Lying to children isn’t difficult, whether it’s answering a question about Santa or making up a story about what happened to the dog. Scaring them is even easier. That doesn’t mean it’s right to do it. Deceiving desperate people is a lot like deceiving kids. They will believe what they want to hear, especially when they are frightened. That’s why it’s so unethical for progressive lawmakers to talk up foolish, pie in the sky guaranteed income plans because they see an opportunity to inject their special brand of socialism into a crisis.
It’s not that the government can’t support unemployed Americans with a basic income. The problem comes from using mass unemployment to kick start a progressive socialist agenda.
Progressive income plans violate the idea of America
Guaranteed income proposals have come and gone for years. The push to put them in place now smacks of opportunism. This is not an effort at responsible policy making. It won’t restore an economy that thrives because of free market capitalism.
Senator Marco Rubio (D-FL) attacked the idea of a federal guaranteed income in a June 12, 2019 podcast:
The promises are very familiar: a universal basic income, free college, government-run healthcare, a guaranteed government job for everyone. 1
Rubio pointed out the big problem with the current trend among progressives:
There’s just one problem: democratic socialism is incompatible with our American values.2
That only matters if American values matter more than socialist values.
When people face economic hardship they are vulnerable. That can make socialism very appealing.
Progressive income plans put money before job loss
In the last full month of the Obama presidency the unemployment rate was 4.7%. Unemployment at the end of March 2020 was only 4.4%, but it didn’t take an economic crystal ball to see what was coming.
West Coast progressive Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) got the ball rolling early on with a plan that would:
Supply a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $1,000/month to account for lost wages;3
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) proposed her $1,000 monthly BOOST Act. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) submitted H.Res. 897 that advocates $1,000 monthly payments as a “temporary economic stimulus” for “every United States citizen above the age of 18 years.”4
Unlike Tlaib, Gabbard gets credit for restricting the money to citizens, but this temporary stimulus would not run out until COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency. What that means is not defined in her resolution, but it will likely be a very long time before it happens.
Guarantee paychecks or recover incomes?
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) ramped up the effort with her Paycheck Guarantee Act. It’s easy to confuse the title with Paycheck Protection Program and Paycheck Protection Act. Whether that’s intentional or not, they are not the same:
Jayapal’s Paycheck Guarantee Act creates a streamlined program to provide a three-month federal guarantee for 100 percent of worker salaries of up to $100,000 to ensure employers of all sizes keep workers on the payroll and continue to provide employer-sponsored benefits. This paycheck guarantee would automatically renew on a monthly basis until consumer demand rebounds to pre-crisis levels.5
That three-month window is deceptive. Something like it shows up in most pandemic-era guaranteed income schemes. We may never return to pre-crisis levels that progressives deem acceptable. Remember, before the pandemic hit they were still using the 2008 recession to spur policy initiatives.
$28 trillion to fund progressive basic incomes
Last year Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) gave us an example of the damage we can expect from a typical $1,000 guaranteed income plan:
Just last week, we heard one presidential candidate reiterate his support for a program that would give $12,000 a year to each and every American adult. With a $28 trillion price tag, this type of proposal would not just bust the budget and compound our existing mandatory spending crisis, but it would also diminish the dignity of work.6
The dignity of work is now the necessity for an income. In light of the spending behind us and already planned ahead, what’s $28 trillion more? It’s an unsustainable amount of debt from a plan that once underway will never end and will ultimately be funded by economy-killing tax rates if Democrats gain the strength to finally punish millionaires, billionaires, and mega-corporations to their satisfaction.
Misfortune is a progressive policy preference
On the heels of her Paycheck Guarantee Act, Rep. Jayapal proposed H.R. 6918. The Paycheck Recovery Act employs the cynical argument that “mass unemployment is a policy choice.”7 Her bill lowers the earnings ceiling for government-backed paychecks to $90,000. The message that government-supported incomes are sustainable and necessary remains the same.8
Using the Depression is a scare tactic lawmakers should qualify before they casually toss it into the public arena. When Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made the argument that companies receiving bailout funds should be forced to keep employees on the payroll no matter what, she made this deceptive claim:
Unemployment is now at Great Depression levels.11
Warren did not cite her facts or exactly what she meant by that frightening statement. Here is the truth. In a May 22, 2020 release The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced a 14.7% national unemployment rate.12 During the Great Depression America’s unemployment rate ranged from 8.7% in 1930 to highs above 20% for the period 1932-1935.13 Unless Warren is talking about the least of the Depression years, she is not being honest. The data for 1929-1939 is available on the BLS website.
