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February 27th, 2009
03:01 PM ET

A suspicious man in the lobby

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

As all those giant trucks full of money roll out in Washington to dump their loads on Wall Street, car makers, banks and others, one persistent question has been raised by voters: Why not just give us the money?

Deal those hundreds of billions of dollars across the land to every man, woman and child like a coast-to-coast poker game, and watch how fast we’ll double-down our spending. New TVs, cars, phones, lawnmowers, coffee makers, computers, bicycles for our younger children, college educations for our older ones. Every sector of the economy will touched because, heck, we’re everywhere.

Economists have pretty good reasons why that would be a bad idea. Or at least their reasons sound good to me as I’m a non-economist. A one-time burst of cash like that, they say, would lead to some spending, but to a lot more debt reduction and saving. Good things in their own right, but that first one is what we need now. Spending. Money, they insist, is like your daughter’s goldfish: If it’s not moving, that’s bad.

On the other hand, the stimulus money is intended to seed the growth of jobs which, presumably, will produce sustained income. And sustained income leads to people having the confidence to go into sustained spending, creating more jobs, more spending, more jobs, Bob’s-your-uncle, the recession is over.

Still, there is another simple political reason why you never stood a chance of getting this money directly; indeed, why the whole concept was never up for serious debate. You’re not asking for the money. Oh sure, you’re telling your hairstylist, the gang at work, and maybe that guy in the plaid shirt who bags your groceries, that you’d like someone to bail you out. But you are not asking in the formal language of the modern Versailles that is D.C. The voters, en masse, don’t have a lobbyist.

“Lobbyists?” you say in shock and alarm. “I thought they were all being driven out of the Capitol!?” Of course they are, and Nancy Pelosi really looked good in that outfit she wore to the President’s speech.

No, the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) says while we are all hurting, the lobbying business is going gangbusters. Last year the CRP says more than 15,000 lobbyists spent $3.2 billion trying to officially get Washington’s attention because when the government is giving away money, as the ‘Royal Court of Gimme’ long ago learned, you don’t just sit around waiting for your name to be called.

But hold on a second – we do have lobbyists! We do have someone who is representing us! Problem is they are called Congress. And they’re already being lobbied by someone else.


Filed under: Economy • Raw Politics • Tom Foreman
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. 40 Acres & A Mule

    give it to us? the american people "in part" dont have a good track record. let's see here....."the housing market"....enough said!

    February 27, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    If we all got the money instead of the big business and the managers of the big businesses that got us into trouble in the first place, I would buy me some peace of mind – pay off the house, pay off the student loan, pay my 2 daughters college. (I've already paid off the credit cards). The rest, if any was left, would go in the bank and I would get the first good nights sleep I've had in years of worrying about how to pay the bills especially if one of us got laid off. To me this benefits more than just me – the colleges my daughters go to would benefit; the mortgage holder would benefit; the company holding the student loan would benefit and my credit union would benefit. I'd be putting a lot of money into the economy that way.

    February 27, 2009 at 8:03 pm |
  3. Joanne Pacicca, Solvay, NY

    We need to know where our goods are being produced. We have the right as American's to purchase American goods and boycott foreign products, but nothing other than reading the fine print on a product in hand allows us to make solid decisions, which would , indeed, boost the American economy and assist the financial status of big business and the average citizen.

    February 27, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  4. Neo

    If this money is going to hire more overseas workers, then I have a problem with that. In college I used to work at Chase (this was within the past 8 years) and I realized that we were being pushed out so that overseas workers would handle high net worth transactions. Since they are one of the banks that might benefit from this, I assume that they will continue to hire more overseas workers? I am a cognitive therapist now but I could only imagine all the people who depended upon that job for their livelihood.

    These comments are good. When are we ever debt free, unless we were already rich via our parents? We leave high school and get into debt via student loans. Then when we catch up with that we need a car, then we need a house etc. We are a nation consumed in debt because things in this country are obviously too expensive.

