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January 7, 2009
Thinking, Feeling or
Drinking? Three Ways to Look at Bailouts and Stimuli
When people hear about the U.S. government’s various stimulus packages
and bailouts, there are three types of reactions.
First, there’s the stupid one, which I’m approximating includes about a
quarter of Americans – probably the same quarter that just can’t wait to
see that new Van Wilder movie. The reaction goes something like
this. “So how much are they sending me this time? I need to know so I
can set a date for the party, which will undoubtedly feature massive
amounts of alcohol and debauchery.” Actually, only about a quarter of
this quarter understands the word “debauchery.”
Second, there is the mixed-feeling one. This group doesn’t really think
about what’s going on, it just feels the weight of the situation. My
guess is that 100 years ago, this group would have accounted for a very
small percentage of Americans. But nowadays, I’m approximating that this
group represents two-thirds of the population. Their response goes about
like this: “I feel a little bit uneasy about all this bailout talk. It
could be good, but it could also be bad. All this conversation about
numbers and concretes is giving me a terrible headache.” At this point,
members of the mixed-feeling group will either go eat, sleep, rent a
movie, watch SportsCenter or poke their new friends on Facebook.
Third, there is the thinking group. If my fourth grade math was correct,
then this group represents one-twelfth of the population. Members of
this group ask the question all of us should be asking about bailouts
and stimulus packages. “Where is this money coming from?” There may be
people in this group who occasionally support a bailout or a stimulus
package, but hopefully not many. Why? Because anyone with an IQ over 72
knows that a lemonade stand, if it doesn’t make enough to pay for the
next batch of lemons and sugar, is a lousy one.
Barack Obama has already called for a multi-hundred billion dollar
stimulus package, which, if he were already president, would be about as
surprising as a naked protester in San Francisco. But even I’m impressed
with how quickly he called for a stimulus package, considering the fact
that he’s not even sworn in yet.
what should we do? I know that first group is already lost in a liquor
store, but I think the second group is still salvageable. Quick, before
you take a nap, ask the important question. Where is this money coming
It’s actually really easy to figure it out. Instead of going to Facebook,
just type in on the search bar, “Where does money for a stimulus package
come from?” It sounds too easy, but it actually works. Weed out a few
lousy answers, and you’ll quickly learn that the money, believe it or
not, does not magically appear out of Obama’s nose when he sneezes. It
is difficult to know exactly where every last penny comes from, but here
are two answers about which most economists seem to agree.
often comes from Government Bonds, or Treasury Bonds, Bills, etc. Did
you ever watch Dumb and Dumber? Remember the part when Harry and
Lloyd found a bunch of money in a suitcase, and went on a wild spending
spree? Remember when they handwrote IOUs in the amount of everything
they purchased to give to whomever the money originally belonged? I’ll
admit, when I first saw this movie, I had no idea that it was the
Farrelly brothers’ sequel to Huxley’s Brave New World. But to the
extent of my understanding, the actions of the two exaggeratedly dumb
characters in Dumb and Dumber are not substantially different
from those of our federal government when it sells bonds.
is borrowing money from China. This seems a lot like borrowing from the
mob. Seriously, great idea, elected officials. You’re really knocking
this one out of the park.
to everyone from group two who felt funny about the whole thing, there’s
your reason. We’re acting like the two main characters of a Farrelly
brothers flick, and we’re also establishing debt with a communist
And do you want to know why? Because no president wants to see anyone
starve during his limited time in office. No president wants to be
remembered as the guy who refused to bail out people who honestly needed
to be bailed out (at the time). Either that, or our officials are simply
too stupid to realize that it’s OK when things are very bad. Often, they
have to be very bad in order to get better.
think we have too many presidents coming out of group two. They feel bad
for members of the United Auto Workers, or for families who grew up in
crime-infested, seemingly impossible situations. But instead of asking,
“What can I do to minimize these situations for the next hundred years?”
they throw really big numbers with attached dollars signs at the
situation, feeling that they are doing the right thing.
The good news is that anyone can switch groups whenever they want. So
President-elect Obama, whenever you’re ready, you’re welcome to join the
twelfth of Americans who use their brains as well as their hearts.
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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