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Rebate: the joke is on us

Editorial for May 8, 2008

Got your tax rebate check yet?

Most individuals who filed tax returns for 2007 will get a check ranging from $300-$600, depending on their income. Married couples earning up to $150,000 will split $1,200 (or $600 each).

Forgive us for our cynicism, but what a joke this is.

In the first place, the government is giving us some of our own tax money back. That's nice, but they took it in the first place and are keeping the vast majority of what we as taxpayers have sent in. Six hundred dollars isn't much and it won't go far.

Second, the federal government is simply going deeper into debt to send us this little rebate. That is a very serious problem that our president has not only neglected, but continued to exacerbate for the entire seven years he has been in office. He is the essence of the "drunken sailor" who doesn't know when or even how to stop the spending (tax cuts for everyone, and let's just put the cost of two wars on our national credit card). It's hard to believe now, but remember that President Bush came into office with a sizable budget surplus.

Here are some deeply troubling statistics: Our national debt is currently pegged at $9.3 trillion. Incredibly, our debt has been increasing by an average of $1.44 billion per day for more than a year. Our debt is so severe even now -- and still growing fast -- that every single American would have to pay out $30,735 to get the nation back to even. Where is the fiscal responsibility? There is none.

Third, the alleged purpose of this $600 "gift" is to stimulate the economy. That's fine on paper, but the reality is completely different. Most of us are going to spend that money on necessities: food, fuel, health care. Or reducing our debt a little bit. If we're really lucky, some of us might put a portion of it away in savings.

And perhaps most deflating, the whole idea that Americans will run out and spend most of that "extra" money on consumer goods is flawed for one obvious reason: Virtually everything we find in our stores these days is stamped "MADE IN CHINA." There may be a bit of value to the corner store if we buy these items, but there is no hope of this money bringing employment to American workers or keeping American factories open, because so many of our factories have been closed in recent years.

There is also not going to be any economic stimulation to our region for the same reason: Most of the money spent on purchases is going straight to China and does not pass "Go" on the way out of our country, so there is no bonus to those of us who live and work here.

I guess we're lucky it's an election year, or even this tiny stipend would probably not have been dangled in front of us. But let's face it: It's not going to make much of a dent, given the amazing growth in our fuel prices and in the price of our groceries. If I fill up my Ford Ranger pickup, I see a price tag of about $55-$60 these days -- and the tank keeps me rolling for just about a week. The rebate might help keep profit flowing to the oil companies, but the only stimulation from that is going to be my anger.

At least most of our food is still produced in the USA, but if people are going to use the forthcoming money to pay for bread and cheese, there won't be much of an economic boost from that because we all need to eat and we're not going to eat more just because we have a little more money in our pockets for a few days.

Let's face it: We're in a situation where people are focused on just getting through. Count me as one who won't be spending that money on anything other than basics such as bills, food, and debt reduction.

At this rate, how much longer will we have a middle class in this nation?



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