On Tuesday, the Trump administration expressed support for including direct payments to Americans as part of a coronavirus economic relief package. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he is looking at sending checks within the next two weeks, potentially in the amount of $1,000.
Larry Glickman, professor of history at Cornell University, is an expert on consumerism in the United States and recently authored the book “Free Enterprise: An American History.” He says the sudden interest in direct payments signals a shift from conservative to liberal ideas.
“We're seeing an amazing change of tune in a matter of days on the question of a massive Keynesian stimulus in the form of direct payments to individuals. Just a day or so ago, a targeted payroll tax cut seemed to be in the offing. Now we have moved from a conventional conservative solution—tax cuts—to a conventionally liberal one: direct payments to individuals.
“I think the idea is that people will spend the money and the beneficiaries will be local merchants, among others. This will allow people to pay rent, medical bills and other necessities. The goal, I think, is for the money to be spent to grease the hurting economy.
“I'll also be watching for payment to public goods—short term and long-term infrastructure—like field hospitals in the near-term and better broadband in the longer term not be left out.”