Friday, March 27, 2009

My Stimulus Suggestions

We have wasted vast sums of money trying to "stimulate" the economy, a multi-trillion dollar crapshoot (emphasis on crap) why only seems to benefit companies and organizations friendly to the Obama administration and key members of Congres. Unfortunately for them, the Obama administration and Congress has missed out an opportunity to both stabilize the monetary system and purchase votes for years to come. I've got a couple of ideas that would be much smarter than TARP, the stimulus package, and the Treasury's new proposal to purchase "toxic assets." And at least one of them would be a lot more fun.

My Joke Proposal

The government issues vouchers for everyone to go buy lottery tickets - $10, $100, whatever. The vouchers are redeemed for lottery tickets at participating retail locations who would continue to get whatever cut they presently do. This lottery wouldn't be so winner-takes-most; there would be lots of prizes worth tens of thousands, maybe via scratch-off games, pick-six, etc.

The advantages of this option over the present stimulus packages? It's fun. Education is funded by these lotteries, which Obama keeps telling us is the key to sustainable long-range growth. Retail locations will earn whatever fee they do for carrying the lottery, plus all of the additional patrons are bound to buy other stuff while they're in there. Increased presence in the stores increases demand, which is the Keynesian principal Team Obama is counting on with the stimulus anyway. Politically, each person would feel like they're personally benefitting from the legislation rather than some vague notion that society is being helped by more bridges or some dumb bank being bailed out. This would be a much better way to buy votes and is still significantly less expensive.

Not a Serious Proposal, but Still Smarter than TARP and any Other Stimulus

My second proposal achieves the aim of TARP, the stimulus package, and these other huge programs, but individual citizens would benefit directly, rather than inefficiently and externally trying to revive the economy. With all of these spending packages (and you Republicans can include your boy W in your list of people to thank) we've spent about $10,000 per taxpayer. Under my plan, taxpayers would register debt accounts at the new federal website,, delineating how much of the $10,000 due to them would be funding which accounts. The government would then fund these accounts within a given timeframe. For those who don't have debt accounts, the funds could be used toward a 529 or another long-term type of account, donated to a university, or refused altogether.

This proposal is vastly more effective than the measures the government has taken for a number of reasons. First, it would stabilize banks with an infusion of capital to offset losses from moronic investments like subprime lending (and the result investment products) and which they could subsequently lend, injecting the liquidity in the market which TARP has not. While the government wouldn't be recouping interest from the banks, it also wouldn't be assuming any of the risk of purchasing toxic assets and the possibility of default and collapse by the entities stupid enough to have created the assets in the first place; the government is more likely to lose significantly more money in that way than in not recovering interest. Demand would increase as people don't have to pay down credit card balances or car payments. Mortgages which now hang in the balance would be brought to safety, with creditors being able to recapture the entirety of what they're owed, stabilizing the housing industry. Millions of people would benefit directly rather than have to try to understand how in the big picture the government's actions don't just benefit the rich and their friends/cronies.

Moreover, trillions of dollars are more wisely spent in the hands of the populace rather than concentrated in the accounts of the few. The Vote Purchasing Act of 2009 would ensure incumbents several re-elections and while being completely unconstitutional and morally wrong (no more so than the present course), it would be a vast improvement over the measures our government has already taken.

Nobody's Perfect? No Kidding.

Charles Rogers, former second overall pick in the NFL draft, was recently jailed for failing to complete his court-ordered treatment program, stemming from convictions related to drugs and domestic violence. He tested positive for drug use and falsified records indicating he was attending AA meetings. In a country where even a half-hearted, non-specific apology goes a long way (behold Jason Giambi), Rogers explained the incident by saying "I'm not perfect."

Mischa Barton, the drunken former starlet, took "full responsibility" for her DUI, but qualified her assumption of blame by saying "I don't know what to say other than I'm not perfect."

The band Simple Plan even has an entire song about this topic, with the key lyric being "Sorry I'm not perfect."

Even President Obama, after remarking that working class people are bitter clinging to God and guns, reminded us that "as my wife constantly reminds me, I'm not perfect." (Side note: how often does he really need that reminder?)

Perhaps each of us should be grateful that these individuals have that basic understanding of the human condition of imperfection. But admitting "I'm not perfect" is entirely useless; nobody expects perfection, they just expect and hope for better.

Is it too much to ask a star wide receiver not to smack around his fiancee (the mother of his four children)? Is it too much to not do drugs, in violation of the law and your multi-million dollar contract, and then to show up for some meetings?

Can we ask that actresses not get all boozed up before hitting the road, endangering the lives of everybody around?

And is it wrong to ask a sissy rock band not to be perfect, but to suck a lot less?

Nobody expects a presidential candidate to be perfect, but it is certainly within reason to ask that he not denigrate the lives and beliefs of millions of people with public remarks to a target audience.

Rather than dismissing our faults and mistakes as a result of imperfection, wouldn't it behoove us to assume specific responsibility for those shortcomings and misdeeds, to try to discover what is at the root of those problems and then try to fix them? Not being perfect might the reason we screw up in our decisions, but it is not an excuse to not make the effort to make things right.