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Those checks will come with a cost

So it sounds like you can expect a coronavirus bail-out check from your federal government in the next several weeks, assuming, of course, that the belligerents from either side of the political common ground can figure out which one gets to take more credit for it. Will it be $1,200 per adult taxpayer in a 1-time check? About $3,000 for a family of four? A little more? Maybe less? Too early to tell. That’s being negotiated as we speak.

Whatever the eventual check amount -- and rest assured that some amount will come your way because, after all, this is an election year, and neither party will dare vote against a slamdunk hand-out like this -- just be sure to keep in mind from where this cash cow comes. You, remember, fund your government, so you, in effect, are just giving yourself a loan, to be repaid some decade down the road if and when this nation ever makes good on its elephantine debt. That, all incumbent Congressmen and Senators realize too well, is a discussion for another day, long after they’ve passed from the decision-making scene. Future generations? Ah, heck, let somebody else worry about that.

By the latest figures, Congress is expected to approve an initial bail-out program totaling about $1.8 trillion. That will include not only those nopayback checks to individual taxpayers and families, but no-interest loans to businesses that need funds to stay alive during this economic crisis, as well as multi-billion-dollar grants to large corporations in the airline and tourism industries, among others directly harmed by COVID-19. Those grants will also need to be repaid someday, but with certain conditions that hopefully prevent the corporations from using them for less-than-sincere profit motives.

As this nation and many others struggle with a pandemic unlike anything that’s been seen in 100 years, there is no recently successful course of action to review to know exactly how to respond. At this yet relatively early stage of the emergency, it seems appropriate that Congress would take steps to help its citizens financially. Even the most conservative among us, those who believe government has no place in interfering with the natural course of capitalism even in times of great duress, are likely to nod this time and say, “A little help can’t hurt.”

What makes this situation different than what most of us can comprehend is that the government can -- and probably should -- respond to help the masses, but it will do so with little thought of the long-term negative consequences. Yes, there are the purported benefits of helping financially crippled families and supporting a suddenly sagging economy, but what of the costs? From where will this money come, other than you and yours eventually?

According to most published accounts, the current national debt is $23 trillion and growing faster than the coronavirus infection rate. That’s an incomprehensible number, and our nation’s debt is a concept so nebulous that no one among us even bothers to consider it anymore. With government programs and pay-outs and bail-outs and subsidies flying around like debris in a tornado funnel, no one fathoms just how much it is this country owes.

So, another $1.8 trillion to help everybody through the coronavirus crisis? Sure, why not? It’s the politically easy thing to do. We’ll pay it back someday, right?

Well, use those checks wisely. We’re sure most of you need them. Just don’t forget that there somehow, someday will be a cost to them.