we’re blowing the money

Alright folks, that’s enough. President Obama’s whole economic stimulus/bail out plan is imploding, and we need to stop it now. The plan is not going to work. It’s not going to stimulate anything.

Let’s take a step back though; I want to start by getting my biggest gripe off my chest. President Obama did not “inherit” anything. He keeps using that word “inherit” when he talks about the economy, as if to wash his hands clean and make clear that “this isn’t my mess, I didn’t create it, and if I can’t fix it during my 4 years in office, it’s not my fault.” Let’s just look at one specific speech, his Address to a Joint Session of Congress on February 24, 2009. Here are a few quotes from that speech:

“the massive debt we’ve inherited”

“my budget…reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession”

“with the deficit we’ve inherited”

In supporting Obama’s economic plan, Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Appleton) said just today, “We have to clean up the economic mess left over by the previous administration…”

What’s with these democrats? If you think that all of our country’s problems today were caused by the “previous administration”, you’re quite ignorant. Likewise, if you think that all that’s good in our country today (and there is indeed a lot of good) was caused by the “previous administration”, you’re even more ignorant. That’s not how our country works people. The United States is a republic. We elect our representatives, and they go to work for us. Yes, there’s a presidential administration, but there’s also this other institution called Congress that has a role to play. Come on, don’t tell me you haven’t heard of “government of the people, by the…” Do I have to spell it out?

Think back to the presidential campaign. Then Senator Obama slammed Washington so much that it became offensive. That’s my Washington that you’re slamming. Those are my representatives…our representatives. We elected them. We put them there. When you slam Washington, you slam Americans.

But I digress. Listen folks. Not only did President Obama not inherit the economy, he created it. That’s right. He’s an American, just like me. This is our economy and we created it! We all created it, we all need to accept responsibility and we all need to fix it.

Now, to the plan. I’ve said in this blog before that we need to let failing companies fail. I stand by that philosophy, now more than ever. Here’s the problem with Obama’s plan. He thinks that by giving a financial handout to a company, our government in turn has the right to tell that company how to spend its money. After all, if you’re getting stimulus money, you surely can’t give your executives a bonus. Well, that’s just a load of crap.

The big story today is that AIG received almost $180 billion in “bail out” money, and is giving $165 million in executive bonuses. President Obama and many other elected officials are upset at this, so much so that if AIG doesn’t give that money back to the government, congress is considering enacting an emergency taxation rule that taxes those bonuses at 100%, thereby getting all the money back anyway. What a mess!

Why would any of us want our government to have the right to pry into private business operations and tell a company how to run their company? I know, I know, it’s ridiculous. We need to stay out of such dealings.

If you’re not familiar with recent northeast Wisconsin news, let me tell you about one such local story. Two situations happened at Associated Bank, situations that seemed to collide. The first was a planned trip to Puerto Rico for its top sales people, an incentive quite common in corporate America. The second was an offer of financial help from the U.S. Treasury Dept as part of its Troubled Asset Relief Program to help keep America’s banks afloat. In a nutshell, people complained that if a bank receives financial help from the federal government, it should not send its employees to Puerto Rico.

There are a couple of problems with such a complaint. First, the money is not a hand-out. Associated sold $525 million in preferred stock to the U.S. Treasury. Associated will pay a 5 percent dividend for 5 years, then 9 percent after that. The second problem is that Associated is not in trouble. It turned a profit last year and CEO Paul Beideman said that they didn’t need the money. Yes folks, there are indeed profitable, well-run banks in America, and Associated is one of them. But they were offered the help, and they took it as an act of “caution in what is a challenging environment.” Sounds to me like a CEO who knows what he’s doing. It’s no wonder the bank is profitable.

But then something happened. Beideman caved and the trip was cancelled after all. Incentives like this are part of employee compensation. They are planned and budgeted for well in advance. There was no need to cancel it. What do you naysayers think happened? Beideman got off the phone after closing the deal with the Treasury Dept, and hollered “woo hoo, pack your bags, we’re all going to Puerto Rico!?” Geez. I must assume that a guy as smart as him is still going to take good care of his top sales people.

So what are we getting ourselves into here? I’ll tell you what. If you receive any benefit as part of President Obama’s economic recovery plan, you’d better watch your back. Yep, yep, if you know me, you know where I’m going with this.

As a direct result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, my wife and I will receive about $800 in benefits by reduced income taxes on our paychecks. It’s certainly no $180 billion like AIG got, but $800 is a lot of money in this household. The reduced income tax withholdings will start as early as next month. So, what are we going to do with the money? Something to stimulate the economy maybe? College for our daughters (2 in college next fall)? Home repairs? Save for retirement? Absolutely not. We’re buying Green Bay Packers season tickets.

Yep. I just got the invoice in the mail today. $1,012 for two tickets for the 2009 season, and we’re buying them. So, there it is. Let the public outcry begin. The Crevier household in De Pere, Wisconsin is receiving $800 in economic stimulus money, and we’re blowing it all on Packers tickets!

I hope Congress doesn’t enact any special laws to tax my $800 credit at 100% so that I’ll have to give it all back. We really need that money for Packers tickets.

All sarcasm aside, I’m not expecting any official communication from the government about how I’m spending my money. And that’s my point. If we’re going to have any kind of government help in this crazy economy, let’s just put the money in the pockets of ordinary Americans where it belongs.

I will give President Obama credit for one thing here. I like the fact that any money going directly to American taxpayers gets to us via our paychecks. That’s a payment mechanism that’s already in place. We don’t need to spend even more money by making a separate payment like President Bush did a couple of times.

Remember the automakers’ private jet/capitol hill fiasco back on November 16, 2008? After all the complaints from the public, Ford CEO Alan Mulally pulled his company out of consideration for the auto industry bail out. Suddenly he seems like a genius. He gets to pull his company through these tough times on his own terms.

(DISCLAIMER: I’ve been driving a Ford truck for 14 years, and three out of our four family vehicles are Fords.)