The Fish is in the Mail

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.

This entry was posted in 99c Blogging, Situation Report. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Fish is in the Mail

  1. I think I started a meme. Me on stimulating the economy through infrastructure, Jan. 19

    Me commenting at Brad Delong using some of the same words, 1/19/08:

    Paul Krugman, who reads Delong’s blog, on February 8 – sixth paragraph from the bottom:

    Infrastructure, yes!

  2. Matthew says:

    Tony: Your post ignores the fact that setting up “public work programs” implies that the “free market” isn’t the answer to all our problems. Market fundamentalists are as open minded about that as religious fundamentalists are about tolerance.

  3. racketmensch says:

    I think it’s “only” $150 billion. The $1.5 trillion might be entire budget, I dunno, my mind only goes up to about $1500 (nice big JVC flat panel TV)

  4. Spyguy says:

    Why spend money in Infrastructure when it hasn’t reached crisis stage yet?

    We have only know since the 1970s that world-wide peak oil would occur, so why should we be in any hurry to build a non-oil energy infrastructure.

    OK, enough sarcasm …

    Tony is correct, instead of handing out money like candy, we should be investing in the infrastructure changes that will be needed for our future, such as after Peak oil.

    Note that Peak oil does NOT mean that oil suddenly disappears, but means oil and oil replacements (coal, tar sands) become very uneconomically expensive causing massive dislocations in the US economy.

    If I were asked what to do with a big chunk of money here are some of the things I would recommend:

    – double track all the US rail mainlines so the trains can move much more effectively and nearly constantly. We are going to need trains when trucks become too expensive to haul freight over long distances. Right now the west coast is one huge rail bottleneck because what little double track there was, has been torn up. Europe and Japan and China to a lesser degree are heavily double tracked and can move freight much more efficiently than the US.

    – convert all US trucks to use non-oil based energy so they can continue to run when oil based energy becomes too expensive (next week?). BTW – do you know how all food gets to every American? by truck, which means no trucks = no food. think about it.

    – Build more nuclear power plants using pebble bed and gas technologies which are much safer than the traditional light water reactors.

    – build lots of solar central plants in the southwest where lots of sun and vacant land exists. the US electric transmission system needs to be upgraded, but is in good enough shape to handle this initially.

    – subsidize the conversion of home and business electric usage from central plant to solar electric. Solar works particularly well for many businesses that operate mostly during the day time.

    – build sea water to hydrogen conversion plants using electric power generated in the southwest via solar plants. This would provide a “portable” version of energy to replace gasoline

    And the list goes on. The US will be facing several very dangerous crisis in the next few years and we are doing absolutely nothing to prepare for them, we should be focusing our energy and finances on minimizing the crisis, not creating more.

    FYI – Some of the crisis I see coming are:

    – world-wide peak oil (I have the impression the Saudis know they are already past peak oil – the US can not survive without cheap oil, but soon there will be none available, no matter what country the US tries to take over).
    – US healthcare cost crisis (we spend twice as much as everyone else for half as much results).
    – US retirement cost crisis (US business has shifted retirement costs almost completely to the government, but the government hasn’t planned for it).
    – US personal debt crisis (this is already happening as home loans default).
    – US government debt crisis (the $900+ trillion will have to be paid back or defaulted – paying it back means high taxes and few social services but default means no government services at all – that is, no retirement, no military, etc.)
    – and the list just keeps going on.

  5. Jim S. says:

    Building a huge infrastructure is not so un-American as commonly thought. It was done throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
    For that matter 90% top income tax rates and 40% unionization of the work force existed until quite recently.
    It is as much due to the horrible mismanagement of progressive causes by both the left and liberals-particularly the manic overemphasis on “issue” politics, to the exclusion of everything else-that has brought America to it’s present sorry state. The right won only by default.

  6. Pat S. says:

    @Jim S.:

    And don’t forget Eisenhower’s interstate-highway project. Where would self-satisfied exurban conservative voters be without our high-efficiency road network?

  7. Can you provide more information on this? Excellent post though… Highly recommended.

  8. Lawn says:

    I dont usually comment, but after reading through so much info I had to say thanks

  9. Def some good info here – keep it coming

  10. I’ll give you an idea give the fisherman a fish pole and show him all fishes you have been taken using that pole, so he will know what tax rebate is all about. I hope we can do that in the real world.

  11. Robert Allen says:

    Wow, did you write this article yourself or pull it from somewhere else, its great!

  12. I feel a lot more persons need to read this, really very good info.

  13. I’m not into working out. My philosophy: No pain. No pain.

  14. Nice what type of this Fish Tony.

  15. izmir seren says:

    And the list goes on. The US will be facing several very dangerous crisis in the next few years and we are doing absolutely nothing to prepare for them, we should be focusing our energy and finances on minimizing the crisis, not creating more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *