2.05.2009

That's what I call stimulating!

Living abroad and so far away, I sometimes find it difficult to gauge what conditions are like back in my country. This is because I receive most of my information on the home front from CNN International-- the only English channel available to me other than Al Jezeera and the BBC. And because media outlets so often sensationalize in an effort to boost ratings, I find myself filtering the news, taking it all in with a grain of salt.

However after visiting the U.S on a recent holiday, I felt as though I got hit in the head with my salt grinder when I learned about the plight of the man who had sold it to me. When I lived in the United States just over one year ago, he owned an upscale housewares boutique--my favorite shop to browse for that perfect gift. On this day, however, we didn't meet at his store. Rather, I ran into him at the local Walgreens, while I was perusing the feminine hygiene isle and he was working.

"John!" I exclaimed with a hint of surprise. (Yes, John and I were on a first-name basis. I was a very regular patron.)

"Diane?! How are you? WHERE are you? Are you and Max still in Germany?" he asked.

"Yes, yes," I replied "I'm visiting. How are you?"

John's smile faded. He sighed quietly. "Well, obviously, I lost the store. People stopped buying. I couldn't get the credit I needed to buy Christmas stock and had no other choice than to shut my doors."

"I am so sorry," I said in all sincerity. "It was such a wonderful store."

John already knew how I felt. "Don't feel sorry for me, Diane. I own my house and, only a month after I lost the store, I found this job to keep me afloat. So many people can't find work or sell their houses in this market."

Seeing John, I realized the anchors at CNN hadn't been exaggerating reports about the U.S. economy. It's in bad shape--far worse than I imagined. Since returning to Germany, I have heard from several friends who have either lost or are in jeopardy of losing their jobs in industries that range from service to high technology, from entertainment to pharmaceutical. Other have cancelled planned visits to Europe until the economic climate stabilizes, which many experts believe will be at least a year, if not longer.

Given the economic free fall, it outrages me that government leaders from both parties are playing politics as usual when it comes to the stimulus package. Their behavior tells me they are more interested in scoring political punches, rather than working together to tackle the crisis. For this reason, I feel like taking my salt grinder and bopping a few congressmen on their heads.

While I recognize genuine philosophical differences exist, the vast majority of economists agree that the government needs to spend its way out of this problem, creating jobs through massive and varied infrastructure projects. That's right, infrastructure-- real, tangible structures, which take human engineering and labor to create, while leaving something for posterity.

It's not as if the United States isn't in need of some serious upgrades. Securing numerous, old bridges, which are in danger of collapse, building electrical power grids that can resist the yearly winter ice storms, creating a greener mass transit for cities, upgrading school facilities, ensuring every community has equal access to high speed Internet. These types of projects not only create jobs in the private sector and help the economic crisis in the here and now, they also bring a return on investment and leave something for future generations.

I am just a layperson, but this seems like a pretty simple concept.

Investing in America = Good. Playing Politics = Bad.

Really, people, is there something I am just not getting?

26 comments:

oreneta said...

amen sister

Princess Extraordinaire said...

You said everything I've been stewing over...thank you!

kenju said...

You are so right. The last 8 years taught us that, if nothing more.

kissashark said...

It is a bit ridiculous, but each side has a view on how to correct the economy and they beleive they are right...hopefully they can find middle ground and the little guys like me can start to see some releif. I fyou think your news is bad, imagine the local news we all get! All doom and gloom.

Sue Jacquette said...

Oh yes, it's real dear. We are, thankfully, not personally effect as yet, but many, many of my friends have been. it's a wake up call for sure. We need to remember to really look at need vs want and try to live more simply.

Ron said...

OMG...people here are on constant pins and needles worrying about their jobs. In my particular industry, I've seen MAJOR and I mean MAJOR cutbacks and lay-off's. I feel incredibly blessed to still have my job, considering what I sell is a luxury item, but I still can't be sure, so I just take one day at a time.

ms chica said...

