Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where Can I get One of Those Snazzy Signs?

I remember taking a macroec course in college.  It was fascinating to me.  If I hadn't been an adult student, firmly entrenched in my major and its required courses, the pressure to earn my degree as quickly as possible bearing down on me like an runaway cement mixer, I might have taken another course or two in economics.  The concepts of  free market and a cyclical economy reassured and encouraged me. 

As I listened, my mind went back to tenth grade American History and our study of Roosevelt's New Deal.  I never had understood the AAA, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, or the WPA, the Works Progress Administration.  Weren't they just robbing from Peter to pay Paul?  If a government agrees to fund projects that no one thought necessary six months before, aren't we really increasing national debt to build a "bridge to nowhere?"  If my children want something I cannot afford to give them, is increasing their allowance so they can save for it, a viable solution?  And does my solution encourage them to think "out of the box" to develop a solution to their own deficit?

Likewise, if I increase my debt to fund their desires, aren't I just postponing the inevitable?  Eventually, someone is going to have to do without something else, or they are going to have to contribute in a way they were never required previously -- maybe my children will have to contribute to other "extras."

As for paying farmers not to grow, when people are starving?  Needless to say, good thing the Constitution put an end to that one, whether it was for ethical or economic reasons.

Anyhow, all this came back to me when I read a "Cash for Clunkers" article by William Jeanes, AOL's Auto Editor. (Link here.) Normally I am not the least impressed by AOL's writing.  In fact, most times I shake my head and, inspired, plunge into writing my great American novel.  However, this article poses the same question I have asked all along -- "Is increasing my personal debt really going to secure my job (not in the auto industry) or keep my family fed in the long run?"  If I don't suspend my contributions to my 401K, whose pockets am I lining?  If I "panic" and postpone scheduled home improvements, because my hours at work and my salary have been cut, why am I "un-American?"  AND, why can Wall Street take my money, lower the interest on my retirement fund, raise the price of fuel, and reduce my salary, but I am regularly cautioned to "do the right thing" and maintain status quo when it comes to spending and investing?

Lastly, what about this American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?  Where is the ARRA getting the money to fund projects that six months ago were funded by state dollars?  Are they tax dollars I have already paid?  How about a stimulus check with my name on it, instead of one of those snazzy signs?  Or are they tax dollars I am going to have to pay via tax increase after the government so kindly "bails us out?"

Either way, here's hoping next week's garage sale is a dismal failure; these days, irresponsible accounting seems to have its perks.
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