Do older folks need the stimulus check?

Back in the late 1970s, I played bridge with a bunch of other guys on a semi-regular basis. We played for money. The stakes weren’t very high — never more than a penny a point — but back then they were enough to hold our interest.

My bridge skills lacked finesse, to use a word familiar to bridge players. I learned quite a bit about the game, but it came at a cost. One of the unfortunate aspects of bridge is that it is played by partners. At least it was generally unfortunate for my partners.

I got used to hearing my partner, whoever it might be on that particular round, ask me the dreaded question: “What’s the matter, don’t you like money?” That query followed misplays by me, which occurred with distressing regularity.

I like money. Always have, always will. But I don’t like it enough to feel good about acquiring it under all circumstances.

One of the uncomfortable circumstances is now upon Kathy and me. It sounds as if we will receive, at some time in the next few weeks, up to $2,400 from the federal government. 

Congress passed, and President Trump signed, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — the CARES Act. 

It provides up to $1,200 — up to $2,400 for couples filing federal income taxes jointly — as a rebate against those taxes, and another $500 per dependent child.

People who had no federal tax liability in recent years will receive a minimum of $600 ($1,200 per couple).

The idea is to provide relief for individuals whose income is reduced by the slowdown in the economy. 

But Kathy’s and my income is not dependent on our gainful employment. We don’t have any to speak of — at least, none that relates to the ups and downs of the overall economy. 

Retired people whose annual revenue is from pensions like Social Security and IPERS, or corporation pensions, or interest or dividends from investments, or part-time jobs that will not be stopped because of the pandemic, sustain no income reduction from COVID-19.

So it seems to me that there’s no reason we should get at least $1,200 from the government.

We can find ways to use it. But we shouldn’t get it.

There are many older Americans whose quality of life suffers from a lack of resources, of course. There’s no doubt about that. I’d like to see their ongoing revenues increased through some form of income redistribution, and there are many ways to accomplish that.

But a one-time payment isn’t going to do it.

The CARES Act is estimated to distribute about $2.2 trillion in grants and loans to various sectors of the American economy. Big businesses get $500 billion, small businesses $377 billion, state and local governments $340 billion, extra unemployment benefits $260 billion, public services $180 billion, and student loans and other miscellaneous payments $44 billion. 

Then there is the estimated $300 billion that goes to individuals, up to $1,200 per adult ($2,400 per couple) and $500 per child.

I don’t know how much of that $300 billion will go to older retired folks like us. If it were a third of the $300, that’s $100 billion. That would be less than 5 percent of the $2.2 trillion.

But as the late, great Everett Dirksen is reputed to have pronounced (supposedly on the Johnny Carson Show), “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

Seems like there would be any number of better places to put billions of dollars than to shore up the bank accounts of retired folks like us whose incomes will continue at their usual level regardless of the effects of the coronavirus.

But then, older Americans vote, in large numbers. Wouldn’t want to leave them out just because they might show their resentment at the ballot box.

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