Perhaps you need a heavier implement than a salt grinder.

ianin hamburg said...

It's not so great here, either. A friend in Hamburg was lucky to keep his job as the small office he works in was downsized to a skeleton crew.
A big worry with the stimulus spending is not the money itself being spent, but that the "buy America first" policy might lead to similar protectionist moves elsewhere, so that the free flow of trade between countries also dries up. That would make a bad situation much worse.

headbang8 said...

"Investing in America = Good. Playing Politics = Bad."

Except that our leaders--and, it could be argued, people in general--have been rewarded for being bad for so long, that they have forgotten what good is, and how to be it.

Blogging Mama Andrea said...

This is one of the reason I don't want to go back home in 13 months (though staying here isn't an option). Singapore, Dubai - yep I want to keep on moving so that at least there is a bit more security in being an expat than being average Joe in the US new to the totem pole and first to go in hard times.

Until I start making some bucks with this writing gig, hubby's going to have to keep us traveling.

It is scary and I do feel like I don't even know the half of what's going on there since we haven't been back since July.

Charlotte said...

If only it were that simple ... because of the whole "reaching across the aisle" bullshit, the stimulus package, like any other bipartisan project in the past, has been growing into a a kegger for pork-barrel projects.

Sad ...

Diane Mandy said...

Ian-I agree. History has shown the protectionism actually hurts economic recovery. It helped prolong the Great Depression and now, given the fact that the world is even more invested in each other, it is a bad, BAD idea. Invest in America for me means using stimulus money exclusively on projects that offer jobs now, but leave something for the future. With these projects America gets back $1.59 for every dollar spent, and when talking a trillion dollars, this is not a bad thing.

A Touch of Dutch said...

Wow, you hit the nail on the head with this one ;-) Well-written. I usually feel the media is pulling my leg as well with much they talk about or sensationalize. But I do know the whole crisis is not just a flash in the pan, and you are right how congress is tippy-toeing around things.

Connie said...

That whole "you don't get something for nothing" saying, it's been around for a long time for good reason!

I'm with Ms Chica.. you need a heavier implement. I have a marble rolling pin you can borrow.

Outnumbered2to1 said...

It is so frustrating listing to the politicians pander. It really is like they are so completely out of touch.

Dianne said...

You get it just right!! I know how John feels, my business is on its last leg, my health insurance is gone, my mortgage is late, and I would like to borrow your salt grinder - these damn Republicans stand there and give speechs about "liberal spending" and the need to cut taxes. We already gave the banks and Wall Street and the corporations everything we had so they could play funny money.

Why wouldn't we want to go back to actually working and building things!

So - wanna come back and run for office?

Rositta said...

It has been said that Keynesian economics doesn't really work.
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-keynesian-economics.htm

It was tried in the Province of Ontario during the 90/91 recession and we ended up with a huge deficit that took 7 years to pay off. During that painful 7 years everything from health care to education was cut to the bone. Is it worth it in the end? I truly don't know, all I know is that the Americans got the world into this pickle and hopefully they will get us out...ciao

Anonymous said...

If in fact this "stimulus bill" were stimulating the economy....I don't think that anyone would be resisting it but it seems a huge portion of it is merely moving money from the tax payers to the politicians favorite supporters. Investing in America = Good if in fact that is what it is.....perhaps if Obama would take it down a notch and not so stridently urge the passing of this abomination or we're doomed, DOOMED, (he's beginning to sound like Al Gore by the way) perhaps he would be a more credible source of information. All I know is that we have had this urgent need to increase the tax burdens of all of us working folk since before the November election. We have been told that if we don't move quickly we will plunge into who knows what....Pelosi has told us that we are losing 500 million jobs a month and that is way more than the population of this country. It is now February and we are all still here....I'll bet we'll all still be here in April and maybe May. I say enough of the Panic...Scream....Help Us OMG we are going to DIE....and let's get back to the good old American way of life we all grew up with....get back up, work at whatever you need to work at and make it happen baby. Stop whining and waiting for the miracle man to wave his wand and rescue you

Diane Mandy said...

