Common $en$e

Today Congress passed the stimulus bill today, probably with no Republican votes.  There will be talk about numbers too large for us to comprehend: $1.9 Trillion; national debt of $29 Trillion, on and on.

I keep thinking of perspective, on several grounds.  (There are numerous sources of data.  My choices, below, are not ‘cherry-picked’ by ideology.  I basically picked the first one I saw in internet search which seemed reasonably credible.)

Here’s the U.S. deficit data over the past few years.

Here’s the average American personal debt.

Then there’s the American wealth relative to the rest of the world: Wealth of UN Countries.  Note the column headings and look specifically at the United States data (which is from 2017).  We remain far and away the wealthiest country, but the inequity in wealth within our country has increased.

And that wealth in America is increasingly concentrated in the very richest Americans.

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I’d encourage you to look at the charts, and to give them context relating to yourself, and those around you who you know, family, friends, other.

Think outside the box – how does someone opposite of you in philosophy think, and why.  We are a dangerously divided country.  I’m not saying one side is right, the other wrong.  But there are polar opposite views.  Personally, I think today’s action in Congress was outstanding, and needed.

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Some thoughts:

Even with the pandemic, the U.S. is incredibly wealthy.  Among the United Nations countries – 193 of them – the U.S. has about 4% of the world population, and nearly one-fourth of the world’s wealth.

As to debt, that too is relative.  American personal debt is about 14 trillion dollars – home mortgage, credit card, etc., etc.  That is serious money, granted.  The national debt about double.  (See next paragraph).

What is never said is that debt is what fuels the American economy.  I’m no recommending that but I think that is true.  The rare individual who pays with cash is, in a sense, not a patriot. We’re accustomed to debt.  We depend on debt.  Think back to the first time you had a credit card.  It’s not ancient history.  What role does credit play in your life today.  Think back to the home(s) you lived in, or your grandparents, and compare them to the very large homes even first time homebuyers demand in these days.

One of the old sayings that comes to mind today is “nest egg” – the savings account.  If you’re fortunate, and most everyone who reads this is very fortunate, you have a rainy day fund of some size set aside.  Everybody has a different idea of what this should be.  I knew a person who literally had almost no furniture because she’d been advised that she needed $5 million to retire.  She was obsessed with saving for the future.  I’m being only a little dramatic here.  She had no perspective.

There are examples of course, on the other end of this.  People who will consider the stimulus as mad money.  Most of us are between the poles.

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Here are the main data points over the last 20 years as I see them.

  1. Huge outlays to pay for war in the wake of 9-11-01.  We’re still engaged.
  2. The near collapse of the American Economy in late 2008, in large part by careless fiscal management particularly in the arena of real estate.
  3. The stimulus to restore the economy in 2009, which probably should have been greater.
  4. The immense and ill-advised tax cuts in 2017, which aggravated conditions and were fuel for very large increases in the national debt in the previous four years.
  5. The impact of Covid-19, now in its second year.

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Today is a single step.  As the President likes to say, “we are all in this together”.

POSTNOTE 1, March 11: Yesterday, each member of Congress had one minute to make a final argument about the bill described above.  There are 435 members of the House of Representatives.  That is over seven hours if anything went perfectly.  It is a huge opportunity for sound bites, that can be produced by anybody, for anyone, at great length, posted anywhere, said at any meeting….

I made my very imperfect attempt – how I saw it – above.

In the end, the real “legislators” are, really, every one of us, the vocal and the quiet, the beneficiaries.

A democracy is ‘we, the people’.  We truly elect our redemption or our doom in this temporal world.

Yesterday was extremely significant.  Just Above Sunset, overnight, goes into more detail, trying to condense those 435 comments (which also must include the 100 Senators on the other side of the Capitol.)

Just Above Sunset: “Doing some good”.

Today, March 12, is the one year anniversary of the Covid-19 Pandemic.  The date is as determined by the World Health Organization (WHO), and I yield to The WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for his remarks, which you can see/read here.  We are a part of, not apart from, the rest of the planet.  We survive by working together for solutions.

POSTNOTE 2, March 11: Already, the folks who voted unanimously against the package, are fashioning ways to take credit for it.  It was anticipated.

How much is “$1.9T”, as headlined, for some reason, in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

It is a big number: 1,900,000,000,000 – 1,000 million.

There are, more or less, 330,000,000 Americans, men, women, children.

That is $5,756 per person, surely a large number.

But view it from your own vantage point of your own current debt, particularly if you have a mortgage or a car payment.

In fact, those whose hands wring when talking about this aid package secretly worship debt as a driver of wealth in our society.  It is a secret, untold.

Keep it in perspective, particularly looking at how the money will be used to help the economy recover.

POSTNOTE 3, March 12: It occurred to me that this American Rescue Plan was the second Covid-19 related initiative in Congress.  The first was what was called the CARES Act, passed unanimously by the Senate, and easily and bi-partisan by the House of Representatives in the spring of 2020.  The House vote was more ambiguous than the Senate.  There were only 6 “no” votes, 5 of them Republican in the House; on the other hand, there was a fairly large number of “no information” non-votes in the House of Representatives – it appears about 36 of these in the 435 member chamber, most of these Democrat.  More information on the House split vote is here.

In the American Rescue Plan, there were no Republican Yes votes.

Why the difference in the votes?  A good topic for discussion.

POSTNOTE 4, sent byJeff, March 13: Ron Insana at CNBC, here

 

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