Stimulus Redux

With the renewed talk of yet more stimulus payments, I decided to pull up my previous post on the subject. I’m not sure that taking on massive amounts of more debt is what we need, but just in case “the powers that be” think it is, here are my notes on how to make sure such money gets into the hands of “main street” rather than trying to trickle it down through corporations like last time.

Funny story about “trickle down” – one of my previous summer jobs was working in the office of a private men’s health club. One summer eve, the person who was scheduled to replace me at shift change came in an hour early to use the sauna (to sweat out an excess of beer, if my nose is any judge). At about 5 minutes to shift change he stumbled into the office; declaring himself ‘ready to go’. I don’t know if he skipped the sauna or really had that much beer in him, but he was patently not ready to be seen by our clientele, much less interact with them. I told him so, and left a voice-mail for the owner that I would work right through. Rather than enjoy his sudden night off, he proceeded to yell at me that he’d had enough of people telling him what to do- his exact final words were “piss on you“. Then he did. Warm, smelling of beer; trickling down my pant leg… and that is always how I think of “trickle down” anything.

Plan #1.
Send every household that qualified for the previous $600 Stimulus Cheque $500.00 in Gift Cards. Make them like the cards used for Rebates offered by all sorts of manufacturers now; not able to get cash from an ATM, with a 90 (or better, 120) day expiration, accepted wherever Credit or Debit Cards are accepted. Sure, there will be some administrative overhead- but overhead and waste are inevitable and are still getting some money into the system- right as Back to School hits.

Option “B” – instead of generic Cards, send out pre-numbered forms (printed like cheques to prevent photocopies) that allow each eligible household to select their $500 as assorted $25 Gift Cards from major retailers and restaurants… again, not redeemable for cash. Offer a wide-enough assortment and people will use them; at places where business is down and staff faces layoffs. I would look at a few from Olive Garden, plus Sears, Target, HomeDepot, FYE and similar businesses; ones that haven’t seen me in quite some time. Don’t tell me they wouldn’t be thrilled to offer a nice discount to the government on such a bulk purchase! So, at a 20% discount, that’s $500 in purchasing that cost the gov’t $400.

Plan #2.
Identify the 50 million households with the lowest income. Send each one a $10,000 tax-free gift. Cost of payments; $500 billion. Certainly in line with other Bail Out plans. Sure, some of us might save a portion of that, but I can’t believe we won’t spend most of it on fancy stuff like groceries, mortgage (or rent), and a few might go crazy and spend some on a summer vacation one state over. Combine that with the ‘turn in a gas hog’ auto programme; GM just might break even this year.

And what about the portion we decide to save? Why, we’ll stick that in our bank account where those troubled institutions will use it to ‘shore up’ those nasty balance sheets. And I figure they’re just as likely to lend that out as they are any other government money…. win-win.

Well, time for me to get ready for a job interview… ’cause my small business isn’t really covering my mortgage right now.

© Copyright 2009 By Brian Gryphon

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