How much “free” money do the American people want from the federal government? For some, the answer seems to be, “How much have you got?”
And in their estimation, Uncle Sam has a lot. According to Newsweek, several petitions on Change.org are demanding additional stimulus checks or a universal basic income from the government due to the pandemic — despite the fact that a tight labor market has made employment a breeze for most to obtain.
The petitions have garnered over 3.75 million signatures combined, even though additional stimulus doesn’t appear to be on Congress’ agenda.
Previous stimulus checks prompted by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic included a $1,200 payment in March of 2020, followed by $600 in December of 2020 and $1,400 in the spring of 2021.
That’s a total of $3,200 — and yet, for some, it’s not enough.
“But as the negative economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic persists, many Americans believe the federal government should do more to support the public,” Newsweek’s Jason Lemon reported.
“A popular Change.org petition calling for $2,000 monthly payments has now garnered nearly 3 million signatures. As of the time of writing, more than 2,956,000 people had back the demand.”
That petition was started by Stephanie Bonin, who said she’s “one of millions of Americans who fear for my financial future because of this coronavirus crisis. With businesses and schools closing across the country to control the spread of this virus, many people have already lost their jobs. Others are being forced to stay home.”
“This is catastrophic for working families like mine,” the petition continues.
“I’m calling on Congress to support families with a $2,000 payment for adults and a $1,000 payment for kids immediately, and continuing regular checks for the duration of the crisis. Otherwise, laid-off workers, furloughed workers, the self-employed, and workers dealing with reduced hours will struggle to pay their rent or put food on the table.”
The petition started back in 2020, when Bonin said the restaurant owned and run by her and her husband had been closed by the pandemic lockdowns. However, signatures and coverage of the petition continues, even though the moment it describes has long since passed.
In an update, Bonin said that the payments are still necessary because “the true unemployment rate for low-wage workers is estimated at over 20% and many people face large debts from last year for things like utilities, rent and child care.”
“Moving forward Congress needs to make recurring checks automatic if certain triggers are met. No more waiting around for our government to send the help we need. Sign to join our movement to get recurring checks to the people.”
Newsweek cited three other petitions still gathering signatures.
One, which has almost 390,000 signatures, urged both “Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee to support bailing out the people and publicly endorse a Universal Basic Income of at least $2,000 a month for every resident of the United States until the current health epidemic has passed and people are able to return to work.”
Another, with over 225,000 signatures, claimed that “supplying Americans with monthly support ($2000 dollar minimum per person) until they can get back on their feet can save our communities from financial ruin.”
The title of the petition? “$2,000 monthly stimulus check. Our Tax Money. Our Country.”
The irony is uproarious: Apparently, few signing realized they were essentially advocating giving themselves a loan — one which would come with significant overhead and interest.
While these petitions aren’t necessarily new, interest in them is definitely timely. Newsweek’s report coincided with the state of California’s issuance of another round of stimulus to its residents on Friday.
According to KTLA-TV, the Golden State Stimulus II checks are worth up to $1,100 for those who reported earnings of under $75,000 last year.
“This round includes 784,000 payments with a total valuation of $555 million, according to the California Franchise Tax Board,” KTLA’s Tracy Bloom reported.
“The vast majority in this batch — 750,000 — will be sent by mail, with checks scheduled to go out starting Monday.”
Another 34,000 were due to be issued via direct deposit beginning on Friday — $600 for qualifying taxpayers, plus another $500 if they could claim at least one dependent. That brings the total number of payments since the plan started in August to 6 million, with a cost of $4.5 billion to taxpayers.
Nine million people — roughly a quarter of California’s population — will be getting a check.
These checks come as businesses face historic labor shortages. A report from the National Federation of Independent Businesses reported that in October, 49 percent of small businesses had positions they couldn’t fill and 44 percent reported increasing wages to fill positions, a 48-year high.
There’s no unemployment problem, in other words, like we faced during the 2008 financial crisis. The problem, instead, has been the opposite: Businesses need labor, but labor has been given incentives to stay out of the market in the form of stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits. And for some, that still isn’t enough.
None of this “free money” is free, of course, and our ability to pay for it will be markedly decreased if the labor shortage hinders the economic recovery. Congress may not be considering this stimulus on a federal level now, but the problem is that we’re dealing with a financially illiterate portion of the electorate that doesn’t get where stimulus money comes from; they just want more of it. They’ve become dependent on it.
And if the Democrats are desperate enough in the run-up to a 2022 midterm season that has the makings of a bloodbath for them, the signatures on these petitions may loom large enough that another unneeded round of stimulus checks seems like a good idea.
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