It is an egregious, unethical breach of the public trust to leverage unsustainable progressive policy by deceiving Americans with scare stories about the jobless rate. Talking about the Great Depression brings to mind images of soup kitchen lines and people riding rail cars. This is not where we are at and it’s not where we are headed as states pursue reopening plans only three months into this crisis.
Progressive lawmakers have a knack for making their socialist pipe dreams sound like the only right and proper course. Last year the congressional ultra-left made no attempt to hide disdain for the Trump economy and its alleged inequities. Now that pre-pandemic boom is their benchmark for how long we will need their guaranteed income plans.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus got behind Rep. Jayapal’s progressive income plan in a May 11, 2020 press release that promoted the Paycheck Guarantee Act as a panacea for our COVID-19 economy but made no reference to the spending required or looming state reopening plans that will put people back on the job.14 A few days later the Caucus cheered the HEROES Act
15 When Jayapal’s turn came she said no.
Sanders: this is a man-made crisis
Bernie Sanders should realize by now that socialism is not a big seller in a country made great by capitalism. Now he’s back in his element using his taxpayer-funded salary to promote companion legislation to progressive House bills. Sanders and a handful of Senate enablers introduced their own version of the Paycheck Security Act with the contentious argument that:
This is a man-made crisis. Our job now is to join the rest of the industrialized world and pass the Paycheck Security Act.16
Sanders’ plan asks taxpayers to provide additional bailout funds to employers whose PPP money has run out:
Grants will cover salaries and wages up to $90,000 for each furloughed or laid off employee, plus benefits, as well as up to an additional 20 percent of revenues to cover fixed operating costs such as rent, utilities, insurance policies, and maintenance.17
The ridiculous waste of time and congressional salaries that flourishes on Capitol Hill is more evident than ever with these sham progressive proposals that target desperate Americans seeking a lifeline. Bold statements assure us that all of our needs will be taken care of with the passage of another, more massive spending juggernaut.
No HEROES for this progressive
Nancy Pelosi’s newest $3 trillion relief effort is not good enough for Jayapal, who voted no to the HEROES Act. She justified her defection with an unsubstantiated threat about our jobless rate that echoed Sanders’ remark blaming the U.S. for joblessness:
Mass unemployment is a choice and we cannot wait to let the rate of unemployment rise to 40% or 50%, which it will do if we do not act boldly. This is the highest level of unemployment we have seen since the Great Depression and we cannot sit idly by and only offer half measures or let it rise. 18
“Based on science” is a phrase popular with Democrats blasting the Trump administration for anything they can dream up to stymie White House recovery efforts. They don’t use the same scrutiny with their own numbers. You’ll never hear a progressive use the phrase “based on economic facts” because the truth will never align with their policy rationales.
Here’s what the Congressional Research Service says about where the unemployment rate is going:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last month projected that the unemployment rate will average 14% during the second quarter of 2020 and 11.4% during calendar year 2020, before falling slightly to 10.1% in 2021.19
Of course, if the government is paying you to stay home you may never feel safe going back to work. That’s something progressives take into consideration:
To keep people home, we must make sure they get their paycheck, can access their health care and don’t feel pressured to return to work before it’s safe.20
This doesn’t stop with a guaranteed income plan
The ultra-left has more than just income plans on the table. Medicare for All stalled with the demise of Bernie Sanders presidential bid. That didn’t stop him from backing the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act to:
make sure that through the duration of the crisis, no American would pay any out-of-pocket expenses for health care—including prescription drug coverage.21
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) backed a Medicare Crisis Program that would retroactively add jobless Americans and their households to the Medicare rolls because:
A health care system more concerned with profits than patients was never equipped to confront a pandemic like COVID-19. Because of our nation’s stubborn failure to guarantee universal health care, millions of people are now not only out of a job, but out of health care coverage as coronavirus ravages their communities.22
This program is also promoted as temporary. If the deed is done and progressive universal health care gets underway the health care challenges of this pandemic will never end.
The danger with these unrealistic, irresponsible proposals isn’t that they will become law. That won’t happen unless Republicans are defeated across the board in November. Even then, Democrats with cooler heads may stand in the way despite Nancy Pelosi’s recent hint that a guaranteed income might be a possibility.
