Stimulus Checks Were Supposed To Lift Us Out Of Poverty, But They Just Helped Amazon Instead

By Gwen Farrell
·  5 min read
Stimulus Checks Were Supposed To Lift Us Out Of Poverty, But They Just Helped Amazon Instead

Stimulus checks — either you really love them, or you really hate them. There have been many claims thus far about what stimulus checks were supposed to accomplish when implemented, including lifting thousands of Americans out of poverty and supposedly “cutting it in half.” As it turns out, they just helped Amazon.

The results of what Americans spent their stimulus checks on are actually pretty interesting. But if anything, this data tells us that the trillions of dollars spent in assisting “impoverished Americans” lead to more superficial purchases than it did anything else.  

The Myth around Stimulus Checks

While there are tons of supposed benefits to “stimulating” the economy during a global pandemic, there’s also hard evidence from researchers and economists who theorize that these stimuli will do more harm than good. It’s impossible to deny that this virus has changed our global and national economy, perhaps in more ways than we will ever truly realize or recover from. But are increments of short-term relief really beneficial in the long run?

Nothing from the government is free, no matter how it’s packaged or advertised.

The thing is, stimulus checks aren’t free. They’re not a blanket national relief that will fall into our wallets magically from the Stimulus Fairy. It isn’t free money — nothing from the government is free, no matter how it’s packaged or advertised. This stimulus is a loan that’s added to our already-crushing national debt, and it will have to be paid off sooner or later, if not within our lifetimes, then our children’s or theirs.

As Jesse Sumpter aptly explains, “The first thing people should know when managing a household is not to take out debt when in the midst of a crisis. If my paycheck is uncertain, why would I want to take on debt? I might not have enough to cover my monthly expenses and now I am thinking about trying to pay off a loan too? That is a terrible idea. But this is what the government is doing. They are offering Americans a loan while the economy is in a dive.” 

Debunking the Benefits of Stimulus Checks

Stimulus bills do look good on paper, it’s true. But in the long run, they will cost Americans much more than they actually got in stimulus in the first place.

Most of us are probably well aware that those who make less than $75,000 were given a $1,400 check, and an additional payment for each separate dependent listed on their taxes. The issue is (and what most people probably aren’t aware of) is that only a small percentage of the advertised “COVID relief bill” is actually allocated towards vaccine distribution and other policies aimed at ameliorating the effects of the virus. 9%, to be painfully exact

Only 9% of the “COVID relief bill” is allocated towards vaccine distribution and other ameliorating policies. 

Nevertheless, Americans can expect to pay more (much more) than just the $1,400 that was given back to them. In fact, taxpayers will have to pay back over $5,000 each to cover the genuine cost of the bill. As one Twitter user explained, a $1.9 trillion relief bill divided by 330 million Americans will be $5,757. For our kids, it’ll be that plus years of accrued interest.

Where Did the Stimulus Money Actually Go?

The bill may have been marketed with starving families who can’t pay rent in mind. But as we know by now, not all of it went there… 

Perch, an eCommerce brand that owns over 30 Amazon brands, saw a sharp uptick in purchased products in March as checks began to roll out. These purchases mainly included splurge items like beard care and VR headsets. 

forbes stimulus check spending graph

Chart: Forbes

Additionally, Pattern — a firm that studies internet trends — released some interesting data as to what exactly Americans were doing with their money. During a week’s period in March, searches for the recently-released PS5 shot up to 551%. That’s not all. Second to the PS5, a $30 female sex toy also topped the charts.

The categories which dominated Amazon’s search bars and most popular purchases were reserved for gaming and electronics, clothing, shoes, and accessories, furniture, and home goods. 

pattern amazon purchases chart

There’s an argument to be made here for enabling people to spend their money however they want. But it isn’t just our money, or the government’s. It’s our children’s as well, a debt that has to be paid back. It’s also understandable that those who weren’t excited about the stimulus bill are less than enthusiastic about this data. After all, this money was supposed to “cut poverty,” not nudge Amazon’s profits even higher than they already were in the midst of the pandemic. Checks were rolled out — there’s even talk of more to come — but an estimated 34 million Americans are still in poverty. Families still suffer, children still go hungry, and some of us are still unable to pay rent or find jobs, regardless of those who used their money to buy PlayStations (or fly to Miami Beach for spring break). 

Closing Thoughts

There’s a lesson to be learned here, as there almost always is when it comes to anything to do with the government. 

This bill was advertised as a COVID-19 relief bill, yet only a small percentage of it is dedicated to the main method that’s been purported to end the virus completely, one that we’re bombarded with information about daily and incessantly. We shouldn’t be hesitant about asking where the rest of that money is going. It’s ours, after all. It’s our debt too.

And long before that money was so generously given back to us, it was ours to begin with. We labored for it and earned it to feed our families with, to benefit our communities with. If anything, this isn’t a favor or something we should fall on our knees in gratitude for. It’s an insult. It was ours in the first place, and getting a small amount of it back (when we’ll pay more for it in the long run) in the name of relief is a pittance compared to what we pay in our lifetime, and what our children will pay in theirs. 

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