Tax 'Rebate' Is Borrowed Money in Disguise
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Yesterday, Democrats and the White House reached a deal on a fiscal stimulus package to stave off a U.S. recession. Commentator Marc Acito has been following the news closely. He's no economist but he already has a plan for his stimulus check if he qualifies for one.
Mr. MARC ACITO (Author, "Attack of the Theater People"): My mother taught me that the proper response when receiving a gift is to simply say thank you whether you wanted it or not. But it's hard to be grateful for this latest gift from our government. For starters, whether you get $300 or $1,200, it's either going to put fuel in your Ford or food in your family but not much else.
So what is this stimulus package supposed to be stimulating? This promise of a chicken in every pot is a turkey of an idea. It's the same solution the Bush administration came up with after 9/11. Do your part for our country, not by making sacrifices, but by spending. It's as if the president and Congress were taking financial advice from the Home Shopping Network.
Look, I understand that the standard economic wisdom is that you spend to get out of recession. But one of the reasons we're headed toward recession is because mortgage lenders extended credit to people who couldn't afford it. Day is now night, and up is down. What's more, the last time the government moved this fast, we sanctioned torture. As far as I can make out, the majority of people receiving this so-called rebate don't really need it. And those who do aren't getting it because of the compromise on food stamps and extending unemployment benefits.
Meanwhile, the national debt is over $9 trillion. That's a 13-digit number, not a lucky one. Divided equally over the United States population, that's over 30,000 each. Now, I know this is going to make me sound nuttier than a hot fudge sundae, but I actually like paying taxes. In fact, I think it's patriotic, even though this country was founded by a bunch of people who didn't want to pay them. Every time I drive on a well-paved road or slow down because I see a police officer, I think, I paid for that. I'm not sure I'm going to qualify for a rebate, but if I do, I'd like to send my check back and ask the government to start paying off my 30 grand.
And if I have to do my patriotic duty by spending to stave off recession, I'm going to try to do it in a way that contributes to the greater good, not the greater greed. I keep waiting for someone in charge to say it, but they don't, so I guess I'll have to. It's time we live within our means, much in the way that going green has been made a virtue, sexy even. Conspicuous consumption needs to be seen as the hollow promise to nowhere that it really is. I know it seems like an antiquated idea, but my father told me to subscribe to the Shakespearean notion, neither a borrower nor a lender be. Both leave you worrying about money. This rebate isn't a gift at all. It's borrowed money, and it's time we started paying it back.
NORRIS: Marc Acito developed his macroeconomic theories by having a micro income. He's also author of the forthcoming book, "Attack of the Theater People." He lives in Portland, Oregon.
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