New York State recently created a $2.1 billion “excluded workers fund” to give retroactive unemployment benefits to illegal immigrants, who didn’t qualify for aid from the federal government under the CARES Act. Qualified recipients, who must demonstrate that they lived in the state and lost work, will get $15,600 checks. Unqualified applicants, unable to provide certification, will only get checks for about $2,500.
This is weird enough, but the original proposal was for a $3.5 billion fund to include payments to street vendors, prostitutes, and people released from prison. This was too much for moderate Democrats in swing districts to swallow, and the fund was defined not to include ex-convicts. After all, the idea was to help people who lost jobs due to the pandemic-related shutdown, not to give a bonus to criminals.
The idea of paying prostitutes and prisoners is the sort of thing that usually gets chalked up under the “Loony Liberal” ledger, and moderate or conservative types may chuckle about it, glad that saner heads prevailed. Well, yes, they are getting a couple of billion dollars for illegal aliens, but at least the prisoners aren’t getting a fat check.
But the dynamic reveals an important aspect of progressive politics, and a common mistake on the part of conservatives. Putting forth outlandish demands is not just a matter of bluffing, or offering an extraordinary opening bid as a negotiating ploy that the left doesn’t have any expectation of ever getting. Progressive politics is committed to overturning existing social norms in pursuit of aggressive political and economic change. As such, progressives are always advancing their most radical policies in order to get them aired and to test the climate of public acceptance for them.
In his 1978 memoir, RN, Richard Nixon quoted Lenin on Bolshevik political strategy. “Probe with bayonets. If you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw.” The idea is always to advance the fight, making tactical retreats only when met with immovable opposition. As Christopher Caldwell points out in his book The Age of Entitlement, every argument against leftist proposals that is derided as a “slippery slope” fallacy eventually proves to come true.
So when Progressives tell you they want prostitutes to get unemployment benefits, believe them. When they tell you that prisoners should be thanked for their “service,” they aren’t joking. Pay attention to their most bizarre statements and promises, because those are the ones that will represent normalcy tomorrow.