Monday, December 6, 2010

The money pit

  I’m thinking of getting a new car, possibly a Cadillac, but I could be persuaded to get a Mercedes or a BMW. While I’m at it, I’ll hire a driver to take me back and forth to work. That way instead of having to watch the road, I can catch up on my reading, write my blog, play some chess, or just take a nap. I’ll probably need to get one of those new enormous televisions, the kind with 3-D so I would have something to look forward to after my ride home in the luxury car. I don’t want to get home and have to argue with my kids about what show to watch in high definition, so I’ll get them the same TV’s for their rooms to head off any arguments before they get started.

  It sounds great, but there’s just one problem. I can’t afford it.

  In last month’s election, the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in large part to the perception that while hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent to fix the economy, unemployment is at a 20 year high and the economy doesn’t seem to be getting better. You could look at the stock market and the record profits of many companies and say good times are just around the corner, but except for Apple, all the record profits I see are from companies that have cut expenses by closing production facilities and layoffs, not from increasing their sales (in which case they’d have to hire people).

  The beneficiaries of the voters’ anger were the Republicans in general and the Tea Party in particular, who ran on a platform of responsible government and deficit reduction, but also to not let the tax cuts enacted in 2001 expire. For anyone. Not even for those people making over a quarter of a million dollars a year. The reasoning behind that logic is that these people that are making over a quarter of a million dollars a year include people who own small businesses and the primary job creators. I don’t think I’d call a business that can pay its owner a quarter of a million dollars a year ‘small’, but that’s another story.

  The Republicans are holding up all legislation until the 2001 tax cuts are extended and the Democrats have had a hard sell to the public on their plan to extend the cuts for everybody who makes less than $250,000 a year. One of the pieces of legislation being held up is an extension of unemployment benefits for people who have been collecting for 99 weeks without a job. The Democrats want the unemployment extension so badly they aren’t willing to hold it hostage to show off the Republicans as the ‘mean’ party they were perceived to be other times they have taken over the congress. But both sides want to extend the tax cuts, since if the 2001 tax cuts expire at the end of the year for everyone, there will be hardly any politicians able to get re-elected.

  This week,
news of a compromise is being leaked to the public. Not only will all the tax cuts be extended, but the unemployment benefits will also be extended. I’m OK with lowering my taxes and I’m OK with extending unemployment benefits, but I wish the politicians would PLEASE not tell me they are concerned about the deficit. Orrin Hatch (Republican of Utah) said it best: “Let's take care of the unemployment compensation even if it isn't ... backed up by real finances…We've got to do it. So let's do it. But that ought to be it.”

  That is the politicians that get elected by the American people in a nutshell. And Hatch is a fiscal conservative (except when it comes to government spending for his home state of Utah, in which case he morphs into a liberal). Republican or Democrat, they’ve been pulling this same game for over 50 years. Whether you can pay for it or not, don’t make any difficult choices, just print the money and give it away because you aren’t making anyone pay for it in taxes, and say sternly ‘That’s it. No more.' Like the town drunk swearing off alcohol. Until he gets his next disability check, that is… The politicians keep on getting re-elected but what would you expect from a country where the people have almost a trillion dollars in debt on their credit cards alone.

  I don’t really mind the government having a big deficit, I’d just like them to explain that they are just saying they care about the deficit to get your vote and they have no intention of ever doing anything about it, not even cutting spending. Of course, another way to reduce a defecit is to cut spending, but in a country where over half the people get direct government assistance, that is a sure path to not getting reelected.

  There may be an unforeseen saving grace to help with the deficit after all. The government has
printed over a billion hundred dollar bills that are defective. The bills are being stored in a warehouse and are planning on being burned. Maybe to help the people who can’t pay their heating bills, the government can just ship them a few million dollars to burn to keep warm this winter. When there are just a few million or so bills left, they can be stamped as ‘VOID' and sold as collectibles. If the government can make collectible pennies, nickels, and quarters, these new hundred dollar bills should be a hot seller. I'm going to write to the government to see if I can get a contract to be the collectable reseller. If I can get in on the ground floor, I may be able to get both the Cadillac and the driver, and the TVs!