Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Like most people I enjoy getting something for nothing. I'm not so naïve, however, as to not notice that people rarely give you anything for free without some serious ulterior motives. That's why I'm more than happy to cash my tax rebate check when it shows up, but I'm pretty sure the folks in Washington wouldn't be sending me $1,500 if they weren't trying to buy something from me.
As I see it, their incredibly amateurish plan consists of giving people free money so they won't notice that our economy has crumbled. Forget that the folks being bribed may have lost their jobs and they might be unsure as to how they're going to scrape together their next mortgage payment, they should head right out and buy a PlayStation III with their new booty.
Giving people a tax rebate may very well pump some money into the economy and create the short-term appearance of prosperity. Nothing in the stimulus package provides any long-term answers. A check and some minor tax cuts won't bring American jobs back from overseas, won't lower the price of oil and most certainly won't fix the real estate market.
Like throwing a party on the deck as the Titanic slowly sinks into the ocean, the bipartisan stimulus package might offer some fun, but the boat is still sinking. Basically, the best economic minds from both political parties analyzed our current national economic crisis and came up with "give people some dough and they will spend us out a recession."
That might make sense if the United States was in dire financial straits because too many people saved too much money. If we were all super cautious with our cash, perhaps it would force stores out of business, causing people to lose their jobs and send us into an economic downturn.
Americans, however, hardly understand the concepts of saving and being fiscally conservative. We spend what we make, what we might make and sometimes more than we can even imagine making. Most of us operate on the clear assumption that a rainy day will never occur and that if one were to, well, a lot of people would get wet.
We're a nation living off of our credit cards going into massive debt to buy everything from necessities to really large television sets. People have mortgages, car loans and credit card bills, but that doesn't stop them from buying furniture, electronics and taking fancy trips all due to the miracle of financing.
This mountain of debt seems manageable in a robust economy where good jobs abound and house values constantly go up. You might not make enough to cover your debt, but your income will rise and you'll have an endless supply of home equity to fund whatever foolish purchases you might make.
Unfortunately, the housing bubble has burst and the job market no longer offers riches for everyone. Our politicians don't seem interested in coming up with a plan to rebuild our economic infrastructure, they just want to buy a few more months so we won't realize how broke we are during an election cycle.
Daniel B. Kline's work appears in over 100 papers weekly. His new book, a collection of columns, "Easy Answers to Every Problem," can be ordered at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. Daniel B. Kline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.