It looks increasingly likely we will have a stimulus package given to us - sooner or later - this year. Perhaps we can look forward to receiving a check for several hundred dollars or more which would theoretically be used to provide an influx into the economy.
That would seem to be a much needed boost to sagging businesses, but does it work? Last year, my check went to paying for my wife's knee surgery. About the only thing I stimulated was a lot of rounds of golf for the lucky guy who took a scalpel to flesh and cartilage. I know a few people who plunked down money for a new TV with a funny, foreign-sounding brand name at Circuit City. That's working out well for a defunct retailer and some manufacturer in another country, I guess.
Most people I know took the check as a windfall, screamed "Yahoo!" and bought unnecessary things.
The point is, a lump sum stimulus check is a short term boost that may or may not help the economy and probably doesn't pare down the massive amount of debt held by individuals. I guarantee that a lot of people actually increased their debt by spending their check, and then some, on whatever guilty pleasure they purchased.
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With the economy in such a sad shape, why don't we try to get people to be more fundamentally sound with their finances? This won't be easy, but giving a large check to most people is like giving an arsonist some matches and lighter fluid. It burns up instantly.
Instead of wowing the masses with an influx of cash, why not give us the money spread out over the year? Because $900 billion has been budgeted, take that amount out of the tax rolls and let us stimulate the economy all year - as well as repairing personal debt and learning better budgeting.
We don't need quick fixes. We need fiscal responsibility. How is anyone going to learn that when the motto of the current stimulus program is "Have Check, Will Spend?" A wise man once told me that life is not a sprint it is a journey. For the record, that wise man was not my track coach. Nor does it seem to be the multitude of people who want things now, consequences be damned. No payments or interest until 2011? I'll take two living room sets. A house or car with zero percent interest for a year? Give me one of each, please.
We've drank from the goblet of greed and now we are left with a hangover. It's time to sober up.