February 4, 2021

The Biden administration says it's open to putting income limits on who gets stimulus checks, and Chris Hayes argued to Sen. Tim Kaine that it's a bad idea.

"There's been a lot of focus on direct cash relief, partly because it was a big part of the campaign down the stretch in Georgia that won the majority. I want to play you something that the press secretary Jen Psaki said today about considerations in negotiations that I think are happening within the Democratic party about paring back eligibility on those checks. Take a listen," he said.

REPORTER: Today, the president talked about better targeting the stimulus checks. I wonder if you could just explain what he meant by that and what might be under consideration.

PSAKI: Further targeting means not the size of the check. It means the income level of people who receive the check. and that's something that has been under discussion. There hasn't been a discussion, but he's open to having that discussion.

"Here's my pitch to you, senator. Then I'll shut up. Don't do this, A. B, if you have to do it, and you need 50 votes, so whatever, just give people checks and tax it back next year, if they had a good year and didn't need it. This idea that you're going to means test all 2019 income, which does not capture the need, please don't do this. Okay. You respond. I'll shut up now," Hayes said.

Kaine pushed back.

"Chris, so here's what, I absolutely agree with the White House. We shouldn't shrink the check amount, but I do think what the White House is talking about, the $1.9 trillion, that's what we need to do," he said.

He said if the checks are targeted, "we take the money we save and we put it into more vaccines, or more unemployment insurance, or more housing aid, or more SNAP benefits, we can meet the needs. so the issue about the $1400 check, it connects with a whole lot of other priorities in this bill that are about helping Americans. I think the targeting thing is not a bad discussion to get into. As long as we are going big and going prompt, because Americans are still suffering."

Hayes rightly pointed out that 2019 income is not an accurate barometer of current need.

"All I would say is the tax code next year is a great means, and it will score the same, by the way, for CBO purposes, it will score the same if you just tax it back next year. That's my little piece here, Senator Tim Kaine, I'm not a senator, but I can't help but offer my opinion."

It hurts to watch while Democrats unnecessarily shoot themselves in the foot. First, Hayes is right: Income has changed drastically since 2019 -- especially among women (the bulk of Democratic party support), who also happen to make up the largest group of people who have lost their jobs. And yes, Democrats can take that money and move it around for additional support, but it doesn't have the same political impact as people getting checks in the mail.

People remember things like that, not an incremental bump in their food stamps. The midterms will be here before you know it.

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