The first story that caught my attention was the "tax rebate" stimulus package that our federal government is trying to pass to "jump start" the economy. The Associated Press story, carried by a local TV station, states:
WASHINGTON -- With unprecedented speed and cooperation, Congress and the White House forged a deal Thursday to begin rushing tax rebates of $600 to $1,200 to most tax filers by spring, hoping they will spend the money just as quickly and jolt the ailing economy to life.
Rebates would be even higher for families with children.
Of course, the reason for the rebates being higher for families with children, supposedly, is to give those parents who are suffering so much trying to provide for their children with much needed cash (which they would, of course, spend).
So shortly after that story was coverage of the local Hannah Montana concert. For those who are as clueless about this as I was, Hannah Montana (played by Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter, Miley Cyrus) is a Disney Channel TV series that all the kids are going nuts over. Background info aside -- The news story interviewed several kids coming out of the concert, and asked one how much her parents paid for the tickets. She said, "$500."
Yes, you read that right - five HUNDRED fscking* dollars for concert tickets for a kid.
(* fsck = UNIX command for "file system check" but also a nerdy substitute for the word "fuck")
Now I know there are parents out there who really are counting pennies and trying to make ends meet, just as there are non-parents struggling as well. So when I hear about the US government giving $300 per child tax rebates -- put into English, $300 of my tax dollars going to someone else's kid -- so parents can spend $500 for a Hannah Montana ticket, my blood starts to boil.
Let's talk about why the economy is really going down the crapper. First and most obvious: energy costs. When energy prices increase, it has a widespread impact on the economy. Everything consumes energy in some form or another, and with the energy costs going up faster than the average consumer's wage, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that people are going to be just a little more thrifty right now to cover the cost of heating, electricity, automobile fuel, and the indirect cost impact on food and other essentials. Pee-ess, "essentials" does not include Hannah Montana tickets (sorry kids). Nevertheless, when the Lord told 'W,' "Time to cut back expenses and find alternatives to oil," he heard, "Time to invade Iraq and take their oil." Mighty fine decision THAT was (said with thick sarcasm).
The second biggest reason is that wages have decreased, the high-tech jobs everyone thought were never-ending weren't never-ending, and many people have spent a lot of money they now no longer have.
There are, of course, other reasons. I'm a mad computer scientist, not an economist, damn it.
People don't do smart things with tax rebates. Sure, these will encourage consumer spending, but it's short-term spending. It isn't the kind of spending that is going to spawn jobs. Okay, yeah, the people scalping Hannah Montana tickets are doing pretty well right now (hopefully they'll pay off their credit card debt or save it for a rainy day).
What could stimulate the economy? Why not look into serious alternatives to fossil fuels? When I say "serious" I don't mean ethanol or hydrogen, I mean something that actually makes sense. The development of reasonably-priced solar and wind power would be a good start. Let's think outside the wooden box we call a "house" and consider subterranean housing (energy efficient and low maintenance). These are both constructive and they create jobs. Be imaginative. Don't be a dick (Chaney).
Speaking of bashing the current occupants of The White House...
I just saw The Dixie Chicks perform on "VH1 Storytellers" on the high-definition music channel. I never much cared for their music for some reason - perhaps because country radio overplayed one or two songs to death. The songs they performed on this program had much more depth, and it actually was enjoyable and made me think about buying their music. I had heard "Not Ready To Make Nice" before, but hearing Natalie Maines sing this again with such emotion gave me a renewed appreciation of what the group went through a few years ago.
I didn't pay $500 to see The Dixie Chicks perform on TV...and as much as I liked hearing them, I seriously doubt I would pay $500 to see them perform in person, even though The Dixie Chicks have a whole lot more depth than the daughter of the guy who sung, "Achy Breaky Heart." Good grief.
(PS: To Billy Ray and Miley -- no offense, really you both have talent, but c'mon, $500??!?!)