This Data May Give Paul Ryan an Aneurysm

·3-min read
Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images

I know this will shock anyone who yearns for the glory days of Art Laffer, Ronald Reagan, and Jude Wanniski. I’m fairly sure it will come close to giving the newly emergent zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, Paul Ryan, an aneurysm. But hear me out. At a time of general economic distress, if you give struggling people some money, they will be less worried about feeding their families, because they can use money to buy food. They will feel more economically stable because they will have money, which encourages economic stability. And they will be less anxious about money because they will have… more money.

Seriously. I’m not kidding. There’s data.

From the New York Times:

A new analysis of Census Bureau surveys argues that the two latest rounds of aid significantly improved Americans’ ability to buy food and pay household bills and reduced anxiety and depression, with the largest benefits going to the poorest households and those with children. The analysis offers the fullest look at hardship reduction under the stimulus aid.

Among households with children, reports of food shortages fell 42 percent from January through April. A broader gauge of financial instability fell 43 percent. Among all households, frequent anxiety and depression fell by more than 20 percent. While the economic rebound and other forms of aid no doubt also helped, the largest declines in measures of hardship coincided with the $600 checks that reached most people in January and the $1,400 checks mostly distributed in April.

This study, of course, makes those Republican governors who are rejecting the additional federal unemployment money (because they think it makes them look sufficiently soulless so as to attract the Republican base) appear to be even more cruel and stupid. It’s also a reminder that this particular dynamic used to be the fundamental truth of the general American economy. It was the basis for the New Deal, and Social Security, and the regulation of the banking industry, and all the other stuff that got ground up in Greed-Is-Good supply-side fantasies over the past 40 years.

(I would point out that it also was the basic theory behind the FREE MONEY! handed out to the big banks under the TARP program, except the available data indicates that the people who got the stimulus checks acted more responsibly than did the banks, who took the TARP money and gave themselves bonuses.)

While the ability of cash payments to reduce hardship might seem obvious, Mr. Shaefer pointed out that critics of such aid often warn that the needy might waste it. He argued that the size, speed and variety of the hardship reductions vindicated the use of broad cash relief. While other forms of pandemic aid have been better targeted, some have taken many months to distribute and can be used only for dedicated purposes like food or housing.

It’s well past time that those “critics” get out of government and back to the offices of Scrooge and Marley whence they came. That this data comes as any kind of surprise is a measure of how far the political system got from policies that it already knew would work.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting