"It is the death of humanity to know the price of everything but the value of nothing." ~Unknown

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What could've been had He not sold us out


Obama's Economic Rescue Package So On The Mark It Would Be A True Game Changer, In A Good Way

Ben F. Terton

October 14, 2008 – Half a decade. That's how long I've waited to write this article.

For half a decade the only articles I've been able to write were the ones that explained that, despite "expert" commentary to the contrary, the nation was headed toward a major economic collapse. And then that the collapse was beginning. And then to repeat, yes, really, there's going to be a collapse. And then, finally, I guess now you see what I meant.

The reason I've been able to predict exactly what was going to happen to the economy half a decade ahead of time was not because I'm psychic. It was because during that period, with Republican conservatives in control of the government, there were no significant changes of policy. And so the disastrous course that was set beginning with the first round of Bush tax cuts just trickled on and on, like a slow motion bullet headed toward the nation's heart but with the nation pinned there by the GOP, blindfolded by media nonsense, and so doomed by an easily escapable problem.

Any significant change of policy during that time could have headed off this disaster. But neither Republican nor Democrat ever really hit the mark.

Until now.

Senator Obama's plan was shocking for many reasons. So far ahead in the race, it was unexpected that he would release such a bold, detailed plan. But more than that, it was truly shocking to see, for the first time in a generation, a politician hit a mark so directly on the head. Delivering exactly to the true middle class, rather than to either the poorer people or the richer, Obama's simple, relatively cheap economic rescue plan, if enacted, would immediately and significantly alter the course of the American economy for the better.

Here's why this plan blows all previous ones away.

The first part is pretty simple and only somewhat significant. His offer of tax cuts directly tied to the creation of new jobs - offering $3000 per new job created in America. For years one of the things I pointed out as a flaw in the conservative dogma was that they claimed giving tax cuts to businesses would create jobs, but they never attached any mechanism to the cuts that made it so. They simply handed money to companies, which could decide to use the money for bonuses for their CEO's - which is what they did - rather than create jobs. If they truly wanted to use tax cuts to business to create jobs, I wrote for years, there had to be something in the cuts that required them to be used for hiring.

Obama's plan does exactly that. And notice the last part of his plan - "$3000 per new job created in America." Previous cuts allowed companies to spend their cash overseas. Obama explicitly stops this.

What you see here is a fundamental shift - Obama is actually looking out for America and for the American people. The Republicans were not stupid. They knew if you just handed cuts to businesses without specifying what the money had to be used for, it would go to bonuses and overseas projects. They just didn't care. They were the rich CEO's and they just wanted companies to get richer.

What Obama proposes in this part is simple, but massively different. For the first time in years, the American people are not having their hands tied behind their back while the government spits directly in their face. No lies, no games, no looking the other way. Barack Obama knew what needed to be done, but didn't put his trust in businesses, as conservatives do. He, in effect, instituted oversight and regulation all within a tax cut. And with that he got at the fundamental flaw of the conservative economic scheme: the idea that businesses act with America's best interest in mind, rather than for the profit of their executives and stock holders, which we all know is actually the case.

This part of Obama's plan is very nice. But what he came up with next was not only brilliant, but the most significantly positive step one could have imagined to immediately fix what is broken in the American economy - and in such a way that it has no real downside.

Barack's plan would allow people to withdraw 15% of their retirement funds, up to $10,000, in 2008 and again in 2009.

Now why is this such a big deal? And when I say big deal, I mean so big this could single-handedly save the American economy and head off depression and collapse.

Here's the rub: the average American family currently owes just under $10,000 in credit card debt.

What was destroying the American economy - and going to continue to destroy it for years - was that the American people weren't just spent out, they were overspent. After decades of spending more than they actually had thanks to easy credit, not only were they going to have to cut spending to get back to what they could afford, but all across the nation, people were completely slamming the door on spending to focus on trying to pay down all the debt they had accumulated.

Now with the numbers we've been hearing lately, $10,000 might not seem that much. But for your average middle class family, to pay that off while still getting by would literally mean years - two to five years - of eliminating virtually all non-essential spending. Cars, vacations, even going out to dinner, all things big and little were getting cut from household budgets left and right. With 2/3 of the American economy consumer spending, this was the problem that was destroying our nation.

Now look at Barack's plan. A family can, without penalty, immediately take $10,000 from their IRA and, instantly - instead of crimping and cutting for 4 years - have that debt be gone. And for those a little deeper in, they could do it a second time right after January, since it's allowed in 2008 and 2009.

