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Luster of new beginnings tarnished

I suppose somewhere there is actually someone smart enough to wade through the morass of minutiae in the much ballyhooed and debated 1,100-page economic stimulus package and understand just what’s in it.

I certainly don’t pretend to be one of them.

Apparently, from reports circulating in the mainstream media, most of the members of Congress aren’t either, but they passed it anyhow on a one-sided party vote, and anywhere they can find a TV camera they prattle on and on about whether it represents salvation or farce, depending on party and constituency.

Will it have any measurable impact on easing the gloom and doom pervading seemingly every corner of the U.S. economy? Who knows? Everyone from Nobel economists to Rush Limbaugh to the Man on the Street has weighed in with an opinion on the $787 billion, two-year package of public spending measures and tax cuts.

On the day the president signed the legislation with great flourish the U.S. stock market tanked again big time, as did other markets worldwide.

Dow 5000 anyone?

John Boehner, R-Ohio, leader of the House minority that gave just three votes to the package, must gobble a handful of courage pills each day in order to psych himself sufficiently to go out and blather on about the fiscal irresponsibility and spendthrift ways of the congressional majority while conveniently forgetting his party’s and his former president’s complicity in piling up an unprecedented mountain of debt, dismantling or ignoring regulatory safeguards in place for decades, and turning a blind eye while anything-goes bankers and brokers played a gigantic shell game with increasingly esoteric and unsound financial instruments.

Hey, just the marketplace at work, right? Caveat emptor and all that.

“I don’t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems,” President Obama said in signing the legislation. “Nor does it constitute all of what we have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end, the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans ... ”

Would that we could confidently expect that. But confidence in government and financial institutions is a commodity in short supply after months of economic disaster on top of economic disaster, fraud upon fraud, and the Great American Dream crashing about everyone’s heads.

Each day’s news seems worse than the day before, thousands more jobs vanish (it’s estimated that worldwide 50 million jobs will disappear in 2009), and millions of people agonize over how they can make ends meet and keep a roof over their families’ heads.

One person described the stimulus package as administering CPR to a corpse in a casket.

It’s estimated the average benefit per worker from the tax relief in the bill will be about $8 per week, $16 for a two-worker family. Oh wow! That should be a real pepper-upper for a household budget.

And it’s like spit in the ocean compared to the estimated $6,500 each family’s on the hook for from the earlier banking bailouts, or the nearly $40,000 that will be each person’s share of the projected $11 trillion-plus national debt.


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