Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Stimulus Package

Well. Fed Chairman Mr. Bernanke, was on Capitol Hill this morning, discussing the options for a “stimulus package.” It seems everyone is already agreed that $100 billion is shortly going to come streaming off the printing presses, all that remains is to divvy up the spoils. Tax cuts, tax rebates, food stamp increase, and extended unemployment insurance coverage are all on the table.

Mr. Bernanke seems nervous, and stresses the need for speed. This is $100 billion to boost consumption. Obviously the best place to put it is in the hands of people who will spend it immediately. Generally speaking the poorer the recipient, the faster the stimulation flows into the system. But I would say that.

If it works, then perhaps Mr. Bernanke will consider a more permanent “stimulus” in the form of universal health care and a sharp increase in the minimum wage.

Instead of diverting hundreds of billions of dollars into unnecessary wars of choice, and hundreds of millions into incarcerating the poor, a more enlightened administration might consider an extensive program of infrastructure re-design to accommodate our new healthy lifestyles. More walking, more bicycles, more local production and consumption, significantly less use of fossil fuels.

The redesign of the suburbs to encompass more viable communities with work, food, water and power all locally available. The construction of efficient rail and canal transportation. And some decent schools. There is an almost unending list. Many of these projects have been waiting for years for funding to be available, everything else is already in place.

If this situation leads to a rethink of the whole stimulus game, then we might restore something meaningful to the term “civilization”.

2 comments:

  1. I've been paying attention to this, very interesting, this is really a last minute bucket of water on a raging inferno.

    Also, have you seen the blackouts?

    Gaza city, as well as a lot of smaller, and poorer, cities have been without any oil fueled services, civilization has just taken a break for a few days . . .

    I didn't expect it to all unravel so quick like this, but I can't say it's sad.

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  2. Hi Nick,

    The whole of what used to be called the Third World is unable to afford oil imports at current prices. So blackouts will become even more a feature of daily life for millions of people.

    Meanwhile:

    The almost unprecedented action from the Federal Reserve this morning, dropping interest rates by 75 basis points a week before the regularly scheduled meeting is a sure sign that the financiers are very worried. The whole house of cards could come tumbling down.

    Whatever happens, I think it's safe to say that the next few months are going to bring hard times to some.

    A significant reorientation of the global economy, away from consumption and into a balance with the natural world in overdue, and will happen, by hook or by crook.

    Remember - It's just a ride. There is always opportunity in crisis.

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