The real threat is kindling false hope and expectations in frightened, vulnerable people, especially those who already support extreme progressives and their socialist schemes without any thought to political and economic reality other than what they are told to believe.
Remember, when people are scared they believe what they need to hear. When they don’t get what they believe they deserve they get angry. This is less a battle over realistic policy expectations and more a struggle for the hearts and minds of Americans in a time of historic misfortune.
Progressive takeover of wages and salaries is socialism, not protection
There is a fundamental untruth in the progressive rhetoric about the “unprecedented threat”23 of job loss and economic insecurity:
Businesses are closing and people are losing their jobs right now because of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Congresswoman DeLauro.24
That’s only partially true. The threat working people face is not from a virus. It comes from our response to the virus, just like our own immune response to COVID-19 can make recovery more difficult, if not impossible. Much of that destructive response comes from Democratic Party state and local leaders who need money and know that this crisis is an opportunity they may never see again.
Progressive livable wage hypocrisy
A letter to House and Senate leaders from a long list of congressional progressives demands an “Essential Workers Bill of Rights.” Included in the laundry list of union entitlements, paid leave, whistle blower protection, no-cost health care, corporate accountability, and more is this demand:
Every worker should be paid a livable wage, and essential employees are no exception. During this pandemic, essential workers should also be paid robust premium pay to recognize the critical contribution they are making to our health and our economy.25
That livable wage isn’t coming from progressives and if we believe warnings from Warren, Sanders, Jayapal, and others that Great Depression unemployment is just around the bend then it won’t be coming from employers, either.
Where does that leave us? Adding trillions in debt to pay out a basic income progressives agree is insufficient while demanding that struggling businesses pay more than they paid before the pandemic struck is foolishness pure and simple. That’s what happens when unprecedented political opportunity overrides common sense and simple economics.
Science isn’t the only thing that we should rely on as we navigate this very dark, very new terrain. One thing is certain. Thinly disguised socialism that puts Washington in control of desperate employers and employees won’t make anything better except the political careers of progressive lawmakers.
UPDATE June 5, 2020: what happened to that progressive Great Depression?
Sorry progressives. It didn’t happen. We had a pretty good May under the circumstances. Unemployment went down, not up. I know it’s a shock and a disappointment. Things happen. Maybe you will get lucky and it will get worse next month. Perhaps we’ll see a spike in COVID-19 from the mass protests. That could raise unemployment and give you more to threaten the public with next month. One can only hope that things will get worse. Otherwise, everything you’ve been telling a worried America will be seen for the lie it is.
1“Marco Rubio Blasts Democratic Socialism: It Will Never Be the Answer.” March Rubio. June 12, 2019. https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/
2019/6/marco-rubio-blasts-democratic-socialism-it-will-never-be-the-answer, retrieved May 21, 2019.
3“Congressman Earl Blumenauer Releases COVID-19 Economic Stabilization Plan.” U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer. March 17, 2020. https://blumenauer.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressman-earl-blumenauer-releases-covid-19-economic-stabilization, retrieved May 19, 2020.
4“Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Introduces Resolution Calling for Emergency Universal Basic Payment as Direct Coronavirus Pandemic Relief.” Tulsi Gabbard. March 12, 2020. https://gabbard.house.gov/news/press-releases/rep-tulsi-gabbard-introduces-resolution-calling-emergency-universal-basic, retrieved May 20, 2020.
5“Following Latest Unemployment Numbers, Support Grows for Jayapal’s Paycheck Guarantee Act.” Pramily Jayapal. April 17, 2020. https://jayapal.house.gov/2020/04/17/following-latest-unemployment-numbers-support-grows-for-jayapals-paycheck-guarantee-act/, retrieved May 14, 2020.
6“Vice Ranking Member Bill Johnson (R-OH) Opening Remarks at Hearing Entitled: Solutions to Rising Economic Inequality.” Budget. House Republicans. September 19, 2019. https://republicans-budget.house.gov/speeches-statements/vice-ranking-member-bill-johnson-r-oh-opening-remarks-at-hearing-entitled-solutions-to-rising-economic-inequality/, retrieved May 22, 2020.
