Six-hundred dollars. I repeat: Six-hundred dollars. After nine months of COVID-19 gone wild, mass unemployment, an inadequate eviction moratorium, zero-rent relief, local business folding, and mass unemployment, all Congress has to offer with its second stimulus package is $600 for our troubles, an amount that is painfully underwhelming. Millions of people have a lot to worry about right now, and that $600 gesture is a scary indicator that our elected officials have no real concept of what those worries are — or how much it costs to live in this country.
And when things get bad, we meme. In fact, this tragedy-shock-meme-repeat cycle is such a big part of how we collectively process things that we’ve come to expect it. When news of the second stimulus bill started to trickle into the internet, many of us kept our eyes peeled for memes to soothe the pain. We were not disappointed.
The stimulus check memes are part of a meme tradition that’s come from spending most of the last year watching the uber-rich take advantage of the pandemic to rent out private islands and grow their wealth like never before. Naturally, a lot of the top stimulus check memes have very strong Eat-the-Rich energy. There’s no shortage of memes that compare House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Arrested Development’s too-rich-to-care Lucille Bluth. The stimulus recalled one of Lucille’s most popular lines from the show: “I mean, it’s a banana, Michael. What could it cost? 10 dollars?” It works just as well when considering how out-of-touch Congress is with the cost of rent.
If memes are the internet’s tea leaves, these reveal the way that the stimulus package feels like a joke, and being poor is the punchline — and our leaders are not planning on taking this country’s most vulnerable people’s needs seriously. This particular meme feels like holding back tears of rage and telling those around you that you can’t stop laughing.
Others have compared the stimulus to those moments in our childhood when we’re promised great things like prizes or pizza, only to be disappointed. Yes, it’s “free” money, but we all know it’s not what you said it would be.
On the bright side, that is one shiny penny.