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VICTOR JOECKS: $1,400 stimulus checks are wasteful

It feels great to get “free” money from Uncle Sam. That doesn’t mean it’s good policy.

The coronavirus spending bill Democrats are pushing through Congress is a monstrosity. Start with the cost — a whopping $1.9 trillion. That’s after Congress has already allocated more than $3 trillion in previous pandemic relief packages. The national debt is more than $28 trillion. This will push it close to $30 trillion. Senate Democrats may exercise some fiscal discipline, but don’t expect a substantial reduction.

This bill costs almost as much as the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. That passed a year ago as governments throughout the country shut down many businesses in a futile effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Nevada’s unemployment rate topped 30 percent in April. That was the highest monthly state unemployment rate ever recorded, which includes the Great Depression. That was a government-induced economic collapse.

The crisis is over. Nevada’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in December. The national rate was 6.3 percent in January. Both numbers should improve naturally, as more people receive vaccines and states allow businesses to more fully reopen. For comparison, the national unemployment rate was above 6.3 percent from October 2008 to March 2014.

The bill is stuffed full of unnecessary spending. There’s $350 billion for state and local governments. Never mind that more than 20 states saw revenue increases last year. There’s a slush fund for schools and higher education, even though much of the previously allocated money remains unspent. There’s a bailout for ailing union pension funds. Around a third of the money is for spending that starts next year or later.

There’s an easy way to get people to overlook these problems. Offer them $1,400 checks.

That part of this bill is widely popular. More than 80 percent of Americans support that or even larger checks, according to a Monmouth poll released Wednesday. Former-president Donald Trump is as responsible as anyone for this largesse. Late in the negotiation process for the December bill, he demanded $2,000 checks. He signed a bill with $600 checks. The corresponding $1,400 amount will cost around $400 billion.

Who says bipartisanship is dead?

Unfortunately, firing up the digital printing press isn’t sustainable. “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government,” according to a quote often attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler, perhaps apocryphally. “It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing.”

America is a republic, not a democracy, but you can see that principle at work here.

It’s no fun to be the adult in the room, but someone has to say it. Continued stimulus checks are unnecessary and irresponsible.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 3 p.m. with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ Right Talk. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.