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Thursday, February 14, 2008

If You Can, Put It In Your Mattress

So, here we are. The economy is crumbling into a recession created from a unique stew of governmental malfeasance, corporate greed and investor myopia.

George W. Bush’s all-purpose "solution" is the same play book we’ve seen since those heady early days of 2001; give businesses ridiculous tax breaks and send the poor a check equivalent to a fraction of the monthly rent.

No one in his or her right mind can actually believe that this is going to do anything worthwhile to stimulate the economy. The banks are busy cooking the books to hide their true exposure to failing mortgages. The brokerage houses are firing people they’ve already given 7-figure bonuses to for doing an abysmal job. Warren Buffett is offering to prop up the same banks and brokers by insuring their most valuable assets, because we all know that investing is no fun until one man is worth as much as 20 central African nations combined. With economic fundamentals this bad, a $300 check to a taxpayer is obviously not a panacea.

I write this knowing that I’m currently one of the lucky ones in this economy. I have a fixed-rate mortgage, no credit card debt, no outstanding medical debt and a healthy sum in a savings account. The stimulus check coming to my wife and family is welcome, for who in their right mind who’s not dressed in flowing robes would turn down a check for (I believe it’s going to be, with one child) $1500? (OK, maybe the Polyphonic Spree). Yet, we’re not hemorrhaging like so many others. Just because the government is stupid enough to bankrupt our country further by sending me a check doesn’t mean I should invest it in that same country’s economic infrastructure. I stopped buying U. S. savings bonds years ago for the same reason.

What I’m attempting to talk my wife into doing with our little slice of national economic mutilation is to put the money in our savings account. Rather than spending our money on a crappy product made in a Chinese prison, I’d rather that this check be the gift that keeps on giving. Before the banks go under due to their bad mortgage debt obligations and there’s a nationwide run, I’d like to squeeze a few dollars in interest out of the monocle-clad Monopoly guy that runs my bank. Nobody in his right mind is investing bank money in real estate ventures right now, so my bank will use that money as a tangible asset on the books until the bill comes due. When the real damage is revealed, I’ll make my withdrawal and stuff it into my mattress.

I fully realize that I am fortunate enough to do this, and that there are many people who will use the stimulus check to pay a circling creditor before they become carrion with a damaged credit rating. I would encourage those of you like me who can to hold onto the stimulus money as long as you possibly can. In this country, giving money to a consumer is equivalent to giving a junkie heroin. It’s time to go cold turkey. Ideally, I’d like to hold the money until January 20th, 2009 at 12 Noon when a Democratic President takes power. I’m not na├»ve to think that things change in five minutes on that date. I simply don’t want Bush to get any kind of boost whatsoever in the sunset of his mine shaft collapse of a Presidency.

If you have the economic wherewithal, think of yourself and that stimulus check in the same way as a horny but hopeful teenager with one wrinkled and aging condom in a wrapper in his wallet that has indelibly shaped an "O" into the leather. It’s been there awhile, and you don’t need it this minute, but just in case…

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