- - Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Democrats appear intent on risking social chaos to accomplish their socialist goals.

By 2022, GDP could recover to pre-pandemic levels but about 10 million more Americans will be unemployed, underemployed or stuck with part-time work than before COVID-19. They have no real prospect for establishing the basics for a decent life — confidence that they can pay for a roof over their heads and groceries.

Nearly one-fifth of tenants are delinquent on their rents. Bankers and bond holders are raising risk assessments on construction loans and the mortgages supporting rental properties, because when eviction moratoriums expire, many folks will be on the street, rents will plunge and landlords will default.



According to Hunger in America, 50 million — including 17 million children — risk hunger, and it’s hard to see SNAP and food banks addressing all that.

Want to see the future — read “A Tale of Two Cities.” The French Revolution was instigated by hunger. Fear as much as outrage fueled the riots, looting, burning and attacks on police enabled by Black Lives Matters and Proud Boys last summer in Seattle and other cities and on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.

If Mr. Biden has a sense of urgency and commitment to cooperating with Republicans to act quickly, I am at a loss to find it in his actions. His first weeks in office were dedicated to a series of executive orders and policy announcements on economic relief, health care, racial equity, immigration and climate change and energy policy with a radical left bent and damaging to economic recovery.

For example, shutting down expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline and new drilling on federal lands will put thousands of workers in construction, manufacturing and engineering out of work. It does little to reduce fossil fuel use but makes America more dependent on less secure oil from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

Mr. Biden’s new memo directing the CBO and federal agencies on methodologies for evaluating the costs and benefits of federal regulations throws economic science out the window. Whatever environmentalists, social justice advocates or any other interest groups pursued by Democratic election strategists want will now have infinite benefits, and business claims about costs will be the devil’s gospel.

That’s how the hard-left economists advising the president at the White House think, but it’s not what we taught them at university.

Perhaps the most cynical of sins is Mr. Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus. It is too expensive, off target, designed to create gridlock and provides the Democrats with cover to drive damaging permanent policy changes through emergency relief legislation.

Passed in whole, the federal deficit for 2021 would again exceed $3 trillion and leave no room for his other initiatives, such as much needed infrastructure spending, without unleashing the Fed’s money printing press beyond any discipline or restraint. Too much of that cash is finding its way into the hands of the mob that launched junk stocks like GameStop and AMC into orbit and threatened instability for the broader stock market.

The proposed stimulus package sets aside $465 billion for additional payments to households — many who neither lost jobs nor income. Seventy-one percent of the stimulus checks last spring went into savings, and repeating that mistake would do little to reemploy the 10 million displaced workers.

The package would also boost child tax credit and distribute the money to families that owe no taxes. This is down payment on a guaranteed annual income and serves a long sought Democratic goal of paying constituents directly for votes and negating incentives to improve their marketable skills to earn a living wage.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposed $15 an hour minimum wage would kill 1.4 million jobs. And the mandate that private employers provide paid sick and family leave would only add to the carnage.

All that creates Republican opposition, risks locking up the Senate with its 60-vote rule and provides political cover for Democrats to ram through a reconciliation bill with only 50 Democratic votes plus Vice President Harris.

Ultimately, Ms. Harris can decide what qualifies for reconciliation by directly impacting taxes, spending and the budget. At that point, the more creative anarchists in Congress can advance the most tortuous language to rationalize causes like student debt forgiveness, D.C. statehood and whatever else the left desires and a promiscuous president approves.

The reconciliation process is elaborate and takes a lot of time, but the economy be damned. Social justice is worth all the poverty it will impose.

• Peter Morici, @pmorici1, is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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