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February 4, 2008

Poverty, the Stimulus Package and the ĎLucky Duckiesí


A few months ago, a number of conservative journals touted a study that ďprovedĒ that systemic poverty in the United States was a thing of the past.


Naturally, the thing was based on numbers, and not actual people. It was also only made possible because the term poverty has largely vanished from our political lexicon.


The word has disappeared, owing greatly to how poverty is covered by the nationís media, but the problem remains. Itís compounded by the fact that the people affected by it, since they canít contribute to political campaigns, are easy to overlook.


Our current presidentís solution to the problem is the same as his solution on most things Ė shluffing the problem off onto someone elseís shoulders.


This was the point of his faith-based programs. On top of providing access to federal dollars to private organizations free to preach and practice discrimination, it also represented failure by government of the people and for the people to serve the people.


The result is the economic stimulus package now in the Senate that would give tax money to people. For many of these people, itís more money than what they might expect to pay in federal income taxes. A redistribution of wealth, certainly, but the kind that reminds us that a healthy economy is one in which money flows, rather than stagnates in a few choice hands.


It goes without saying that the package, even if it ultimately fails in the Senate, is a repudiation of what today passes as the free-market movement. If the market were so good about making money flow, then why does tax money need to be given to people to stimulate the economy? The free market is good at making people wealthy, but when they refuse to let money circulate Ė literally share the wealth Ė itís to the poor economic health of the nation at large.


The reason for that is obvious. The poorer you are, the higher a percentage of your money is spent on food, clothing and medicine. This, in turn, stimulates demand for those things. You can do much with facts, figures and statistics, but you canít mask the spending habits of the impoverished. Their spending keeps money flowing and stimulates demands.


A few years back, the Wall Street Journal called the nationís impoverished ďlucky duckiesĒ because they donít have to pay federal income taxes. Itís nice to be in a position from which itís possible to opine that paying federal income taxes is somehow worse than struggling to make ends meet. It says much about the Wall Street Journal editorial board members, and those who subscribe to that philosophy.


On the other hand, those who receive the tax rebate will put the money to better use in our economy than letting it collect in offshore, non-taxable accounts, invested overseas, or used to fund vacations to exotic foreign lands. It will go to buy things, which in turn stimulates demand.


The tax rebate isnít designed to assist the impoverished, but to prevent a recession. Giving someone a couple hundred bucks isnít going to lift anyone from a state of permanent poverty. At this time of year, in fact, many of those who receive the checks will probably use them to pay for winter heating bills, and there is reportedly strong sentiment on Capitol Hill that strengthening unemployment benefits would do more good for the economy than giving people checks.


Anyway, most of those who receive the checks donít actually live in poverty. What ties this program to the issue of poverty is resistance to it because the money will go to ďlucky duckiesĒ who donít pay federal income taxes at all.


That let the cat out of the bag. If itís wrong to give tax money in excess of whatís paid to people, then itís worth taking a long look at how those people live and whatís to be done about it.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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