I make a habit of telling my students to keep in mind one of Karl Marx's fundamental theories for analyzing socioeconomic and political issues: Ask yourself "Who pays?" and "Who benefits?" I do this not because I desire to turn them all into Marxists, as I find much of Marxism quite stupid. These questions greatly increase the odds that one's understanding of why something that may or may not make sense is happening. It's also a useful way to figure out who's getting it broken off in their collective ass – and who's doing the breaking.

Let's apply these very basic questions to Our Leader (and Congress) as they cook up another nauseatingly cynical "stimulus" plan that consists of sending people big checks 4 months before the election. First of all, why is "stimulus" necessary? For the past 7 years – hell, up until just a few weeks ago – the economy was So Goddamn Strong That We Can Hardly Believe It. It was the Greatest Story Never Told. President Bush, his Treasury Secretary, Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, Fox News….they were breathlessly extolling the magnitude of our economic power. Press fast forward and leap from early December 07 to late January 08. Now economic indicators are "mixed," Americans are "worried," and the economy needs tens of billions in stimulus. Boy, that was fast.

Who's paying? You are, dumbass. Setting aside the stock-footage, often-promised-but-never-fucking-works Supply Side nonsense about how tax cuts/rebates pay for themselves (several times over!) this is simply another (conveniently, of course, long after Bush is history). It's like a cash advance or payday loan. It's a little more like John Doe 2008 borrowing from John Doe 2010. Most of all, it's another example of the "Me! Me! Me!" generation of baby boomers borrowing from their kids while they crank up the Limbaugh and give us all the finger.

I digress.

So who benefits? The knee-jerk reaction might be to say that low income taxpayers do (given that the benefit of an even payment across all incomes is regressive). But honestly, tell me what $600 is going to do for someone whose home is being foreclosed. Or on the brink of bankruptcy. Or balls-deep in debt, getting the utilities disconnected, and so on. If any of that applies, $600 is going to forestall the inevitable for a few more weeks. At best. No, the actual beneficiaries are lenders. They're the ones getting a huge infusion of cash as opposed to the peanuts and individual person will receive.

Our Leader does not give a rimjob from a $3 whore about you, your financial problems, or your mortgage. Regular Americans have been having problems with these issues in increasing numbers for a couple decades. No, what changed between 12/1/07 and 1/29/08 is that the stock market took a dive, mortgage lenders (and banks in general) have released cascading waves of gloomy forecasts and poor results, and the financial industry as a whole is starting to get very uneasy about the bottom line.

A CNN poll (and forgive me, I can't find it at the moment) showed 50% of the respondents indicating that they plan to use their check to pay bills, with about 30% of the remaining half either lying or not very bright ("Ima spend me this bitch on onea dem Vizio TVs!"). I guess the President and Congress thought it might ruffle some feathers to announce "Government to hand banks $150 billion" so setting up the taxpayer as a middleman makes good public relations sense.

Cynical? Borderline Marxist? Paranoid? OK, well, offer me a better explanation of why the economy was fantastic 8 weeks ago and in need of billions in handouts today. Please.


  • The economy has been performing like shit for people in the middle-class and lower-class for a few years now, so this isn't groundbreaking news. However, news of the housing bubble popping just gave politicians a viable excuse to go, "Oh my God, look at all these shitty economic statistics!"

    Why didn't the US public realize this earlier? Because they're fucking stupid. These people honestly believe a check for $600 is actually going to do something. But then again, to channel David Cross, I really do want a Sharper Image gift certificate.

  • And all along I thought that the free market took care of itself…boy was I wrong!

    On the other hand, now we can finally test out my famous demand-side Trickle-Up economic model! Power to the people!

  • I stand by my call of the Average American (TM) blowing it on booze, smokes, and lottery tickets. And Colin Cowherd's favorite pitch, Vizio TV's.

  • You are completely, completely, correct. While not everyone is in the dire straits you describe (foreclosure, bankruptcy, etc) the majority of people are going to use this to pay a bill.

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