Anom - I didn't say we needed to have the stimulus bill that is currently drafted because it has been burdened by too many pet projects that I would not classify as stimulus. This is part of the problem and why I called out both parties in the post. I also think that tax cuts have proven ineffective because they offer only a short term boost, if any. But most economist agree we need a large of infusion of stimulus spending on worthy projects to help offset the freefall, which is happening in the job department. Tomorrow figures will be released and we will see another 500,000 (not million) gone in one month. That's still dreadfull, and we're not at the end of this.

Anonymous said...

Diane,

I see. That tax cut issue however has not been proven ineffective. The short term boost is often a result of the limited time the Pols allow the tax cut to live....that 500 million number by the way was Nancy Pelosi's....not mine.

Diane Mandy said...

I understood that the number was Pelosi's and I assume she misspoke, but who knows? I am not a fan of her or Reid. And tax cuts *can* help but in times like with this most economists day the large majority of people would save the money or use it to pay a bill rather than purchase. Ordinarily this would be a good thing, but right now not.

I don't think our ideas are much different. I think the current package is loaded with wasteful pet projects and projects that aren't "shelf ready". I also think some proportion of targeted tax cuts and spending is the right balance. My frustration stems from the fact that politicians should understand this also, be willing to do what is right, short term, for the greater economic good, and be putting political objectives aside.

I also think that as a people we are weary of fear tactics because we have been bombarded with them for years. This is part of why we have TARP --the most massive misuse of money in history perhaps. And I think, as you said in your first comment, we will all still be here in April and May...but we may run the risk of making this recession much, much worse if we cannot get money circulating in the system and jobs being created to offset what will be happening in the months to come. Right now we are seeing large and small corporations laying off, next it will be state employees all over the nation. At some point we reach of point of no return for years to come.

Diane Mandy said...

One more point on the need of job creation on a personal note--this is the first time in all of my adult highly-educated, high-caliber people out of work. And ordinarily I would not be concerned because their tenacity would shine through. But there aren't very many jobs to had at out there and the ranks of the unemployed is only growing. For instance, we just had thousands of people standing in line for three days in Miami for a mere 50 firefighter jobs. Do you ever remember such a thing? This isn't about handouts or helping people who don't want to help themselves. Sure, there are and always be people who take advantage, but the personal stories I am hearing on a regular basis are tragic, unwarranted, and growing by the day. This is why Democrats and Republicans needs to check there ideologies and feelings at the door, and get to the business of helping Americans get back to work.

Anybody want to debate what to do on the housing front?

Suzanne Casamento said...

No, you're getting it. It's as appalling as you think it is.

Brenna said...

I have never known so many people (personally) out of work. One of our good friends hasn't been able to find a job in over a year! And it's not for lack of looking. He's an engineer, has an MBA but would be willing to do anything. Another friend has been out of work for 8+ months. Had to put their house on the market, but it won't sell. My husband's company just laid off 14 people, took us off great health insurance, rescinded his cost of living increase, etc. etc. etc. But do I think it's the government's job to send me money? No. It's hard times, and we'll work through it. But I'm not asking for a handout. Americans will persevere! :-)

egan said...

Whoa, I've never really seen you go back and forth in the comments before. Clearly this is a passionate issue for you. Let's hope things get corrected soon. I was one of those laid off, but thankfully was able to get something else internal. It's pretty ugly out there.

Diane Mandy said...

It's a topic I do feel so passionately about because so many of my friends, in real life and virtually, are in a pickle right now while congressmen try to one up each other politically. Obama laid the case out well last night, but I do fear the bill might offer too many tax cuts and not enough true infrastructure projects. I guess that's the price for compromise. I just hope it helps.

I am happy you got a job! I had a feeling you would!