Another concerning proposal is an extra $1,400 check sent to each person in most American households. This would be in addition to the $600 from December, fulfilling President Trump’s promise of $2,000 checks. Even left-leaning economists like Larry Summers and Jason Furman think that aid should be more targeted. Biden argues that we owe it to low earners because they had a hard year—but that’s not an economic argument. It’s not even classical Keynesian economics, which would call for spending when demand is soft, not while supply is constrained. The problem with the economy is a supply shock, similar to a natural disaster, where people can’t spend—restaurants and movie theaters are closed, for example, and no one is going on vacation. Sending everyone a check could help if the problem was a demand shock—where people don’t want to spend—or for people suffering from lack of money. But the evidence that checks will boost demand is mixed.
Furman notes that saving rates are up. Lots of aid and nowhere to spend it means household balance sheets are stronger than they’ve been in years. He anticipates lots of pent-up demand as the economy recovers. Combined with the Fed’s commitment to low interest rates, we may even see some inflation—in essence, a tax that hits low earners hardest.