7“With Wide-Ranging Support, Jayapal Introduces Paycheck Recovery Act to Keep Workers in Their Jobs, Stop Mass Unemployment and Deliver Direct Relief to Businesses of All Sizes.” Pramila Jayapal. May 19, 2020. https://jayapal.house.gov/2020/05/19/jayapal-introduces-paycheck-recovery-act/, retrieved May 20, 2020.
9“Sanders, Warner, Jones and Blumenthal Unveil Sweeping Policy to Guarantee Workers’ Paychecks.” Bernie Sanders. April 18, 2020. https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sanders-warner-jones-and-blumenthal-unveil-sweeping-policy-to-guarantee-workers-paychecks, retrieved May 15, 2020.
11“Secretary Mnuchin Refuses to Use His Authority to Require Companies Receiving Taxpayer Bailout Money Keep Workers on Payroll.” Elizabeth Warren. May 19, 2020. https://www.warren.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/secretary-mnuchin-refuses-to-use-his-authority-to-require-companies-receiving-taxpayer-bailout-money-keep-workers-on-payroll, retrieved May 22, 2020.
12“State Employment and Unemployment Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. May 22, 2020. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/laus.nr0.htm, retrieved May 23, 2020.
13“Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (SIC).” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/
from_year=1929&to_year=1939&periods_option=specific_periods&periods=Annual+Data, extracted May 23, 2020.
14“Congressional Hispanic Caucus Endorses Paycheck Guarantee Act.” Congressional Hispanic Caucus. May 11, 2020. https://chc.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressional-hispanic-caucus-endorses-paycheck-guarantee-act, retrieved May 18, 2020.
15“Congressional Hispanic Caucus Statement on Passage of the Heroes Act.” Congressional Hispanic Caucus. May 15, 2020. https://chc.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressional-hispanic-caucus-statement-on-passage-of-the-heroes-act, retrieved May 25, 2020.
16“Sanders, Warner, Jones and Blumenthal Unveil Sweeping Policy to Guarantee Workers’ Paychecks.” Bernie Sanders. April 18, 2020. Op. cit.
17“Senators Release ‘Paycheck Security’ Grant Proposal to Help Businesses Keep Workers on Payrolls.” Mark R. Warner. April 17, 2020. https://www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/
pressreleases?id=F5DDE16C-0E91-472A-B2FF-B1E57A8C5372, retrieved May 25, 2020.
18“Jayapal to Vote No on Heroes Act.” Pramila Jayapal. May 15, 2020. https://jayapal.house.gov/2020/05/15/jayapal-to-vote-no-on-heroes-act-as-legislation-fails-to-protect-the-paychecks-of-workers-guarantee-families-affordable-health-care-provide-sufficient-relief-to-all-businesses-and-safeguard-pensions/, retrieved May 18, 2020.
19“COVID-19: U.S. Economic Effects.” Congressional Research Service. May 13, 2020. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/
IN/IN11388, retrieved May 18, 2020.
20“Jayapal to Vote No on Heroes Act.” Pramila Jayapal. May 15, 2020. Op. cit.
21“Sanders, Jayapal Unveil Emergency Legislation to Provide Health Care for All During Pandemic.” Bernie Sanders. April 10, 2020. https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/
press-releases/sanders-jayapal-unveil-emergency-legislation-to-provide-health-care-for-all-during-pandemic-, retrieved May 25, 2020.
22“Kennedy & Jayapal Introduce Legislation to Guarantee Health Coverage During COVID-19 Pandemic.” Joe Kennedy III. May 1, 2020. https://kennedy.house.gov/newsroom/press-releases/kennedy-and-jayapal-introduce-legislation-to-guarantee-health-coverage-during-covid-19-pandemic, retrieved May 25, 2020.
23“Pocan, DeLauro to Introduce Layoff Prevention Bills.” Mark Pocan. March 20, 2020. https://pocan.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/pocan-delauro-to-introduce-layoff-prevention-bills, retrieved May 15, 2020.
25“Release: Rep. Khanna, Sen. Warren Lead Letter to Include Essential Workers Bill of Rights in Next Relief Package.” Ro Khanna. April 28, 2020. https://khanna.house.gov/media/press-releases/release-rep-khanna-sen-warren-lead-letter-include-essential-workers-bill-rights, retrieved May 24, 2020.
*Image retrieved from U.S. Bureau of Engraving. MoneyFactory.gov. https://www.moneyfactory.gov/images/
697_IMG_0620_fs.jpg, retrieved May 25, 2020.