Jay MacDonald, a writer for Bankrate.com, has made some interesting if not skeptical comments about the economic stimulus payment that is coming our way in May (see my original post for some theological objections to this rebate).
Excerpts from MacDonald's article:
Irony runs rampant through the tax-rebate debate. After all, this is the Internal Revenue Service giving us money back -- not exactly the agency's strong suit.
In addition, the government is saying times are so dire that we should go out and spend -- not exactly our first instinct in such circumstances.
Finally, someone is stating the obvious. Does it make longterm sense to go out and spend more money, incur more debt, and pursue greed when rice is being rationed at Costco and Sam's Club?
To encourage spending, Epley [an economist from Univ. of Chicago] suggests the government partner with businesses to build incentives for people to put their rebate to work.
For example, the government and businesses could schedule a national shopping day or weekend. This could be planned to coincide with a major holiday or state tax-free weekends.
I agree. The government wants us to spend and consume. It seems like they could have done a better job than direct-depositing the payment right into my checking account. Sears has the "right" idea: they are adding 10% to your rebate check when you bring your stimulus check to one of their stores. Still, virtually no one is talking about opting out of the consumerist framework and giving it away to those in need.
Bob Sullivan, author of "Gotcha Capitalism" and iconoclastic voice of MSNBC's The Red Tape Chronicles, says it may be votes -- not stock prices -- that the government hopes to stimulate. He finds the timing of Rebate '08 more than coincidental.
"It's very transparent to me what's happening here," he says. "Both Republicans and Democrats got together to say, 'Well, the one thing we want to do is make people feel a little bit better about us in the middle of the election cycle.' There isn't a lot of good data to back up what kind of boost this can give to the economy, and unless I'm missing something, there is nothing in the tax rebates that addresses any of the fundamental problems that brought us here or can get us out.
"Is it anything more than a bunch of elected officials getting together and quickly sending us money to buy us off? I really don't think it's any more complicated than that."
"Both Republicans and Democrats...." As I have said, there is no difference between the parties on this issue. Capital Hill is unified. Isn't there another way? Not when an economy needs every-increasing consumption to keeps its engine running.
Finally, here's a screen shot of a survey that Bankrate.com is running. Do you notice an option that's missing?