Like any true conservative gal, I hate government spending. When I initially heard of stimulus checks going directly into the hands of the American people in response to the coronavirus, my mind went straight to Andrew Yang’s campaign promise for universal basic income. The idea of exploding federal spending and taking even more money from my paycheck to be redistributed arbitrarily is terrifying and would be an unnecessary economic travesty. When Andrew Yang dropped out of the Democratic Primary, his outlandish ideas seemed to drop with him.

Then our nation was hit with a pandemic.

As the coronavirus continues to spread and our scientists diligently work on a vaccine, social distancing remains the only way we can prevent our hospitals from overflowing and a rapid escalation in American deaths.

Millions of innovative businesses have swiftly transitioned to tele-work, shifted their business plans, and accommodated to the change. Still, millions of more business owners could not sustain the impact of the pandemic, hours have had to be cut and employees have had to go without paychecks. In a matter of weeks, more than 16 million Americans filed for unemployment.

Never in a million years would I have imagined that the Trump White House, the Republican Senate, and the Democratic House would come together on a deal that reminds me of failed Democratic Candidate Andrew Yang. But here we are.

Naturally, this caused some internal turmoil. As conservatives, should we not be against this huge spending increase? Isn’t the government getting overly involved in the free market? These are valid questions. Then I remembered two things 1) limited government is not the same as no government, and 2) this is our money anyway.

I believe in limited government, but the central government must still exist and does have a purpose.

In the Federalist Paper no. 45, James Madison argues that the state governments must be the primary government resource for Americans. Governors around the country have shown in their varied approaches to the pandemic exactly how true that is, our state government is close to us and able to govern directly to our needs. Meanwhile, the national government, with its vast resources, is best suited to protect the people from more macro threats to their existence. Madison imagined war. Today, we are at war with a disease.

In this fight, the American people need the federal government – not to impose national stay at home orders that restrict our liberty or shut down businesses that it does not deem essential- but to provide vital relief to Americans watching their world turn upside in mass. There are a lot of times when the federal government should not step in, but this is not one of them.

Next, we must remember that these stimulus checks are not a gift from the federal government. The government is returning money they have taken from us in taxes. I am not a fan of the government picking winners and losers with taxpayer funds, like the select bank bailouts of 2008 did, but these stimulus checks are payments back into the hands of Americans who worked for the money from the beginning.

If the government is ever going to get involved with the free market, it should be to put money back into the hands of the American people to decide where it goes next.

But this plan is not without flaws, far from it.

A plan like this — emergency cash payments to Americans in need during national public health and economic crisis — only makes sense if we treat our government as an emergency resource like Madison intended it, and not the overblown bureaucracy it is today.

Currently, our government is not equipped for this type of response. With a federal deficit topping $1.1 trillion, it cannot afford this response. Putting the stimulus checks directly going into the hands of the American is a good idea, but when we have failed to show fiscal restraint for decades, it will likely cause more economic turmoil down the road.

Furthermore, the legislation creating the stimulus checks also includes additional wasteful spending such as $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and other programs. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Kennedy Center. But it is unclear why this theater deserves funds more than any of the thousands of other small theaters across the country struggling to pay their actors and staff. The American people should pick the business winners and losers, not the federal government.

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If this crisis continues and American businesses do not reopen soon, the government will not be in a financially stable position to deliver another round of aid. Our federal government is not responsible with its spending, so it is unclear if money will be consistently available when the American people need relief. Had we maintained emergency stockpiles and rejected wasteful spending throughout the year, we may be able to do more for the American people now than a single check that for some will not even cover living expenses.

That is ultimately the problem with an over-reliance on the government for economic relief or other services like healthcare and education. Without bleeding the taxpayer dry on their paychecks, the government simply does not have the capacity to keep up with the costs of these promises. When it attempts to, it falls further into debt and is unprepared for national emergencies like our current one — pushing our nation further toward the economic brink.

Ultimately, I do not think it is not against conservative principles to believe in an emergency safety net when our nation needs it and normal free market or charitable institutions are unable to step in. However, in order for that safety net to work and not be abused, we must govern with fiscal restraint and foresight in normal conditions.