Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid!

Are we in a recession or aren't we? The way I understand it, we won't know until we have six months of economic distress. So, who really knows whether it's a recession or not. The point is that people are not doing well financially

The "president", Congress, and even the current crop of presidential candidates all have their ideas of how to get us out of this recession.
They all have ideas for stimulus packages. Somehow, they all believe that throwing money at the problem in the form of sizable tax rebates and major cuts in interest rates will cause people to spend

Despite a limited knowledge of economics and an inability to balance my own checkbook, I have some practical and long-lasting ways we can turn our economy around.

1. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage. There are so many people in this country working for the minimum wage which hasn't significantly grown in years. What's more, if the minimum rises, so do the rest of our salaries. CEO pay has gone up astronomically over the last decade, but that only puts the money in a few hands. Why not spread the wealth? A hike in the minimum wage would mean more spending at all economic levels.

2. Pr
ovide universal healthcare/socialized medicine. Imagine the savings if our government put everyone (or almost everyone) on one healthcare plan. Sure, taxes for small businesses would go up, but that cost would be less than it is to provide health coverage for employees. Besides, it would keep the uninsured from running up huge bills at emergency rooms.

3. Quit sucking the poor dry! We are inundated with rent-to-own stores, paycheck advance shops, student loan scams and many other industries dedicated to sucking every last penny from the poor and working poor. I suggest that we either eliminate these services or subsidize their efforts. There are countries in Europe where people who need things like next month's rent or a couch can get the necessary funds from government. Furthermore, how profitable can it be to rip off people with no money. Eventually, they run out of the cheddar.

4. Go after corporations for the taxes they owe. We can raise the funds for some of these long-term economic fixes if the government doesn't allow corporations to slip through loopholes on their way to setting up shop in some Caribbean island that doesn't tax them. Additionally, end corporate welfare. This area of welfare has been way more detrimental to our federal resources than social welfare programs.

5. Bring back the Work Projects Administration. This was the program that created jobs by building roads, bridges, and other public projects. Besides fixing our existing structures, the new WPA could start to lay tracks for new public transportation options in response to ever-growing gas prices. Imagine if you could actually ride a train to work instead pumping your tank with $3 of Texas gold. The WPA could also continue the trend of cities building biking and walking trails which would also help with the fuel crisis.

Like I've said before, I have no real economic training, but I think these ideas would work. Someone with way more training in economics might think I'm crazy, but how crazy was it to think just a few years ago that we might have a woman or a black man as president? What I do know is that whatever we've been trying so far is not working. If it was working, there wouldn't be so many people living below the poverty line in what is supposed to be the world's richest country. And besides, I have yet to hear an answer that is neither beneficial to those who already have so much nor a long-term solution to our economic woes. When you've got something better, let me know.


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