February 5, 2009

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if a legislator came up with an idea for the economic stimulus package that made sense for you and I?

We keep hearing about bailing out this business or salvaging that one… Unfortunately all I see in the political rhetoric being bandied about is taxpayers like myself being held for ransom.

We hear unfathomable dollar figures being tossed around like pennies into the wishing well to help save the banking industry, the national credit system, home buyers and the auto industry just to mention a few. Okay you sensitive folks, don’t read this next line, cause like grandpa used to say, “You can wish in one hand and crap in the other hand and see which hand gets filled first.”

As far as I am concerned the hands of we taxpayers are getting filled with the later. We are being sold promises of “Change can Happen,” and constant reminders by the new president “that we are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we must act swiftly to resolve them.”

But so far all I have seen is a ton of our tax dollars going to rescue failed businesses because they fooled the rest of us to such a high degree that their ultimate demise would have devastating ripple effects across the entire economy.

My concerns about our nation becoming a bail bondsman for failed business only got worse watching the latest news. In typical politician fashion, the very same lawmakers who approved the initial round of economic stimulus for the nation’s struggling financial industry, are now calling for better oversight of our money that they gave away.

In his recent weekly address President Obama stated: “Last year Congress passed a plan to rescue the financial system. While the package helped avoid a financial collapse, many are frustrated by the results — and rightfully so. Too often taxpayer dollars have been spent without transparency or accountability… we learned this week that even as they petitioned for taxpayer assistance, Wall Street firms shamefully paid out nearly $20 billion in bonuses for 2008. While I’m committed to doing what it takes to maintain the flow of credit, the American people will not excuse or tolerate such arrogance and greed. The road to recovery demands that we all act responsibly, from Main Street to Washington to Wall Street.”

The president pledged that his Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, soon would be announcing a new strategy “so taxpayers know how their money is being spent and whether it is achieving results.”

I hope the voters who elected Obama were right when they said this is the change we need.

Personally, the best economic stimulus idea I’ve seen so far has come from the desk of little-known Illinois Republican representative Don Manzullo. His bill entitled The Get America Moving Again Act — HR 550 is a stand alone bill calling for tax credits of $5,000 for individuals or businesses that purchase a new vehicle.

Okay, this is very attractive to a guy that was forced to purchase a new vehicle after his truck developed a terminal engine illness.

Even if my approval is predetermined by my pending financial transaction, I can make a logical sales pitch for the proposed legislation none the less.

As Manzullo points out, his bill could help put millions of Americans back to work in the automobile industry, which he says accounts for 20 percent of all U.S. retail sales, and billions of dollars in state and local sales taxes. The nation saw nearly 6 million fewer new cars sold in 2008, accounting for some $175 billion being directly removed from the economy.

“The current stimulus bill is chocked full of spending that has nothing to do with stimulating the economy or creating jobs, including hundreds of millions of dollars for contraceptives, the National Endowment for the Arts, and laying new sod on the National Mall,” Manzullo said. “My vehicle tax credit proposal is a real stimulus that will bolster vehicle sales, put Americans back to work, and re-ignite our economy.”

I have to agree with Mr. Manzullo. Instead of giving my tax dollars to a big business, why not let me keep my tax dollars if I spend my money with that same business? Just a hunch, but I suspect I am a better steward of that money than those billion dollar bonus baby CEOs.

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