You’d think that avowed Christians would have remembered that Biblical lesson about the difference between giving a poor man a fish, and giving him a fishing pole — or a job on a snoek boat, or a deepwater hake factory ship, you know what I’m getting at. Nope, when President Bush hands out $1.5 trillion with the approval of the Democratic Congress, it’s going to be all fish. Checks mailed out in the spring, $600 or $1200, on the bizarre assumption that these will somehow be serve as a defibrillator on the flagging economy.
Now, it’s a safe bet that the working poor and the unemployed will spend those checks, a much-needed supplement to help them buy basics and pay their utility bills. Hell, if you’re hungry, a fish is going to bring relief. It’s about time the U.S. government rediscovered it’s reponsibility — and its just plain basic human decency — to ensure all the citizens of the world’s richest country are able to eat, stay warm, get health care and a decent education. There are still people living in trailers two years after Hurricane Katrina, and being told by the government that they’re probably being poisoned by formaldehyde.
But we all know this handout is a one-off. And the idea that all those poor people buying beans and pasta and heating oil and gasoline is somehow going to stimulate the economy and create jobs is just daft.
Middle class people will use their rebate checks to pay down some of their personal stake in the massive debt this country owes to China (who will, effectively, fund the “stimulus package” which is, after all, deficit spending). Or sock it away in anticipation of that pink slip that’s becoming all too common right now. And the rich? Are the rich going to use their tax rebates to open new factories and invest in new ventures? Of course not, because with the economy turning down, there’s nothing in it for them.
I’m no economist (that much ought to be clear), but it would seem blindingly obvious that to stimulate the economy, the government needs to invest — in activities that create jobs, while addressing urgent needs of the economy and society. Spend that $1.5 trillion upgrading America’s crumbling infrastructure, and you’d be doing both. You know, public works programs. Commission engineering firms to build new roads and bridges, or (heaven forbid) create a 21st century rail network to replace the current 19th century affair, and you’d create quality jobs up and down the country, and generate domestic demand and its multiplier effects.
But I guess they can’t do that, because that would be socialism.
Have a nice recession.