By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor
WHAT DID you do with your “economic stimulus” check from the government? Did you spend it in a suitably patriotic manner, doing your bit to kick-start the good ol’ U.S. economy?
You did? Are you sure? I just ask because, as a member of the U.S. economy, I’m feeling a little understimulated.
But then, I always had doubts about the whole scheme.
Sort of like with the government’s bailout of Bear Stearns. I’m not a libertarian, not by a long shot, but sometimes I break out with little itchy spots of libertarianism, and one of those itchy spots causes me to ask, Why am I, as a taxpaying member of the U.S. economy, bailing out something called Bear Stearns? I didn’t even know what it was. Even after I’d read about it in The Wall Street Journal, I still could not answer the fundamental question, “If you work at Bear Stearns, what is it that you do all day?” I understand what a fireman does, and if the fire department were about to go under, I’d be one of the first to step forward and say let’s bail it out. Of course, if the fire department wanted me to lend it $29 billion, with a “B,” I might have further questions. Yet that’s what we’ve done for Bear Stearns.
Apparently Bear Stearns is a financial institution that the federal government considers “too big to fail,” which makes me wonder, if it’s too big to fail, then why does it need to be bailed out?
But things like this always perplex me. I am not an economist, nor a financial expert, which I’m told is different. Nor am I any kind of a businessman. At my house, I am not allowed to try to balance the checkbook.
Anyway, while I’m still pondering why you and I and the guy down the street lent $29 billion to bail out this Bear Stearns, along comes Congress and the president wanting to send somewhat more modest checks to you and me and that same guy.
I’m all for Democrats and Republicans setting aside pointless bickering to do something for the good of the country, but when the economy’s going into the tank, and the Democratic Congress and the Republican president are racing to see which of them can send us the biggest check, sort of like the Three Stooges all trying to get through a door at the same time, I begin to have doubts.
I start to think, “With the national debt at — wait a sec while I go check the Internet — 9 trillion dollars, and climbing at a rate of more than a Bear Stearns bailout every month, the government is going to send several hundred dollars to every household in the country?”
It seems that everybody in Washington was acting along the same lines of reasoning as when, in response to attacks upon this country more deadly than Pearl Harbor, we were told to go out and shop, instead of buying bonds or rationing gas or something that would have made sense to an earlier generation. And now, six-and a half years into the War on Terror, some of us weren’t shopping hard enough. So to help us get back into the fight, the government decided to send us all some more ammunition.
As it got closer to time for me to get my ammo, my martial spirits rose, and I started thinking this was a better and better idea. If my country needed me to shop, I was going to make sure every shot counted. So I did some research.
Finally, a suitable target presented itself. Week before last, we all went to Memphis for a wedding. The wife and I stayed with Mary, one of her best friends from high school.
My wife has always held Mary up as one of the smartest in her class — not only a scholar, but a woman of great good sense and practicality. Mary had recently earned some extra money, and had spent it on a 42-inch, 1080-resolution flat-panel HDTV set. It had cost her $800 at Sam’s Club. I studied this item very closely while we were there, flicking back and forth between ball games on the HD channels and the same ball games on mere mortal channels, and came to the inescapable conclusion that Mary was indeed the smartest in her class, and had made an excellent investment — way better than the Bear Stearns thing.
So by the time we got back from Memphis, I was all in a sweat to get that stimulus check, which would amount to $1,200.
But when it came, do you know what we spent it on? A hospital bill. Not a hospital bill for major surgery or life-saving emergency treatment, because none of us had needed that, thank God. No, this was for a few X-rays for my daughter’s sprained ankle — for my baby, who was temporarily off my insurance but was covered by a separate policy that we were paying $117 a month for, which seemed like a really good deal until she needed some actual routine medical care.
When you have five kids between the ages of 19 and 31 in the United States of America, you spend a lot of time holding your breath until they get safe jobs with their own group medical insurance. Two of mine have achieved that status, and both know they’d better not try to actually stimulate the economy by starting their own businesses or anything, because their Dad would have a stroke.
All of this gets me to thinking… If Congress really and truly wants to help the U.S. economy, maybe, just maybe, it should pass a National Health Plan along the lines of practically every other developed nation on the planet, instead of sending me a check that would barely cover two months worth of premiums on health insurance for my wife and me and only one of my children.
So Congress, I appreciate the thought, but I’ve got to tell you: Sending me $1,200 to throw into a debt hole that I wouldn’t have if I lived in any other industrialized country just doesn’t cut it.
Get stimulated at thestate.com/bradsblog/.
Know what you mean, unexpected medical expenses got mine too. Or was it the air conditioner repair? It definitely wasn’t a big fat hdtv, which I would love to have but can’t afford.
I agree with you 100% about health care. I don’t care what the libertarians or the free market advocates say, it’s one area where capitalism just isn’t working.
