I don't think the public at large is just going to grab those $1200 and buy shit. Sure, there is probably a nut head that just lost his/her Wendy's job but takes that money to buy a limited edition skateboard or something equally silly but by en large that money is just going to go-to essentials and/or save because of fear.
I'd argue, that the most successful plans would have mechanic synergistic effects. Plans that encourage resumption of economic activity.
Now, I am not going to go into timing of when the economic activity needs to be opened and/or optimal sequence. That is something being discussed at nauseam everywhere else. My goal here is to discuss the benefits/cons of plans that include deliberate intervention by the government to potentiate economic activity without just giving money directly.
I'd argue that actions that encourage young people surge of economic activity (young because for the foreseeable future, probably even years we will have this virus going around and it would be safer and more efficient if the younger population stepped in).
Likewise, I'd argue that encouraging earlier retirement (with financial/health security) would phase out some of our more at-risk populations.
Also, the initiation of large projects around the country could restart the air-traffic and indirectly bail out the airlines and keeping all those people working.
For instance, given the current situation, our "arrangement" of production mainly in China can certainly be challenged and politically speaking it would be a win/win for both parties if some of that moved into the US. Especially anything that is not purely entertainment/luxury/lifestyle and that could in one way, or another, be seen as "essential". Construction of urban/semi-urban hubs in lesser populated states could both favor economic activity in those areas of the country that are in grim situation while at the same time relieving some over-population in the major cities.
This could be an opportunity to imagine what the world would be in 50years and start working towards it and become the first nation to reach it.
For instance, greener technologies and automation. Yes, I know automation is not popular, we will lose workers in the future. The reality is that this will come whether we like it or not, we literally have no choice. The question is whether we are the leaders who create, manage/distribute it or whether some other country takes advantage and do it their way... We will gain other types of workers (more specialized that pay more for less "tedious" work that is more "cerebral" -such as telecommunications, IT, robotics, engineering, etc).
Revamping the US airports, train/metro stations and upgrading our roads. Cleaner, more sophisticated/modern airports could lead to increased security that is less obstructive, also cleaner airports could go a long way to re-assure passengers that the likelihood of contracting infections is a bit lower. Same deal with train/trans-stations and other public transportation.
Encouraging greener products could be a real winner as well. For instance, why instead of giving 20billion dollars to Ford just to keep a few hundred people twiddling their thumbs why not give consumers large incentives to buy newer greener cars. It is a win/win, the corporation gets money, the costumer gets heavy discounts and the planet gets a bit less dirty.
How could we phase out our "riskier" population out of the workforce and why would we?.
First the why...
1.- Create more opportunities for the younger population
2.- Decrease a bit the risk of contagion in the foreseeable future. This is a "decrease/mitigate" not eliminate as I do not foresee that retired people are just going to go home and sit/watch TV all day long . However, having the option to not be exposed during peak times (winter season?), stay at home during LOCAL outbreaks, etc, might be helpful.
How? Provitionally lowering the limits to qualify for medicare/social security, maybe even increase a bit the benefits. Allowing tapping into 401k earlier without penalties, eliminating time required for access to pension funds (ofcourse some of it is private, in such case the goverment could take the loss rather than the private company). This could also lead to lowering the average age (and thus cost) of the workforce which should translate into cheaper healthcare insurance cost for the employer and the reminder employees.
The baby boomers are in the 56-76 years, there are 80million of them (not all of them employed ) so this is a not a small change, even if only a small percentage of people actually choose to take the early retirement rather than to stay.
Encourage younger/healthier people to participate in and strengthen the economy. Why? well because we are going to need a strong crank of the economy or this could literally take a decade or two to be fixed.
I don't know how the government can encourage older people to go out to malls, in the middle of winter for the holiday season to spend big on black Friday amid a pandemic which might be much worse in that season and in combination with the flu with an already shitty economy.
However, targeting younger people could be relatively safer and more feasible.
Things that could promote this:
Well, all of the above indirectly feeds into this, if younger people have more jobs (either because of oportunities open because of the older generation retiring and/or government-sponsored projects).
In addition, discharging of student debt could certainly help and incentives for purchasing of a first home might also help.
Home purchase incentives might have a huge impact since it could lead to the purchase of other goods (furniture, decorations, electronics, dogs , etc). The rates are already low but incentives could come in the way of income and/or property tax reductions.
Taking care of outstanding medical debt might also help. Millions of Americans have medical debt, debt that in many cases will go to collection and will either never be paid or some collection agency will get pennies on the dollar anyways so the Government could very well get a reasonable deal to pay pennies on the dollar, relieve people from this debt.
Now, the ideas are crude and ambitious but I don't really think that just pumping money to companies and/or individuals will do shit. I think the we will end up paying a humongous price for this, the question is whether we can make lemonade with the lemons we were given.
Congress already spent like 3T USD, Fed is buying assets like crazy and injected trillions as well and congress is taunting further Trillions more. By the time dust is settled... we would be down 10T or more. It would be nice if we end up with something to show off at the end.
To put things into perspective... the totality of all US student debt is 1.5T... with the $$ that was already approved all student loans could have been forgiven, twice.
Obamacare was less than 1T for 10 years... so this could have paid for 3 Obamacares
The cost of Medicare for the year 2018 was ~600billions so almost 5times...
The infrastructure "proposal" that he wanted was 1T...
Call me crazy but this is bad whatever you cut it, the question is if we can learn about our previous mistakes (automakers bailout, bush stimulus checks, etc).
And again, I am not touching the topic of whether the economy is ready or not or how it should proceed or anything regarding timing.
What do you think?