Pelosi floats guaranteed minimum income as part of coronavirus response

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week floated the possibility of a guaranteed minimum income as part of a potential Phase 4 response to the coronavirus crisis — an idea being pushed by left-wing members of the Democratic Party such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“Let’s see what works, what is operational, and what needs other attention? Others have suggested a minimum income, a guaranteed income for people. Is that worthy of attention now? Perhaps so,” she said on MSNBC on Monday.

Pelosi’s remarks come amid a discussion about the next stage of the stimulus package, which Pelosi has termed “CARES 2,” to boost the economy and provide relief to businesses and families. Democrats have already said the package should include at least $500 billion in aid to state and local governments.

A minimum guaranteed income is an idea that was popularized by former 2020 hopeful Andrew Yang. Calls for it have increased amid the economic downturn connected to the coronavirus pandemic, with left-wing lawmakers calling to make the one-off stimulus payments (of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child) bigger and a monthly feature.

Ocasio-Cortez has called for $2,000 in monthly payments to all families, regardless of immigration status, and $1,000 per child. She was joined by Progressive Caucus leaders and fellow Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, and “squad members” Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and activists in demanding an even costlier version of the economic stimulus.

Sanders, who until recently was running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nod, also pushed bigger and more regular stimulus checks until the crisis passes.

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But such a push would likely come with even more concern about the hole in the federal deficit, as D.C. spends at a historic pace to reinvigorate the economy. A Congressional Budget Office projection found that for fiscal 2020, the budget deficit will be a stunning $3.7 trillion and federal debt held by the public will be 101 percent of GDP by the end of the fiscal year. The deficit projection is more than double the $1.4 trillion budget deficit the U.S. racked up in 2009, the highest one-year federal deficit in terms of gross dollars in U.S. history.

Pelosi, too, appeared to have some doubts about implementing such an income program even as she floated the idea.

“But again, recognize the realities of it all. What is the execution of it? What is working? And what are we getting our money’s worth on?” she asked. “I think we have to look at that, too.”

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