In early June, Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s mentioned a need for another stimulus check. Then, in late July, there were rumblings in Congress that Democrats were looking to put together another stimulus package that may or may not include a check to families. There was a move by Democrats to try to pass the aspects of the first stimulus package, which included a check, that were struck down in the name of expediency.
Senator Obama released this six-page policy paper that outlines a two-part stimulus package.
Part 1: Emergency Energy Rebate Checks: The first part would include an “emergency energy rebate.” Individuals would receive $500 and married couples would receive $1000. The checks would be paid for over five years by a windfall tax on oil company profits. The six-page document explains the nature of the checks but doesn’t illustrate how the windfall profits might be taxed (granted, given the political nature of the document, it might be out of scope).
Part 2: $25B State Growth Fund & $25B Jobs and Growth Fund. The second part has itself two parts. The State Growth Fund would help prevent state and local cuts in services like education and housing assistance as well as alleviate the need to increase taxes, tolls, and fees. Many states are feeling the pinch as housing prices fall, foreclosures rise, and real estate tax revenue falling. The Jobs and Growth Fund is really an infrastructure bill that would support maintenance of highways, roads, and bridges; as well as fast-track school repair projects. There is no mention of how this would be funded.
My Thoughts: I didn’t like the stimulus checks but having listened to their use in the 70s in Greenspan’s anecdotal Age of Turbulence, I’m not wholly against them as a mechanism for thwarting an economic slowdown. However, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the checks are as much about politics as they are about prevent a slowdown. While I would imagine the economic policy advisors on Obama’s staff are well versed in macr- and microeconomics, I wonder how much of it is influenced by a desire to win in November.
That being said, people are getting pinched. Not everyone is getting pinched, but a lot of people are and additional funds would help some remain solvent. My concern is that with a deficit nearing half a trillion dollars, we’re sacrificing our future prosperity for relief today. This is exactly the same thinking that gets many people into deep credit card debt. “Just a little more relief…”
Finally, what are the chances this actually happens? Democrats had difficulty extending unemployment benefits and those go only to those who have already lost their jobs. You can argue that some people getting the first stimulus checks didn’t need them, but unemployment benefits only go to those who are unemployed! It’s difficult to say if this plan would even fly, but it makes for an interesting discussion. So, what do you think?