It wasn’t really a stimulus check you know…it was a tax rebate.
And it was given because, no matter WHAT Barak NObama or Bud or any other liberals may SAY, they know very well deep down inside that allowing the american people to keep more of the money they earn inevitably has an immediate and invigorating effect upon the economy of this country. It always does. Period. This is also why federal tax cuts ALWAYS result in MORE money flowing into federal coffers, not less, although no liberal will ever admit it.
For what it’s worth, I used my stimulus check to bide me over between jobs.
In other words, it went down the rathole. I don’t know whether the businesses I spent it with were invigorated or not. Nothing is looking particularly invigorated to me at the moment.
By the way Brad, I have been training in Atlanta for my new job for the last week, and tonight is the first time I’ve seen your new photo.
How old were you in that shot? Twenty something? Thirty? You looked good back then, in a geeky sort of way. I look geeky in all my twenties-thirties pictures too.
Nice picture. Quite a jolting difference for someone who hasn’t visited for awhile. David
David got it right – even the Democrats who want to tax us more know, deep down in their hearts, that every tax increase chokes the economy, and every tax rebate or reduction restores life to the economy.
This rebate wasn’t much, but it was better than letting the government waste the money.
Brad, you’re largely correct on this one. But you don’t go quite far enough. McCain will continue with the failures of “Republican” healthcare while Obama will move us in a different direction (although not fast or far enough). This issue alone should warrant an endorsement from the State for Obama.
you finish up your libertarian relevation with a call for socialized medicine?
i didn’t see that coming. so do you want comments on corporate welfare or socialized medicine? either one is bad for the taxpayer.
Read the words, folks; read the words. I say exactly what I mean, and I say it clearly — you don’t have to sift around for meaning. As I said, "I’m not a libertarian, not by a long shot…"
By the way, my inspiration for the "itchy spots" reference was Mark Twain’s Hank Morgan in Connecticut Yankee:
Of course, the reader is supposed to understand that Hank Morgan is not modest at all; it’s a classic use of Twain-style irony.
Just as my readers know I really mean when I say I’m not a libertarian, not by a long shot. Unlike Twain, I didn’t rely upon you to get the irony; I spelled out the facts of the matter.
And what that means is that whenever I actually take the libertarian position on an issue — which happens rarely, but it happens — there must really be something to the libertarian position in that instance.
Whoa! I felt sort of like a middle-school English teacher just then… That was weird…
okay, you’re not a libertarian…got it.
spare me the justification for socialized medicine, maybe bud can present the case for labeling the current system ‘republican’. seems to me both parties have had their hand in it for quite a while.
The deficit is due entirely to the huge increases in social welfare spending under Bush and Clinton. The only way to end the deficits is to reduce welfare spending and reduce tax rates, which will enable private sector to invest in jobs and produce even MORE tax revenue, to pay down more old debt.
58% of the US medical system is already under government control, and that is where all the costs are increasing so fast.
In the other 42% of the industry under private control, costs have risen slower than the general rate of price inflation. Many treatments and drug prices have actually decreased in that sector. Dentistry, cataract lens implants, vision correction, cosmetic surgery, are all cheaper than they were 10 years ago.
if you had the freedom to shop around for that x-ray, i’m sure it would have cost a lot less. after medicine, what should the government take over next? how about food? we all have a basic human ‘right’ to eat don’t we? shouldn’t the government run the food business from field to pantry, so everyone will have equal access to food? someone please tell me how that is different from medicine.
and as a follow up please list the countries with government health care that americans go to have elective surgery. i live in western new york state and the canadians come here for health care and pay for it out of pocket, rather than opt for their government rationed health care.
Thank you, Mr. Warthen. The new picture doesn’t show you looking at the camera 21 years ago anymore. Now you look like a serious news guy scowling at someone who just misspelled “misspelled” and may not be willing to take it any longer.
Thank you again.
Is it really too difficult to make the connection between the implementation of Medicare (a price controlled system that pays 30% of actual costs) and the increased cost of healthcare for everyone else?
What do you suppose will happen when the government runs the whole thing? It will be a nightmare. There will be those who will pay cash for whatever services they want and the rest of the country getting rationed healthcare from the worst doctors.
And just look at the recent news about all the fraud in Medicare. $77 BILLION, I believe. Why do you think that happens? Because when it’s other people’s money, there’s no real desire for accountability and oversight.
Those members of the Freeloading Class don’t care about the connection – only their greedy belief that they are going to get something free at the expense of the Productive Class.
Obama, Clinton, and every other charlatan is counting on selling enough of that socialist snake oil to put themselves in power.
If the residents of DC buy a gun with their tax rebate, they can accomplish two good things at once.
I was going to make sure every shot counted.In this matter it good you did a research about this keep up the good work.