LTE: Give a Person a Fishing Pole

Recently, as I listened to President Bush’s stimulus proposal being debated, the one that has been approved by the House, I couldn’t help but think of an old adage. “Give a person a fish; they eat for today. Teach a person to fish; they eat for a lifetime.” Now, I know as well as anybody that the people of Central PA don’t need to be taught how to fish. What we need are some fishing poles. Unfortunately, the President wants to give out a lot of fish ($145 billion of them), but he does not want to create any fishing poles (jobs).

President Bush said, “Specifically, this growth package should bolster both business investment and consumer spending…” In other words, the President would like the American people to keep spending while giving corporations tax incentives to continue to send our jobs out of the country. This is how we got into this mess in the first place. Governor Huckabee has had the best comment on this when he said that we are going to borrow from the Chinese to buy goods made in China. Whose economy do we want to stimulate?

In addition to being a band-aid on a bleeding artery, this stimulus proposal will not help the people most hurt by our current state of economic affairs, seniors, veterans, and the working poor. Mr. Bush and our Congressman, Mr. Shuster, probably don’t realize this because they are neither seniors, veterans, working poor, nor do they seem to spend any amount of time speaking with members of these groups. A very wise philosopher once said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” Let’s keep this in mind.

We should focus on the *root* problems of the crisis while we move to alleviate real suffering by real people. The root cause of our present crisis is debt caused by a lack of quality wage jobs, the sub-prime housing fiasco, and high energy prices.

The Federal Reserve has been cutting interest rates, and our government has been giving tax breaks to business for a while now. The result of this largesse at the expense of the American taxpayer has been more and more jobs leaving this country. If private industry is not going to create jobs for Americans, then it is up to the American people to create jobs for themselves. The best way to do this is through public works infrastructure improvement programs. Examples of this would include fixing our bridges and making our schools more energy efficient. This last point would give us double (maybe triple!) the bang for our buck. It would 1) put Americans to work in well paying jobs, 2) help schools cut costs thus saving property owners higher tax bills, and 3) would reduce the amount of heating fuel used by schools thus reducing demand for petroleum products thus reducing the price of said products. This is an example of government being smart, and I believe that it is time we start demanding that our government use some common sense.

The sub-prime housing situation is the mess that derailed our entire economy. People are losing their homes because their interest rates and therefore their mortgage payments are being jacked up due to the avarice of predatory lenders. This is no longer about a couple of people losing their homes due to missing payments. Millions of people are losing their homes. This is not good for the stability of our communities. If the government were serious about an economic stimulus package to alleviate the suffering of real people, it would step in, force the predatory lenders to restructure loans back to original rates, and thus allow people to keep their homes.

Energy prices, whether it is the cost of gas or home heating oil, is a major source of pain for the average American right now. Prices continue to rise,
but doing without– not driving to work or not heating their house– is not really an option for most American families. For medium and low income Americans, I think we should do a couple things. First, bring back the tax incentives for replacing windows and doors with more efficient models. These incentives were a good idea. I don’t think they went far enough, though. Instead of $200-500 for a job that would cost $10,000, let’s fund the full cost of the project. There will be arguments that this is too expensive. Yes, this is expensive, but it gives our money back to us. It will cut the heating bills for those who put in the new doors and windows, and it will cut everybody’s energy bills by reducing demand for petroleum products. There are those who will still howl about the cost, but let’s consider the alternative. Right now, eighty cents of every dollar we spend on petroleum products leaves this country. We’re already losing a lot of money, folks. Let’s get smart, and start holding on to some of that money. This plan will also stimulate the creation of many good paying jobs that people can support their families with, it will pay real bills that affect real Americans, and it will make us safer by making us more energy independent.

I agree that our government must do something to prevent recession, and do it quickly. However, let’s be smart. Let us do something that alleviates the suffering of those who are most vulnerable in the immediate future, and let us do something that is going to strengthen the economy for the long term at the same time.

Tony Barr

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