Thursday, January 29, 2009

Don’t call it a stimulus

The more I read about Obama’s $819 billion stimulus plan, the less I’m inclined to call it a stimulus plan. And that’s ok.

Call it the Long-Term Investment Plan of 2009. Or call it the State Safety Net. Better yet, how about the We’re Democrats, We’re In Control Plan.

But it’s not the short-term jolt that many lawmakers and economists are asking for. If that’s what Obama wanted, he would’ve taken the Bush approach by sending more affluent households a check (although a good portion of the Obama plan comes in the form of tax cuts for lower-income families).

Nevertheless, I’m a big supporter of the long-term uses of the money, especially on education, technology and energy. Let’s face it, our current economic situation represents a painful spring cleaning. And if we invest our money wisely in programs that provide a long-term competitive edge, we could emerge from the ruins as a more productive nation built on a foundation of ingenuity and innovation. That comes from investing in our skills and smarts.

I'm still processing all these moving parts. If you're also processing, check out some of these great resources:

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
If you're planning on locking yourself into seclusion for a few days, you can read the plan in its 647-page entirety.

NY Times economic stimulus guide
For the rest of the working world looking for a less wordy breakdown, this guide provides a great explanation set against context and history. Highly recommend.

Pelosi's breakdown of the plan's main points
You can even watch her flaunt the Democratic party's majority rule. Beware, Madam Speaker. Tom Delay's hubris still haunts the halls of Congress.

Obama's benchmarks for success
Keep the administration accountable with this cheat sheet.

A fair and balanced proposal from an ex-Bushie
Lawrence Lindsay provides a rebuttal in the form of a greater payroll tax cut. Subscription required.


  1. Totally agree. Personally I think that the situation we're in now globally requires a re-evaluation and restructuring of the economy (then again, I pretty much always have thought that). The two things I find most disturbing about the American economy are a) how much of it is built on exploitation (often violently and repressively so) of cheap labor/resources from other parts of the world and the fact that the US doesn't make stuff anymore. The majority of US companies' manufacturing is done overseas, which means that we're not very self-sufficient as a nation and b) the corollary that that means that a lot of the US workforce is in what I'll call "non-essential" jobs for the sake of convenience. Service industry, entertainment, etc. Middle management. A lot of the US survives on being the fat of the company, and now that the economy is dieting, well, shit happens (puns intended, sadly).

    So I too like parts of the Obama plan--a focus on the long-term investment in American human resources is a good start!

  2. Interesting comments, Mo. My professor tonight shared an anecdote. During some U.S.-China event, a Chinese official claimed the U.S. could consume cheap goods from China for many years to come because labor would remain so dirt cheap. The global system is allowing the exploitation of labor. The U.S. is the world's greatest spender, and China's policies feed the beast.

  3. Oh man, you should totally read "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" and "The Secret History of the American Empire", both by the same guy. I think his name is John Perkins. Fascinating books from one of the guys whose job it was to head up companies designed to subjugate 3rd world countries, so-called, to American economic hegemony, through government policy, corporate policy and supposedly neutral institutions such as IMF and World Bank.

    The fact is, people in the US and parts of Europe live in relative luxury because of the sickening exploitation of people in other parts of the world. The rich in every country benefit from this exploitation, and the US is the richest country in the world, per capita. As Philip K. Dick wrote, albeit entirely in a different context, the Empire never ended. In this case, I mean the British Empire which transitioned rather smoothly into the American Empire. How are the methods of companies like Halliburton different than the East India Company? Technology changed, faster than anyone could imagine, but infrastructures and economic behavior on a global scale hasn't yet matched that change.

    And by the way, I'm not totally being down on the imperial system, I mean, it gives us great stuff like TiVo and iPhones and satellite radio and the NBA, etc etc etc. I like the stuff! I hate the system. It's a terrible moral quandry.

    China is in a fascinating position because China has tried to position itself, in the post-Soviet world, as the alternative to American imperial power. China recognizes that the power of the British Empire, and that of the American Empire, is three-fold, and that the obvious element is the least actually important. 1. Military. 2. Economic. 3. Cultural. China tries to combat the US on all three points, but obviously lags far behind vis-a-vis American cultural supremacy. I mean, even the French, for all their great technical filmmaking personnel, have sort of given up to the Hollywood movie model in the past few years, because it makes money!

    Ok, I'm done with this little rant. Got to do some more work!