There are a number of very important things to notice about this plan: unlike a tax cut stimulus plan, this doesn't cost the government a massive amount of money the nation would have to borrow. This plan allows people to help themselves get out of the mess they made. And, at the same time, it both: 1)1 injects a bunch of cash into the economy, particularly helping fend off bank collapses by having people be able to pay off their debts - all without government borrowing - and, 2) gets people instantly out of the holes they are in, enabling them to begin spending again, and so instantly reviving every layer of the economy, from the corner pizza store to the car dealer.

The best part of this again, like with the first part of Barack's plan, is that more than just being a new policy, it is an important change of philosophy and a more advanced, doubly positive solution. Rather than the government bailing out those in trouble, this allows people to be bailed out but instead by themselves. Beyond this being better for the nation's economy, it is the philosophy of self-reliance and responsibility.

Most notably, this plan, unlike previous plans offered by Democrats, which helped only the poorer among us, or by Republicans, which helped only the richer among us, this plan directly hits the mark of helping the one group that always gets missed: the true middle class. If you are poor, this part of the plan won't help you at all. You won't have much of a 401(K), if any, and so won't have any funds to draw on. And if you are rich, $10,000 won't mean much one way or another.

But for the hard working people in the middle, people earning typically from the $30K's all the way up to $200K, this will be a lifesaver and game changer for each and every household. Even for families that can only withdraw $2000, that would still be years worth of paying down credit cards, since families with less would be able to pay less each month, and would be caught in the credit card interest cycle. Suddenly, boom, $2000 gone in 2008, another $2000 in 2009. Back in the game.

And for the others who can take more, they can either knock out credit card debt or, for those who mortgage woes, use that $10,000 a year to stay afloat for a while - $10,000 can buy a lot of time for a mortgage holder.

And again, since the funds are personal funds and not a tax handout, it is like a massive stimulus program and bank rescue program combined with no real cost to the nation whatsoever.

That is true brilliance.

This part of the plan could put people back on their feet in an instant and save countless banks and lenders by enabling people who would have otherwise gone bust to meet their obligations.

The only question anyone could have about this plan would be won't it hurt at retirement time? But truly, if everyone keeps crimping their spending for years to pay down this debt instead of doing it the way Barack's plan does, so many people would lose their jobs due to economic retraction that they would be far worse off come retirement time.

It's been a long time since I've been able to write an article that had any positive economic news in it. It's been a long run of dire and dark. But now there is hope. If this plan is enacted, combined with Obama's claim that he would launch an all out drive to build a new alternative energy economy, not only can America avoid a massive depression, but America could pull out of this recession in rather short order and, even better, climb to economic heights never seen before by bringing home all the wealth that's been going over to the Middle Eastern oil cartels, Russia, and Venezuela.

The third part of Obama's plan is also very sharp. State and local governments are in dire straights. Declining property tax, etc are sending numerous of them toward bankruptcy. Obama's plan would set up an emergency loan agency just for state and local governments. You know where they've had to go before? To a company called AIG - yes, that one we've had to bail out twice now, while it spends half a million on posh retreats. No more would local governments have to go to AIG - nor go bankrupt.

Again, philosophically, Obama is ending the era of putting America's trust in business. No more trusting AIG to back our governments. We are instead going to trust our government over the businesses. A fundamental shift, and not a moment too soon.

The last part of Obama's plan is a bit of a snoozer - a 90-day freeze on foreclosures. Not something too exciting one way or another. But it does buy some time for the other parts of the plan to be enacted, as well as for people to make plans for dealing with their mortgage situations.

It can not be overstated how important and miraculous this plan rolled out by Barack Obama is. And for a candidate who was far enough ahead in the polls that he could have played it safe and avoided putting any plan out there, it was a brave move, and much to the nation's benefit.

Politically, by truly putting tangible economic turnaround out there for the entire American middle class - pending the election of Obama and Democrats so they can pass this bill right after the election - Obama has won the pocketbooks, and likely the hearts and minds of millions of middle class voters. They say people always vote their pocketbooks. For millions, this plan would lift misery and stress and replace it with a return to normal life, with no bill left to pay down the road. With a vote for Barack meaning $10,000 will instantly be put in their pockets, it is hard to imagine anything but an even more massive swing toward Obama's candidacy by middle class voters. Look for a possible bluing of many currently red states, from the plain states to parts of the south.

I don't know where this idea came from for Obama - if it was Warren Buffet or another advisor who gave it to him. But for Obama to choose the plan that exactly hit the mark, and in the gentlest, smartest possible way, he has shown in one of America's most desperate moments ever that he has the vision and leadership to right the nation's ship amidst the wildest storm.

Bravo. And thank you, Barack, for at last allowing me to write an article about a potential positive development for the American economy.

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