(Reason Magazine) President Joe Biden’s inauguration speech was full of calls for “unity” to a bitterly divided nation. But mixed in with a positive acknowledgment that “politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path” were a politician’s traditional calls to unify around favored policy proposals. And among those proposals is a $1.9 trillion pandemic “relief” package that might unite Americans the way a sinking ship brings passengers and crew together as they await their fate.
“We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation,” Biden urged in his speech. But there’s no way to set aside politics when government acts, since political concerns inevitably determine how governments use their power, including in terms of gathering and spending other people’s money.
And what a lot of other people’s money the new president has in mind! On top of the trillions already spent under the Trump administration to offset the pain of lockdowns or just to buy votes, the new Biden administration wants to distribute $1,400 per person “recovery rebates,” give hundreds of billions to state and local governments, underwrite a national vaccination program, subsidize government schools reopening, and offer more billions to small landlords and childcare providers. Not counting the burden of hiking the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, which will fall on workers priced out of jobs and on frustrated employers, the total cost is an estimated $1.9 trillion.