Monday, September 17, 2012

Why am I so grumpy?

I know, I have taken a long hiatus.  But the last few weeks I've been a little out of sorts.  Nothing specific, much of the garden is still doing well; the family is all happy and healthy; and I still have steady work.  There is no particular reason for my grumpiness.  But there it is.  So I'm going to do what it seems most people like to do . . . blame it on the economy.

I actually do think that the general sluggishness of the economy causes an ambivalence in people that is hard to shake and even harder for us to put our finger on.  But I have good news.  There is an economic stimulus package out there that could really make a difference, and no, I'm not talking about the upcoming Quantitative Easing III.  (I don't know about the rest of you but the last two of those didn't seem to make a difference in the lives of any of the people I rub shoulders with.)  So I present to you . . . with appropriate fanfare . . . Joe Schanel's Economic Stimulus Package!  Ta Da!!!

This was originally posted By my husband on February 19, 2011

The following is a thumbnail account of how some stimulus funds could be or could have been spent to try and put Americans back to work and enhance the general level of dignity of our poorest citizens. The numbers are based on a rounded down USA population of 300 million. I have focused on the bottom economic 40 percent of the population or 120 million based upon credible statistics showing that this portion of our population controls less than one third of one percent of America’s wealth. I am not going to cite sources as I want this to be a starting point for dialogue not a scholarly discourse. If you wish to verify or add accuracy to these numbers it would be my hope that this spurs you on to independent research. When we are talking about many billions of dollars it is not really necessary to get within a few million to prove whether or not the idea is feasible. Please feel free to use this information or the ideas in any way you please.

Depending on whose numbers you use, the amount of stimulus/bail-out funds spent vary from one and a half trillion (1500 Billion) dollars to 22 trillion dollars. For the purpose of these ideas we will treat the 120 million poorest Americans as 60 million adults and 60 million children representing 30 million households. Again I realize that I am taking gross liberties with the numbers but I feel the following ideas could be modified according to how much is spent per individual or household and still fall within a reasonable range of spending in comparison to the wanton waste we have witnessed on the part of the government.

     1. Transportation: One of the biggest obstacles to employment on the part of our poor and especially our suburban and fringe urban poor is the ability to reliably get to work. They simply cannot keep a reliable vehicle available. Given that there have been vehicles for sale new in the US such as the Nissan Versa for less than $10,000, the following plan is feasible. Spend $9000 per car to put a car in every one of the 30 million poorest households for a total expense of $270 billion. Caveat: the cars must be American made. Keep in mind that I am not a “buy American” freak but if we are going to spend our stimulus funds, we should spend them here. The government could put out a bid to all of the auto makers asking for base model cars that can be provided at this price and they have to be built in the USA with American components. This would not only provide the poor with transportation but the money spent would come directly back into the American economy in the form of auto worker wages and in the purchase of all the materials and components to manufacture the cars. Some variations on this theme might provide free mass transportation for inner city folks who really can’t make the best use of a car. If you have ever lived in the city you know how much a yearly subway or bus pass costs.

     2. Vocational Training: Provide vocational training to 20 million adults. This is a starting place and it is aimed at providing training to at least one adult in each of the poorest households. $120 billion would allow $6000 to be spent each for 20 million people. This would allow $1500/month in living expenses for 2 months while the program was being completed and $3000 to pay for the training. It is often cited that there is money available for education but that doesn’t help if the person can’t afford to pay their bills while they are in school or if they must go in to enormous debt to go to school. Let the community colleges and other trade institutes compete for the funds. Again, 100 percent of these funds would be spent in the American economy while providing workers the skills to compete in a changing world.

     3. Eye and Dental Care: It is embarrassing and unhealthy to have bad teeth or to not be able to function because you can’t see. $240 billion would allow $2000 per person for every one of the 120 million poorest Americans. I am not talking about insurance. We don’t need to give another $240 billion to the insurance companies, they are the reason health care is so expensive in America already. I am talking about actual care. Fixed teeth and new glasses or other eye care. Once again 100% of this money would be spent in the American economy and it would be a boon to local dental and eye care services. The demand for more help in these industries might give some of our unemployed college graduates a job. The gains in health, self esteem, and employability from this program would have additional positive effects on our social condition.

     4. Small Business Start Up Initiative: Small businesses are the backbone of America but it is almost impossible right now to get a solid start. $500 billion would provide $500
thousand dollars per start up for one million small businesses. Each proposal must be for a plan that employs 10 people each starting at a minimum of $20 thousand/year. There could be adjustments made in the amount available for smaller or larger startups that employ fewer or more employees. To some of you $20 thousand/year may not seem like a lot but ask a poor person how hard it is to get steady full time employment at $10/hour. Two $20 thousand/year incomes in a household would allow a lot of folks to breathe a lot easier than they have in a long time. Some objections to this plan will include, where will the work force come from and how do you administrate it. The vocational training program outlined above could be dovetailed with the business plans to provide workers with the skills needed by the new businesses. Unemployed Business Administration college graduates could cut their teeth on reviewing and assisting with the small business plans. There are about 10 million unemployed in the country right now so the math says that we will reach the theoretical possible low of around 4 to 4.5 percent unemployment before we even exhaust this program so all of these funds will not need to be spent. The returns to the American economy from such a program are obvious but the not so obvious return is all of that unemployment money and public assistance money which would not have to be spent and the improved self esteem of so many citizens who can meet their own needs.

Now if we add all of this up we get:
Transportation……………………...$270 billion
Vocational training……..……...……$120 billion
Eye and Dental Care………....……..$240 billion
Small Business Initiative….......…….$500 billion
Total………………………………….$1,130 billion or One Trillion One Hundred Thirty Billion

This is far less than the amount the government has spent and in at least the transportation and small business portions it is doubtful that all of the funds would be allocated. In addition maybe some direct mortgage relief and some targeted actual industrial bailout could happen to avoid large scale foreclosure and industrial failure.


Karen from Collins said...

Right to the heart, and to the heart of the matter, I LOOOVE it! So simple and LOGICAL... <3 xoxo

Ann said...

It is very good. The only thing I have a problem with is all those cars. How about public transport/bicycle infrastructure? In Maine, they have a great rural bus system. Many people don't want to/can't afford to own cars and are able to get to jobs using this bus system. Not to mention rail systems. Many jobs can be created in those systems, but have a denser use of the fuel. Just a thought, not a criticism.

Barb Schanel said...

Hi Karen! Long time no see!

I agree with you Ann. The only problem I see with Public Transportation is that it has such an unfortunate social stigma in this country. But it would make even more sense than the cars.

Ann said...

It does have that social stigma. But advertising (that which shapes the minds of most Americans) has strange and wonderful powers. Have you seen this bus commercial? All we need is brilliant advertising. It's worked for the car companies for decades.