Albert Wegner posted a proposal on his blog that I’ve been thinking about for the past week. In short, what to do with the millions of businesses that are simply not needed for the next many months as we focus on saving most of humanity.
Albert called it Putting the Economy in Suspended Animation which is comprised of four steps:
- Suspend all interest, mortgage, rent and similar payments
- Permit companies in non-essential industries to suspend wage payments.
- Pay everyone a Universal Basic Income of $600/month
- Federally back all health insurers and in return force them to pick up all testing and treatment expenses
Let’s go through these one by one.
1. Suspend interest, mortgage, and rent
This first step sounds crazy. But if 50% or more of everyone is unemployed, then the rent and mortgage are not going to get paid. We can either choose to provide blanket amnesty for that now, or choose to do that when the pandemic is declared over, or we can sort through 100 million court cases and bankruptcies for the next ten years to sort it out one by one.
Either way, most of those payments are unlikely to be made, and right now we should be focused on ensuring everyone can eat. No one should be evicted or foreclosed in this emergency. No new renter or home buyer is going to fill the empty apartment or house.
2. Suspend wages
If we suspend wages for jobs that are not needed, then we save the heartbreak and worry caused by tens of millions of layoffs and save the huge amount of time and effort when this is all over re-hiring most of those people.
Again, this is a choice of simplify now or complexity and cost later.
3. Disability for All
Congress is debating how to deliver a check to every American in need, and for some reason the leading proposal is to base it on last year’s taxes. Meanwhile we already have a system in place to provide cash to people who can’t work, when they are disabled. Everyone who has been ordered home to save humanity is now, my order of governors or mayors, geographically disabled.
My solution is simple. Have Social Security send $1,000 to every social security number that isn’t already receiving a check. That covers every working adult (as every employer requires a SSN on a W-4 form) and most every child (as at least in Washington State, all birth certificates automatically registered with Social Security).
My first tweets to Senator McConnell and Speaker Pelosi suggested $500/mo. If we implement #1, that should be enough for everyone to stay fed. Total cost over 6 months for this idea is half of what already passed Congress.
4. Pandemicare for All
There is no valid argument against all of us collectively paying to save as many people as possible. The one institution that is all of us (Americans) collectively is the Federal government.
The only other choice is millions of additional bankruptcies to sort out later.