“The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn,” said Louie, a drug dealer in the classic 1955 Otto Preminger picture The Man with the Golden Arm. Uncle Sam has always been a peddler, but his empire has expanded during the coronavirus pandemic, one that would make Pablo Escobar or Tony Montana blush. The United States government’s stimulus peddling has turned millions of Americans into addicts who have become dependent on Washington. Now that the COVID-19 public health crisis has subsided, will the nation quit these public benefits cold turkey, or will the country have an overdose on deficit-financed welfare?
15 Million Americans Relying on the State
The job market enjoyed a sigh of relief on July 1 after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that initial jobless claims fell to a fresh pandemic low of 364,000 in the week ending June 26. However, for two consecutive weeks, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits topped 400,000, igniting some consternation regarding the condition of the labor force.
Despite the working-age individuals gradually returning to the workforce, a considerable portion of the population is still reliant on coronavirus-related benefits. Approximately 15 million Americans are receiving some type of pandemic-era payment. What happens when these funds run dry remains to be seen, but once people take a sip of the spiked punch bowl, they become addicted, in one way or another, forever.
Here is a snapshot of what the American people are receiving today:
- Pandemic Unemployment Insurance: 5.935 million
- Pandemic Emergency Claims: 5.261 million
- Regular State Claims: 3.208 million
- State Additional Benefits: 1.267 million
- Extended Benefits: 154,000
- Workshare Benefits: 81,750
This is in addition to the three stimulus and relief checks the federal government has handed out since the start of the pandemic. In recent weeks, dozens of Democrats have been pushing the White House to either approve perpetual income-support payments until the economy is fully recovered or, at the very least, sign off on a fourth check.
With 38 million Americans recently revealing that their financial conditions have worsened over the last year, there is likely an appetite for aid from President Joe Biden. But, could the U.S. afford another round of assistance? The federal deficit is at a record high, the national debt has topped $28 trillion, and the Biden administration is presenting trillions of dollars more in new spending, in addition to the trillions already on the books.
An Indictment on Universal Basic Income?
President Biden’s sweetened $300-a-week boost to jobless benefits has contributed to the labor shortage and slowed down the jobs recovery. With many out-of-work Americans waiting for these federal benefits to expire in September, or being forced to return to the workforce after two-dozen states eliminated them, the country was proffered a real-time experiment into the consequences of implementing a universal basic income (UBI), also known as a basic income guarantee.
Progressives have advocated for a UBI for several years, going into overdrive amid Andrew Yang’s 2020 presidential lottery campaign. They asserted that the public would not choose to sit on the sidelines and collect their monthly stipend, adding that these checks would be a supplement rather than an income replacement. However, for a considerable number of workers, the payments received were enough of a deterrent for these folks to hold off on submitting job applications until a later date.
The UBI is not an idea whose time has come. On the contrary, it is everything conservatives and libertarians have warned against since it made its way into the left’s political lexicon.
Independence, Individualism, Integrity
Has the inherent American spirit of independence, individualism, and integrity eroded over the last 15 months? Have too many people relinquished their liberties to the Leviathan in exchange for safety and security? Is the future of Western society the infernal regions of leftism? This can be a debate for political science majors, but the U.S. is on the cusp of falling into the wasteland of addiction, much like Wall Street has become addicted to never-ending easy money courtesy of the Federal Reserve System. Even if the nation successfully kicks the monkey off its back on the other side of the pandemic, junkies understand that it only takes one relapse to eviscerate the torturous hard work of regaining integrity, reclaiming independence, and resurrecting the individual from the ashes of despair.
As Don Birnam (Ray Milland) said in the amazing 1945 Billy Wilder film, The Lost Weekend: “Sure, the lucky ones who can take it or leave it. But, then there are ones who can’t take it and can’t leave it either. What I’m trying to say is: I’m not a drinker; I’m a drunk.”
Read more from Andrew Moran.
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