Stimulated

The building where I work

I feel like he bought my vote (Biden, not Lincoln).

If you’re a middle-class American like me, you’ve probably watched the twists and turns of Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus package with trepidation. What’s in, what’s out, salary cut-offs, rogue senators, Republican derision, that sort of thing. My family had a lot of money at stake. How much? $5,600. To me, that’s a small fortune.

Recently, I’ve been spending money like I have it: medical procedures, trying to get at the root cause of a year of dizziness; a June vacation planned in Maine, Airbnb lodging deposits for a trip we may not get to take; Eli needed a new bike, the one he bought two years ago now tiny for his adult-sized body. Big expenses, the sort we like to spread out over a year, not cram onto a single credit card bill. The stimulus payment is well timed and very much appreciated.

Here’s my question: do I deserve it? Why is the government giving me money? Susan and I didn’t lose our jobs when the shutdown kicked in. We simply brought our computers home and kept working. And then, realizing that I operated far more efficiently in my office, I just went back to work. All alone in my beautiful building, bundled in a hoodie because we shut off the heat. The government gave us money then too. And our spending plummeted. No where to go shopping. The pandemic wound up as a windfall for my family.

I’m a deficit hawk. It feels strange to write that. I think the popular image of a deficit hawk is an older, wealthy guy pining away for Ronald Reagan’s unfulfilled dream of a tiny government. No spending, no deficits. That’s not me. I’m a tax and spend liberal. I want the government to go big. I want us all to feel some pain paying for it. I want to cut the defense budget in half. I want to balance the budget.

As the inevitability of severe climate change became obvious, I started focusing on the deficit. Prudent families, if they’re able, like to keep some money in the bank for when things go sour. A few years ago, I stupidly found myself into a terrible work situation. It was so awful I became severely depressed. I was barely functioning at home and at work. I went to bed dreading tomorrow. On Friday night my stomach was already in knots about Monday morning. Susan and I agreed the best course of action was for me to quit my job. I could consider that option because we have some savings.

The United States has seen steady growth for the past four decades. Sure, we’ve seen some small recessions (and one big one), some market corrections, a few bumps in the road, but generally, things have been up, up, up. This was our chance to save some money, to put some away for the disaster we knew would come. A couple of years ago, as several Democrats lined up behind the Green New Deal, my thought was: What a great idea. Too bad we’re so deep in debt we can’t pay for it.

The economic savvy readers are itching to comment right now. “Dope, the only reason we saw those boom years is because we went into debt to fund it.” Yes, that’s true. That’s why we now need to live like middle-class families rather than millionaires.  This is where the pain comes in. Prudence isn’t fun, it isn’t flashy, often, it’s a drag, but we can’t just keep spending, we don’t have any money.

So, no Green New Deal, but we spent the money anyway. We shored-up the economy instead of creating something new. More money for future generations to repay, if that’s even possible any more. Like an overextended family (or our ex-president), we can’t just file for bankruptcy and start again. The only way out of this mess is to stop giving people like me free money. And for everyone to pay in taxes what they can afford, so long as they feel some pain. With wealthier Americans carrying the bulk of the load.

Some bloggers I read are going to donate their entire stimulus check to charity. With a daughter in college, a son two years from graduating high school, and my own retirement less than a decade away, I can’t in good conscience give this found-money away. I need to make sure we stay solvent, out of debt, and prepared for the austerity I hope finally arrives.

21 thoughts on “Stimulated

  1. Since the “stimulus check” is meant to stimulate the economy, i.e. be spent on goods and services that keep people working and the economy humming, I’m good with it so long as people actually do spend it, as intended. It becomes income to someone, who will then (presumably) pay income tax on it. Socking it away defeats the purpose. Mine will pay for the $1700 dental procedure I had to have last month.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not opposed to this stimulus checks, although I think it’s overly generous to people in my boat. I would have started the phase out way lower and stretched it out more for fairness. My point (which I may not have done a good job making) is that we should be putting money away during the good years so we can afford to borrow now knowing we’ll be back to paying back the loan in a couple of years. Instead we just borrow trillions of dollars and then trillions more when things go south.

