$50,000 Checks

In total, the federal government has pumped $4.8 trillion into the economy over the past 11 months. … Adjusted for inflation, we have spent 20 percent more than the U.S. spent on World War II…. [I]magine instead what the U.S. would have looked like had the government just divided that $4.8 trillion among U.S. households. … [A]sk yourself whether we would have been better off had the government simply cut households $50,000 checks. If you’re not boiling mad right now, you haven’t been paying close enough attention. … So why is it, then, that the federal government seems never to consider the option of replacing government assistance programs with direct payments? In the Covid crisis, and in the broader war against poverty, this would have solved a vexing problem as efficiently as possible. And therein lies the rub. Politicians aren’t all that concerned with solving problems efficiently. They seem always to prefer expanding the power they wield…. Politicians make grandiose claims about their various and sundry programs because those claims resonate with the people who receive government largesse. Not surprisingly, those claims resonate even more with the entrenched, ever-growing federal bureaucracy. But in the end, people receive pennies on the dollar compared to what they could have received had we decided just to write a check.

James R. Harrigan and Antony Davies, “Politicians Turn Problems Into Power”

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