    February 27, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  5. mary kushner

    What I want to know is what are the REPERCUSSIONS of the most massive so-called stimulus bill( it seems more like a spending spree) that we are leaving our children? Noone from CNN seems to really tell us the truth. There will be a 13 TRILLION dollar deficit at the end of Obama's term . He continues to spend money THAT WE DO NOT HAVE. I want to know about the cap and trade policy, energy prices being affected, inflation in our future. Why are we sitting back and not getting more OUTRAGED over this? Obama is sending this country down the wrong path-the path to SOCIALISM. He is going to bankrupt our nation and leave our dollar not worth a dime.

    February 27, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  6. Wendy

    This is a much bigger problem then a little spending money can solve. Sure if we all got a nice lump of money we would go out and buy stuff, TVs, new cloths, maybe even a car. Yes, this would pump money back into the failing market, for a few months, a year if we are lucky. Factories would fire back up and a few people may even go back to work. But the money will run out and we will be back in this soup only in more dept.

    We have to face facts here. We have been lazy. We have under educated at least two generations, X and Y. We spoiled gen Y so much a whole industry of consultants grew out of the need to help management deal with them. We have given up our drive and determination for instant gratification. We all need to wake up.

    The only hope for us is the growth of small business to replace the old large institutions (yes let them fail!) and the development of new sustainable industries. Exponential growth can no longer be the goal. Growth for growth sake is cancer. Sustainability needs to me our new holy grail. We have the talent. We even have the knowledge; it just needs to be shared. What we lake is the courage and the will.

    February 27, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  7. Kim

    I hate to say it but I think that this stimulus plan is only going to help a certain few. There is so much "PORK", as most will put it, in this new package that the real problem is not going to be addressed. We all know that something has to change. If our government is going to give, and I stress give, all this money out to the auto manufacturers and financial institutions, they should be required to close down all operations that are not located in the USA. Other wise all I see is the money going to support jobs outside this country and not here.

    If I might also add, think back to when this all started. Look at what the pump price of gasoline and diesel was. Look at how much money has been removed from the family budget on a weekly basis just in going back and forth to work. The barrel price has fallen back to the numbers of late nineties but the pump price hasn't fallen accordingly. This little shift in how every automobile owner in America has to direct their spending stops the flow of dollars into other places that money could have been spent.

    February 27, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  8. Maria

    Lol Congress needs to be cleaned from lobbyists too

    February 27, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  9. Melissa

    Alice, most people, including businesses, aren't in your boat. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you fall within maybe only 5% of people that are in the same category as you do. The rest of us lowly people who work hard, DO still have student loans to pay off, have cars, etc, and can't get loans.

    February 27, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  10. Alice

    Who isn't getting loans? I can get a loan. Of course, I have a steady work history, no arrest record, no credit card debt, own my cars, no student loans, a savings account and only have about 24 more months left on my mortgage. Maybe the mortgage companies shoulds have been more selective about who they lent to in the first place.

    Time to start dealing in cash only. When the cash is gone, it's time to stop buying.

    February 27, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  11. Melissa

    I agree with you and I really don't get it. If they gave my husband and I that money, we'd pay off things like student loans, and the car, and we'd be buying stuff. I badly want a living room set. The one we have is falling apart and doesn't even belong to us in the first place. Thats worth about $2000 or more right there. Not to mention the new bigger flatscreen tv we want. And a bunch of other stuff.

    The problem is, sitting on the funds isn't just something the public might do, its what the corporations ARE doing. The banks aren't lending, they're sitting on it. The corporations aren't hiring for jobs, they're throwing parties in foreign countries and buying one time luxury items like $50 million jets, while sitting on their massive billion dollar bonus' like fat pigs.

    I'd rather have it go somewhere we know it will get used. To the people.

    February 27, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  12. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    The stimulus package will only benefit "the chosen few"-–and not the mass of Americans-–the President says it is going to create more jobs-–I don't think so--it going to allow financial institutions to erase their "debts" and toxic investments-–it is only going to maintain the status quo-–does anyone actually believe that all of those individuals are going to get their jobs back as a cause and effect of the stimulus package? Congress is giving money back to the same irresponsible and inept corporations and institutions-–and you know what-–they are going to do the same thing.....

    February 27, 2009 at 12:22 pm |