Will Dems Really Let Trump Out-Populist Them With Coronavirus UBI?
Print Friendly and PDF

Incredibly, Democrats blocked a coronavirus stimulus package on Monday, fueling continuing market instability and the sense that no one is in charge [Coronavirus Negotiations Stall Out Amid Democrats’ Push for Long-Favored Policies, by Charles Lain Lehman, Washington Free Beacon, March 23, 2020]. Republicans can be criticized for a stimulus package that offers huge amounts of money to bail out certain industries. But the Democrats are clearly focused on using this crisis as a kind of payday for their various client groups, especially non-whites, Leftist activist groups, and unions. With his eerie luck, President Donald J. Trump has thus been presented with the opportunity to seize a true populist mandate by offering direct financial aid (Universal Basic Income) to ordinary American citizens without regard to ethnicity or income—just in time to secure his re-election.

Of course the Cato Institute and Conservatism Inc. won’t like it. But they didn’t like it either when Trump similarly seized on the immigration issue in the 2016 election—and won.

Trump may have understated the severity of the coronavirus a few weeks ago, but it’s hard to blame him. Had he appeared on television calling for Americans to stay home from work, travel restrictions, and massive government stimulus programs, he would have been savaged by both the Left and the Right. We shouldn’t forget that, until the scale of the crisis became truly undeniable just a week or two ago, most Main Stream Media commentators were lecturing Americans that the real problem was anti-Asian racism, not a disease that could kill untold thousands of people [The actual danger of coronavirus, by Jessica Hauger, Washington Post, January 30, 2020].

Similarly, President Trump’s worry that a nationwide shutdown could be worse than the virus itself is a valid concern, despite current MSM scoffing [Trump Says Coronavirus Cure Cannot ‘Be Worse Than the Problem Itself, by Maggie Haberman and David Sanger, MSN, March 23, 2020]. The virus is serious, but the amount of human suffering caused by a wholesale collapse of the global economy could be even worse [The Worst of the Global Selloff Isn’t Here Yet, Banks and Investors Warn, by Anna Hirtenstein and Akane Otani, Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2020].

President Trump is being asked to do the impossible—project calm and confidence while simultaneously telling people not to leave their houses or they and everyone they love is going to die. If he declared martial law or used naked force (and Chinese-style tactics) to keep people from gathering, he’d be accused of authoritarianism, if not outright fascism.

Trump is reportedly questioning the point of social distancing if huge groups of the population are ignoring it anyway. While the Huffington Post and other journos are laughing at him, this is another example of Trump asking the obvious question that for some reason we aren’t allowed to mention [Trump Considers Defying Health Experts, Ending Social Distancing Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, by Lydia O’Connor, Huffington Post, March 23, 2020].

Would journalists really prefer that President Trump use the military to force people to stay indoors—especially if this leads to the spectacle of American troops restraining non-white communities by force?

What’s truly needed in such circumstances is a coordinated national response that transcends parties, but we aren’t going to get it. Not long ago, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said “conceptually, I think we’re there” when it came to a stimulus package [Schumer: Democratic Coronavirus Financial Relief Plan Is “Unemployment Insurance on Steroidsby Tim Hains, RealClearPolitics, March 22, 2020]. Now, suddenly, Democrats say it’s just a handout to Big Business. Instead, the Democrats are proposing their monstrous bill with racial-socialist set-asides for various non-white groups, diversity requirements etc. [Nancy Pelosi Coronavirus Relief Bill Demands Racial, Gender Diversity From Corporate Recipients, by Charlie Spiering, Breitbart, March 23, 2020].

Of course, Republicans are hardly innocent in this situation either. Hundreds of billions of dollars for specific market sectors necessarily means that government is picking winners and losers in a nominally capitalist economy [Senate fails to advance coronavirus stimulus bill for second time in two days, by Jordain Carney, The Hill, March 23, 2020]. And Republicans are walking into a trap by not also requiring companies to maintain payrolls [The Coronavirus Bailout Stalled. And It’s Mitch McConnell’s Fault, New York Times, March 23, 2020]. This doesn’t mean that such requirements would be effective; any government plan that requires businesses to commit to personnel decisions months in advance is practically an invitation for economic disaster. On theoretical grounds, Republicans may be right to argue against such requirements. However, on political grounds, it looks like the 2008 Bush bailouts all over again—which gave us President Barack Obama.

The best method is also the one there seemed to be a consensus around just a few days ago: direct aid to American citizens in the form of checks from the federal government (D. Trump, proprietor). Americans don’t need low-interest loans, weird racial caste schemes, or bailouts of certain companies and industries that will receive taxpayer-funded salvation at the expense of other companies. What Americans need is a universal program with maximum participation so they can afford to stay home until the virus burns itself out or a vaccine/treatment is developed. This is precisely what Trump was proposing less than a week ago [Cash assistance for Americans gains steam as coronavirus roils economy, by Jordan Carney and Sylvan Lane, The Hill, March 17, 2020].

It’s also what I was suggesting all the way back in 2013 in a VDARE.com webinar talk prophetically called The End Of Conservatism Inc. And The Way Forward—a national minimum income for citizens only, among other breaks from libertarian orthodoxy. And it was also the main idea behind Andrew Yang’s quixotic bid for the Democratic nomination.

In normal circumstances, UBI is difficult to implement because it gives people an incentive to stop working and because lobbyists and special interest groups will obviously oppose a broad-based, universal program in favor of complexity that they can manipulate.

However, in today’s extraordinary circumstances, changing incentives and maximum participation are precisely what you want. In this current situation, you want Americans to stay home for at least a couple weeks and not feel that they must go into work, potentially spreading disease.

President Trump thus has a remarkable opportunity if he’s willing to make one of those breaks with Republican orthodoxy that he showed he was eminently capable of during the 2016 campaign.

Government bailouts for private industries, huge sums of taxpayer money funneled through individual companies, and a stimulus program practically written by lobbyists is a political loser [Lobbyists pile on to get wins for clients into coronavirus stimulus package, by Brody Mullins and Ted Mann, Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2020]. It’s probably not going to work anyway [Congress is working on a massive coronavirus relief package—it might not be enough for businesses, by Lauren Hirsch, CNBC, March 21, 2020].

In contrast, direct cash payments to Americans also attacks the main problem—the disease, not some underlying glitch in the financial system. It’s a question of giving Americans enough money to survive, not reforming Wall Street.

Naturally, politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will use their privileged position in the American racial caste system to lecture us about why white privilege can still apparently survive a pandemic and minorities need still more [Watch—AOC: Coronavirus Hardships in U.S. Worsened By ‘Inequities of Race and Immigration Status,' by Hannah Bleau, Breitbart, March 22, 2020]

And there is one amusing problem with a temporary UBI program–amazingly, journos want it for illegals too [This is why Trump must give bailout checks to undocumented immigrants, by Daniel Newhauser, VICE, March 19, 2020].

Amazingly, the Democrats are not merely handing Trump the economic populism issue, they’re going to add immigration patriotism as the cherry on top.

James Kirkpatrick [Email him |Tweet him @VDAREJamesK] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc. His latest book is Conservatism Inc.: The Battle for the American Right. Read VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow's Preface here.

Print Friendly and PDF