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It turns out Americans love getting free money from the government. A poll from May 2020 found that 82 percent were not only happy with the checks, but wanted them to be sent out on a monthly basis so long as the pandemic lasts. Another poll in December found 78 percent supported the idea of $2,000 checks, as was being discussed at the time. In both cases, even a large majority of Republicans supported the idea.

The checks were only a modest portion of the various pandemic relief packages, but they seized public attention to an extent that made economics journalists despair. The grant program for small businesses was huge, as was the Federal Reserve lending program, but few noticed them compared to the checks. This has to be because they were so obvious. For the vast majority of people, the checks were surely the most blatant, direct, and easy form of government assistance they had ever seen in their lives. No application process, no paperwork, no filing your rotten taxes, just $1,200 in hand courtesy of Uncle Sam. A whole nation blearily came to the realization that the government can just send you money, for free, and moreover, nothing bad happens when they do. There was no instant spike of inflation, no destruction of jobs, no plague of locusts, and the sky did not fall. A whole vast edifice of libertarian agitprop about how “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” was vaporized at a stroke because, yes, there is.

—Ryan Cooper, “Joe Biden, welfare king

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