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Saturday, January 26, 2008
Stimulus For Dummies

A great deal of talk about economic stimulus packages this week, as the US economy careens toward recession, all the while dragging the rest of the world with it.

So far, it appears that people making less than $75k a year will get $600 bucks each, plus $300 per kid. Thus a married couple with three kids and a combined income of $110,000, will get a check for $2100 from the party of fiscal restraint.

It's a nice chunk of dough, and theoretically, we'll all run out and buy flat screens, and the economy will be saved. I'm not exactly sure how the purchase of Asian electronics will help US workers get raises to save their foreclosed homes, but I freely admit that I am not an economist.

What I am is a person with a long-term memory. In some cases, I can even remember things that happened six months ago. It's an inherited trait known as "not being a drooling moron."

On August 1 of last year, the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. We all shook our heads and wondered how this could happen in America, and we talked about how under-funded our infrastructure is, and how this is the tip of the iceberg. But then, some other stuff happened, pennant races, steroids, Labor Day sales, and we forgot about it.

In the meantime, the subprime scams have helped the economy take a giant shit. People can't afford their homes, jobs with good wages evaporate as unemployment rises, and no one can think of anything that can be done except mail out checks to us like we were a nation of apocryphal welfare queens.

Well, I thought of something.

Every state in this country, every damned one of them, has infrastructure problems. Roads, bridges, schools, parks, sewers, all of it in disrepair. No one has any money to fix this stuff. Bush's answer, as it was after September 11, 2001, was to ask us to go shopping. I think people would rather have jobs with good wages. I'm thinking construction jobs.

Why can't the federal government (who again, is about to mail out $150 billion dollars for no guaranteed return) organize a 21st century Works Projects Administration? During the Great Depression, millions were out of work, and the government put Americans to work building and repairing everything from freeways and dams to local projects like parks and common areas.

Why can't we do this again? Even someone like me who knows nothing about construction could learn enough to be useful. I can use a shovel, put hammer to nail, or any number of things. We would be government employees, similar to the military, and we would be paid good, fair wages to repair America.

It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, yes. Maybe even trillions. But if America's infrastructure is being improved, then commerce benefits. If out of work Americans are making good wages, then they are paying taxes, and spending freely. I don't understand how this isn't the type of win/win situation that everyone claims to want all of the time. We end up with a better country, both in a physical sense, and in terms of our mental outlook. We will all be far more invested in the place we live.

I doubt I'm the only one who has thought to combine these two problems in order to reach a decent solution, but if so, why haven't I heard or read about it? Is it possible that things are the way they are for a reason, and that the people who make the important decisions simply want them this way? Again, I'm no economist, but is the disappearance of the middle class really so advantageous to the wealthy, that they might prefer the nation to struggle in large measure, rather than prosper as a whole?

I want someone to explain to me why this can't work. And if all you can come at with me with is "they'll have to raise taxes," then I'll know I'm right. You get what you pay for.

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posted at 7:07 PM

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