Consider giving Americans payments as well as tax cuts

From Denny Freidenrich,
First Strategies LLC
The Hill’s headline “Fear, uncertainty grow as new bailout unveiled” (article, Feb. 11) speaks volumes. Despite the fact no one really can say how things are going to turn out, one thing is for certain: A trillion dollars isn’t what it used to be.

On Monday, President Obama told the American people he expects his stimulus package to save or generate a total of 4 million jobs. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve announced plans to pump in another $2 trillion to help fix our economy. The combined total of $3 trillion is the equivalent of giving every man, woman and child in this country a check for $10,000.

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I’m not sure what a family of four would do with $40,000, but I am confident they’d spend $30,000 to $35,000 of it fairly quickly. Some of their windfall would be used to put food on the table, which means, in a perfect world, a farmer somewhere in Florida or California can again sell his crops for a profit. Some would go to fixing up their home, which means a local roofer or painter better be ready to climb a ladder again and bill for services rendered. And some would be used to pay down credit card debt or come current on one’s home loan.

Here’s my point: No one really knows how long it will take for the $3 trillion to seep into the fabric of the American economy. We do, however, have a pretty good idea how quickly people will spend $10,000 or more.

Knowing how long it can take to change direction, I was pleased to hear the president say Wednesday, “I’m going to be personally making an announcement in the next couple weeks what our overall housing strategy is going to be. ... We’ve got to provide some direct relief to homeowners.”

Given investors’ negative reaction to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s strategy about the bank bailout, I’d say the more specific President Obama can be on this topic the better. Even if Congress still is mad about the excesses of Wall Street executives, the fact remains millions of Americans are depending on Washington to put money in their pockets. Tax breaks for families are great — and needed; but cash in hand just might make more sense.

Laguna Beach, Calif.

Merit of ‘Buy American’

From Michael Pravica
There is a fundamental flaw in the argument against the “Buy American” provision in the economic “stimulus” bill (article, “Obama, Summers Speak Out Against ‘Buy American’,” Feb. 4).
America needs to pay off our staggering debt, which is approaching $10 trillion. This means increasing exports relative to imports. If we don’t, the value of the dollar will rapidly depreciate as investors lose confidence in the ability of the U.S. to honor its debts. Then, U.S. goods will be dirt-cheap for everyone but Americans, which opens up the U.S. to foreign exploitation. We will also endure soaring energy costs relative to the ever-weakening dollar, which will further destroy our once-vibrant economy.

Henderson, Nev.

Dean for HHS post

From Joan Magit
(Regarding editorial, “Not Howard Dean,” Feb. 12.) Dr. Howard Dean is the right person to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He has supported universal healthcare, nurse practitioners, and of course, medical reform.

As Deaniacs (my husband went to Iowa and proudly wears the orange cap), we held parties and made lifelong friends working for Howard Dean and his campaign. As insiders, we know the facts about the so-called scream and the tactics the Democratic Leadership Council used in Iowa to dismiss Dean. The scream never happened; Dean was trying to shout over his supporters who kept saying “louder,” “can’t hear,” and so forth. Then newswoman Diane Sawyer saw to it that the soundtrack was boosted in future airings.

It was a great shock to many of us that Obama overlooked Gov. Dean and instead nominated the great lobbyist Tom Daschle. We knew it was Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s dirty work at play. As Obama supporters, we lost great respect for him when he listened to Rahm, and have not sent another penny in response to his requests for money.

Northridge, Calif.