Democrats are trying to take advantage of this national (and global) coronavirus crisis to insert unnecessary provisions in their massive $2.5 trillion “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act.”
The legislation is little more than an “ideological wish list” of pet projects and liberal fantasies. There are plenty of bizarre tidbits to pick apart in this legislation, which the reliable denizens of Twitter have been diligently doing for the last day. But, one particularly strange provision offered by the legislation (albeit temporarily taken out of the bill) establishes a vague “digital dollar” system that would waste precious time and taxpayer dollars to duplicate private banking.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and company need to keep these disastrous provisions out of any coronavirus “relief” provisions and give Americans the straightforward bill that everyone desperately needs right now.
It seems like every passing hour brings a new iteration of House Democrats’ wish list package masquerading as coronavirus stimulus legislation. Previous iterations of the legislation contained a particularly strange idea, instituting a “digital dollar” which “shall mean a balance expressed as a dollar value consisting of digital ledger entries that are recorded as liabilities in the accounts of any Federal Reserve bank; or an electronic unit of value, redeemable by an eligible financial institution (as determined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System).”
This federal foray into banking is designed to get relief dollars directly to the American people who can store federal payments in a “digital wallet,” which member banks of the Federal Reserve would be required to offer. In addition, the Federal Reserve banks themselves would directly offer digital dollar wallets to Americans. There’s even a starring role for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which is struggling as it is to provide core mail services to its consumers. The USPS would help unbanked Americans and Americans without proper identification get access to these digital wallets, and even set up ATMs where citizens can withdraw dollars from their virtual accounts.
This cockamamie system is more of a half-baked thought exercise than an actual, implementable policy “solution.” First, there is no point in duplicating the entire U.S. banking system at a time when existing financial institutions are perfectly capable of getting money to consumers. Even for unbanked Americans daunted by the prospect of opening up an account, there are plenty of banks offering free, no-strings-attached mobile deposit services to consumers. Money could then be withdrawn at virtually any ATM across the country with assurances by banks to suspend withdrawal surcharges for any money taken out from another bank. Surely this tried-and-true way of cashing government checks in the mail (i.e. welfare, tax refunds) beats taking time to create a whole new banking infrastructure. And it’s not as if struggling banks across the country, which employ roughly 2 million Americans, need a new source of competition from a federal program that can’t go out of business.
But perhaps the craziest part of this strange scheme is getting the USPS involved in providing financial services to Americans. The beleaguered agency isn’t exactly the best at managing finances with unfunded obligations totaling more than $140 billion. Their failing money order business is poorly handled, and agency employees have repeatedly used USPS resources to create counterfeit money orders.
Given the agency’s well-documented problems in keeping tabs on their workforce and having directives flow downward, trusting the USPS with billions of dollars in digital wallet accounts is just asking for trouble.
Let’s hope that Speaker Pelosi and company keep digital currencies and wallets out of coronavirus relief legislation (and other pieces of legislation) and focus on the real issues facing Americans.