Friday, January 25, 2008

The Economist In Me Is Puzzled

Okay -- there is no economist in me. When John and I first met, I routinely wept over the state of my checkbook: always a deficit!

But my bank statements kept coming back with a hefty amount in my account, at least hefty for my 29-year old graduate student self. The bank said I had about $3000. My checkbook told me I carried a deficit of $30.

Every time a statement arrived in the mail, anxiety rendered me helpless. I cried and fretted. Really, I was broke. Something was terribly wrong. I would get into trouble, pretending to have all that money. Make that evil bank go away!

John queried me on my accounting methods.

Me: "Well, if I write a check for $4.80, I record that check as $6.00 in my checkbook, just in case. And if I get a paycheck for something like $327., I record a deposit of $300 or maybe $290. Just in case."

I had been doing this for three years.

John had no adequate verbal response to that wickedly clever accounting system.

Instead, he sat down with three year's worth of bank statements and figured out -- surprise!! -- the bank was right and I was wrong. I was flush. Liquid with cash.

So take the following with a tremendous grain of salt. But I am puzzled by the economic 'stimulus' plan brought to us by both sides of the political aisle. Sure, there are tax credits and snip and small ticket items hidden therein.

But the main stage appears to be the "Rebate." Uh, rebate for what, exactly. What coupon did I clip and mail?

Taxes seem like such a black hole. And we're, what? Oh, only 9.13 trillion dollars in debt as a nation. Whew. Things could be worse! We could have an amoral bottomless money pit draining nearly $275 million dollars a day -- oh, wait! We do. What with the Presidential candidates shifting their focus to the economy, I forgot about that darn war. Maybe the "Rebate" is on the $4,100 of my tax dollars that went to fund the war.

And the trillion dollar question is: is $600 for a single person a transformative number? Or maybe just one extra bill paid or one crisis averted. Surely, there are more problems down that road that a small amount of cash can't fix.

Our family will get about $2100 -- hey, that's $300 bucks for each baby I pushed out! I knew there would be payout.

Well, Nancy Pelosi and dear old George-- I'd rather have health insurance.

The $2100 we'll get doesn't even begin to touch our $5600. deductible or make much more than a nick in the $580 monthly premiums.

I heard one commentator say that the governmental powers that be hope we all head straight to a mall when those rebate checks come. Jump start that economy: spend, spend, spend.

But wasn't that the problem in the first place, on a national and individual level?

The entire situation seems uniquely American and irrationally exuberant, to boot.


Beth said...

I think of rebates as a political gesture - the buying of votes. I want that money put where it is needed most - for everyone.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

When talk of a recession creeps onto the news, I always think about the weeks following 9/11 and the call to arms - to shop, by God.

It seemed strange then, seems crazy now.

Maybe driving the economy with debt - the green kind and the spiritual/emotional kind - isn't the answer.

Then again, I'm not an economist either.

Anonymous said...

We'll perhaps buy some small extravagance AND we'll definitely pay a bill or two with it but I'm really sick of having those two words stuck in my head "stimulous package"

Anonymous said...

I heard a professor from Dartmoth College say on NPR something like, "The 'stimulus package' is really just more deficit spending."

Suburban Correspondent said...

It's totally insane. And from what I can tell, that isn't "extra" money - that is money you would have gotten in your refund next year, you're just getting it a little early. So don't hurry to spend it.

I want to hear our Congress discussing health care, unemployment benefits, and a minimum wage that allows people to survive. Not this band-aid rebate crap.

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh despiser of Bush. You are in friendly hands, here. When my oldest was in fifth grade, he was in charge of 'security' for the Anti-Bush club he formed with his buddies. Love it.

Anonymous said...

Love your son's anti-Bush club! I must admit to also commenting on your blog (my newest wonderful discovery) as "Former Minnesota Maiden." I'm not a blogger, but I enjoy reading them when I have time. I'm a blogger wanna be - or maybe a blogger groupie or lurker...

Today when reading Bill Bryson's book on his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, I came across another great description of midwest winter snow clothes that cracked me up. In the years I've lived in Texas, I've sort of forgotten about "cloakrooms" and all the clothing layers - and how much time and energy goes into getting in and out of them for recess!

Oh, and about your money management - wouldn't it be nice if our government would err on the side you did??!!

Keep writing!

Minnesota Matron said...

Well, Despiser of Bush, we are all comfy in many areas. I curse my ancestors daily for landing in this cold spot. I hate winter sport, all sort. Winter is something I've never gotten used to, even after (ahem) man years in it. You're lucky to have escaped!!! Thanks for the kind words. I love to write so more will certainly be coming !

Anonymous said...

I love what you posted and I will refrain mightily from commenting because I fear I won't be able to stop. I will add, however, I could see us hashing this out in complete chorus over a bottle of wine and I think it would be loads of fun.