A Friend’s thoughts about economic stimulus checks

By Aimee McAdams

So, I’ve been thinking…

I’ve been carrying a concern for a number of months now. I read in the news awhile back that a recession is expected and the economy isn’t doing well, so the government has decided to send out “economic stimulus” checks to most Americans. As the discussion was taking place in Congress, both sides had to concede things in order to come to agreement. I was saddened to read that “calls for increases in food stamps and an extension of unemployment compensation” were dropped as part of the agreement.

I had to wonder: is more consumerism, buying worthless stuff, and going into more debt really going to help the economy?

My husband and I were stopping by a store the other day and saw flyers all over advertising an “economic stimulus plan.” Buy $750 worth of stuff and get no interest and no payments for a year.

As I read about the plans for these economic stimulus checks months ago, I wondered what I could do with the money. Did I really need it? I don’t feel that I’ve been affected much by the economy and I’m doing okay financially. But what about those living in poverty around me? $600 will help them right now, but it won’t pull them out of poverty. So I began to think of all the places this money could be given: to support food banks, programs and housing for the homeless, and so forth. And then I thought, what if a lot of other people also decided they didn’t need the money and they also passed the money on to worthy causes? What a statement we could make!

I am pleased to read that there are plenty of people who aren’t planning a shopping spree with their checks. People are considering saving the money and investing it, or paying off credit card or school loan debts. Considering the debt many Americans are in and our lack of saving, this is a wise idea.

The IRS will begin sending checks and automatic deposits on May 2nd.

My hope is that people will think about these checks. Do we really need the money? Is there someone or some local charity that needs it more than we do? Can we save some and give away the rest? Can we give it all away? If we are able, can we use this money for something better than a new electronic gadget or a new designer outfit?

We’re still planning what to do with the funds we receive – which should arrive on the 16th.

Will you consider what you can do with yours?

6 Responses to A Friend’s thoughts about economic stimulus checks

  1. Richard Fuller May 13, 2008 at 3:23 am #

    Thanks for starting this conversation, Aimee,
    I DO need the money, but certainly not as much as a lot of other people.
    Of course, the underlying reality is that I am comfortable when others are not. This isn’t really any different, before or after a stimulus check.
    I think for me, if I were going to do anything besides let the money help me along for a few months, it would need to be something of a statement, it would need to have a poetic resonance which pointed to the consumerist economy we are embedded in and said, “we can do better than this.” Then, beyond that, I’m not much interested in “show-off, show-them-up gestures, which seem to me often to be put-downs, as much as anything else.
    I compare the “opportunity to make a statement” with what I have been trying to do with my life for years. I do feel I have a life’s work, and I have accepted “my assignment” more or less faithfully. That’s where my loyalty does and should lie. I have made a lot of choices, over the years, and I am living with the consequences, and I accept them. If some government policy says I should have a little more money than I do, I’m reluctant to withdraw much of my focused energy from my life-work, to try and make a statement to a government I don’t believe is worth talking to anyway.

  2. Aimee McAdams May 13, 2008 at 1:58 pm #

    Thanks Richard, I appreciate your thoughts. I am challenged to consider what kind of statement my life makes – “let your life speak,” right?

    I think perhaps the time for “making a statement” is past. When I was first thinking about this and talking with Jeremy about it months ago, I thought it would be great if people in meetings/churches got organized and pooled the money together in large chunks. For example, say a meeting/church decides to donate money to five different organizations. Everyone gives what they feel they must, the money is pooled, and donated in larger amounts (instead of lots of little checks). I don’t know if that was a silly idea or not – but it seems too late to organize that.

    I also appreciate your comment about not devoting energy to making statements to a government not worth talking to. I’m sure they won’t hear this barely audible squeaky wheel at all. (Though I have wondered – will men dressed in black suits and sunglasses show up at my door, say there has been a mistake, and demand for the return of my refund check??)

    My idea isn’t just to make a statement, however small, to the government – it’s to make a statement to those around me. The government may not be listening, but lots of other people are listening.
    I disagree strongly with how the US allocates money. I’m glad this particular sum didn’t go to the war. I’m sad it didn’t go to social programs (or healthcare or whatever). The government chooses to allocate this sum toward consumerism and I choose otherwise.

  3. James Riemermann May 13, 2008 at 2:51 pm #

    I like the idea of using the checks for something generous and socially meaningful, Aimee. But your post, and Richard’s response, also stirs up some of my thoughts about government, which are a bit in conflict with liberal/progressive Quaker culture (a culture I am mostly enthusiastic about).

    The thing is, I believe in government. By that I don’t mean I believe it is fundamentally good, but I do believe that it takes government action to address serious social problems and inequities. As a comfortably middle-class citizen, I would like to pay more taxes for these efforts, not less. The impoverishment of the public sector, to my mind, is one of the most serious problems we face.

    It seems to me that faith communities and non-profits are more effective when they harangue government into addressing social problems, than when they try to address the problems directly. This goes directly counter to leftist/grassroots conventional wisdom, but I think it’s true nonetheless. Bad government is behind all kinds of cruelty and foolishness, but in the end It took activist government to end slavery, give women the vote, end Jim Crow, and if we are going to solve the enormous social problems of our time, it will take government action.

    None of this is a reason to not donate to good non-profits or faith communities, but I would personally like to see more focus on influencing our government than bypassing it.

  4. Aimee McAdams May 13, 2008 at 3:18 pm #

    It’s somewhat ironic that politics has come up. When I was originally writing this post it was FULL of politics! I’m not sure why, but I was researching where the stimulus money came from, how much the gov’t spends on the war, on social programs, healthcare, etc, how much they’re spending on this package and how it all compares. Then I decided I didn’t want this to be about politics because political discussions can overwhelm the main point.
    But I suppose this is all wrapped up in politics anyway.

    As far as influencing the gov’t and not bypassing it, perhaps that is the idea behind one of my friends who suggested she just wouldn’t deposit her check. Take it back, government! And use it in a more appropriate way! =)

  5. Harry Dilworth July 29, 2008 at 1:22 pm #

    James’s comment speaks my mind, at least in part, as government is needed in order to maintain civil administration, legal institutions, and needed social and international matters. What is not mentioned is the fact that, in my opinion, this government is broken and pursues objectives not in the interest of the people of this nation or the world.

    The cause? There are many, and pressure must be maintained on it to reform, prayerfully avoiding violent reaction. However, it seems that the use of professional politicians has so corrupted the two legislative houses that reform may be out of the question.
    Pray for Peace

  6. James Riemermann August 1, 2008 at 1:23 pm #

    I agree, Harry, about the need for pressure, and that we are in a very tough time with regard to the responsiveness to government, and also the potential for doing enormous, long-term damage as a result of foolish and short-sighted government policies.

    But let’s get some perspective on this. There were never any good old days. This is nowhere near the point of the greatest government corruption in US or world history. Perhaps it’s worse now than it’s been in the U.S. for 30 years or so, but go back a century, or look at many other local or state or national governments in the world now or then, and you will find corruption that makes the Bush gang look like pikers. Liberal democracy is the exception in history, not the norm.

    Which is all the more reason to keep up the pressure. Things could get a lot worse than they are, and if we’re not vigilant they will.

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