rebate, winnings, lost funds, or just plain old money by any moniker, you might be intrigued but also guarded. How is this possible? If you didn’t immediately hang up the phone and listened further for how you get the money, you’d certainly hang up once the caller said you simply send in $5,740, and then you get back $1,400.
The media would intervene, making this a story on the evening news. Newspapers would cover the scam. The Federal Trade Commission would launch investigations into this swindling. Senior groups would mobilize to alert their members, as hucksters often target this population. Most states even have special laws protecting mature Americans from fraud.
But the above isn’t made up of make-believe, a dream, or fantasy. It is the current stimulus bill near-certain to pass Congress this week and be signed into law by President Biden. Ordinary Americans might be forgiven for not fully comprehending such complex legislation and/or having the necessary economic background to discern that they are not getting a free check for $1,400 each. Of course, the previous $1,200 and $600 checks weren’t free either.
Nope. It’s all borrowed money. It’s debt, and it’s no different than any person who goes on a celebration of spending at the mall or online only to realize months and years later that he is in over his head. All future spending must now be so restrained by the folly of the failure to be prudent with his money. Thus, any person who overspent like this is now relegated to, perhaps permanently, a lower standard of living, at least until all debts (plus interest) are fully repaid, if they ever can be.
Most can relate to and/or comprehend the above. But what about emergencies and unforeseen things for which one must spend money? A life-threatening medical condition is certainly an emergency. Finding four flat tires on your vehicle or your roof blown off in a storm also so qualifies. All three would need to be addressed immediately.
And so it goes in how our federal government is selling its massive $1.9 trillion borrowing binge—an emergency. But the stimulus being hawked as emergency spending is nothing of the sort. By now, most know that less than 10% of the bill is public health-related. The issue in borrowing to “rebate” $1,400 to people and calling it an emergency is that the checks go to such a vast population who have not suffered irreparable harm due to the pandemic.
Seniors on Social Security are, very, fortunately, insulated financially, as that program can never cut monthly benefits (assuming Congress enacts AMAC’s Social Security Guarantee initiative), unlike your boss who can cut your hours or even your job at will. Social Security benefits can only go up each year, though modestly, of course, given our, thankfully, many years of low inflation and stable prices. Make up to $80,000 as a single or $160,000 as a couple? A check is headed your way, no matter that you didn’t lose a job or your business. For those that did, perhaps a modest but targeted stimulus may be in order.
It’s hard to know what the real “crime” (or scam) here is. Is it reckless politicians bribing people with their own money? It is a populace not well versed in basic economics, most of whom have never taken a single course on the topic? Is it the liberal media mob who fails to explain the long-term dangers of borrowing and debt and just gleefully talks about “checks”? All are complicit in what is really a scam. As Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) tweeted, “The COVID package costs every single American $5,750 and then gives some people $1,400. No, Biden isn’t a leprechaun. He’s just bribing you with your own money and footing your kids with the bill (and some inflation to top it off).”
Jeff Szymanski works in political communications for AMAC, a senior benefits organization with 2.4 million members.