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Paying Bills: How I’ll Spend the Rebate Check

If I could change any one thing, I would…

Spur the economy with public works projects. These rebate checks won’t do a thing.

So what will you be doing with your rebate checks? According to an AP poll – Leaving Iraq Will Help Economy – most people will use it for bills. As a financial analyst with Bankrate.com says: “Issuing rebate checks to give a boost to consumer spending amounts to a Band-Aid over the much bigger problem of consumer debt burdens.”

Tell me about it.

Look, I’ll take the check when it comes, I’ve got a pile of bills just waiting. It’ll be like throwing a sponge at the Pacific but what the heck.

Still, let’s face it, working families have been surviving the last “prosperity” by running up credit cards or taking out equity loans for years. A few extra bucks is really not going to do much in terms of “stimulating the economy.”

The real issue is that as housing prices tumble, so goes the ability for families like mine to spend – or just get by at all, since there aren’t rising house prices to supplement ever-shrinking incomes (check out Falling Behind for a compelling – and thoroughly depressing – picture of the American Middle Class, for instance). This is especially tough for families who try to get by on a single income, with a parent who’s actually around to raise their kids. I know, how audacious.

In other words, these rebate checks – while helpful in the short term – aren’t going to make a dent in the recession. There are bigger problems at work here, problems that go back 25 years when Reaganism finished off the New Deal and turned the government into a tool for top income earners. (Check out Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill) for an enlightening take on this concept; Democratic Underground’s Time For Changes Journal has a must-read discussion of this point as well).

The thing is, if the middle class can’t afford basic needs then you have a very troubled economy indeed. Give it some time and you might get a “Shouting Up” theory to rival the Trickle Down one. On one hand this isn’t such a bad thing, and might be the reason all this “change” is in the political wind.

Still, no one wants a recession. So what to do? The progressive economic model calls for massive infusion of dollars into public works programs, which can kickstart a stalled economy. Instead of rebate checks, what about a “New” New Deal, or an Apollo program for clean, alternative energy? What about a public transportation system that rivals – or bests – any other country’s? Investing money into badly needed public infrastructure would boost the economy better than any Walmart shopping spree ever could.

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February 12, 2008   |  Filed Under Political   |    Permalink

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