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  2. I’m on SSDI, but I didn’t get any stimulus money the last two times because Daughter claimed me on her taxes. We figured why not? I get less than $20K a year on SSDI so I don’t even file. The sucky part is that she didn’t get extra stimulus money for me either.
    I have no idea if I’ll get money this time. 🤷🏼‍♀️
    I like Warren’s idea of super taxing the Mega wealthy. Money that’s so huge it’s unreal. Why not let the government spread it around to schools, infrastructure, healthcare, etc?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Base on my understanding, your daughter should get stimulus money for you this time. I’m supposed to get it for my daughter in college. I know many rich people feel it’s unfair for them to pay a higher tax load but seriously, where is the money going to come from. It’s hard not to imagine some dystopian future where half the country is impoverished begging for scraps from Bill Gates and his cronies.

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  3. I’m like you, I don’t need it but I could definitely use it. I’ve still got American bills so it will probably stay in America too. But yes it’s a bit worrying how it’s all going to affect the future. We’ve just had an interesting plan unveiled in the UK for how it will be paid back. Income tax bands are frozen until 2026 which means no additional tax will be paid, but no less either (which is fine with me!) Businesses that make over a certain amount are having their corporation tax increased from the current 19% to 25% by 2026. It’s supposed to affect only the top 10% of businesses. As for how that then affects the economy, I don’t really believe in trickle down economics but I suppose it’s possible that they could move some operations to Europe mainland to escape the tax increases, if that’s worth it for them for 5 years of tax. (Not sure what European corporation tax rates are.)

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    • I guess I will add a caveat and say the freezing of the tax bands will affect people who move into a higher tax band due to inflationary wage increases. That does suck. But we weren’t guaranteed any changes to tax bands anyway and I do feel like that’s probably the least painless way to go about it where everyone, including myself, still fairly “feels some pain.”

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    • I feel like America is so far behind on this problem. We just tax less and less and everyone most people still feel like they’re falling behind. As climate crises heat up (pun) these years of rampant borrowing will become more frequent. At some point, the world (having problems of their own) won’t support our debt.

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  4. We didn’t get anything the last time either. It would be nice. We do okay paycheck to paycheck, but now we have some home repairs that need to be done – and somehow paid for. That money would come in nice.
    Also, I feel like every time we go to Gettysburg we get Declan’s picture with that statue. The last time we went I realized that is where you worked. I waved to the building and said hi. 🙂

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    • “Hey Julie, there’s a lady outside waving at the building.” My two windows are top floor, farthest to the left. Now you can wave in the right direction. We’re actually planning on building a new building and moving. Not sure if Abe will come with us. I feel like he belongs where he is. But don’t fret the change. The process will take years and years.

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  5. Jeff, the bill Biden passed is a STIMULUS bill. You did exactly what Biden is hoping you would do with it. You spent it to stimulate the economy. Just think of all the people and small businesses you helped – the owner of your Maine Airbnb, the bike shop, local doctors…You do deserve that stimulus check and so do I. In the last administration, 83% of the benefits of the tax bill they passed (which increased the deficit) went to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. This administration is now helping the working class and middle class. It’s high time! I think we need to get rid of corporate welfare and tax the wealthy at a higher rate to help balance the budget! I’m a fiscal conservative, but I firmly believe in helping the less fortunate.

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    • I get that it’s a stimulus bill, i.e. stimulate the economy, but I’d still prefer it be directed, in total, to the people who really need it (unemployed, tanking business, etc). The ways I’m blowing my money were going to happen anyway, with or without the money. With the money, we’re just doing a little less juggling. Plus bike shops are making money hand over fist right now and the bike itself came from Australia. The night Biden signed the bill we rewarded ourselves with Thai food. That place had an hour wait for carryout. I think I’m missing the mark on stimulus. Regardless, we’ve stimulated the economy year in and year out, steadily since 1975 (with a break during the Clinton years). We’ve got to return to that. This is unsustainable, and I have to believe we’re at the end of the rope.

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      • We’re in Bangor, about 45 minutes from bar harbor. If you’re driving up 95 you’ll be driving within a mile of my house at the point you take the 395 exit toward Ellsworth. It you travel up the coast on route 1 then you’ll pass through bucksport which is a half hour down the road. We could meet up at a snack shack of some sort! 😊

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      • My wife is excited about the prospect. As we get closer and get a better feel for where we’ll be and when, I’ll get in touch with you. In 2019 we met up with a couple in Chamonix, France who publish a running magazine I frequently appear in. It was a great experience. Oh, I also ran a race with a blogger friend. Kinda neat knowing people in every state and country.

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  6. Also, I really like this post. I, too, wonder about all this money doled out to people like us but am too aware of the big price tag on retirement to seriously consider turning it down or giving it away.

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      • You need to listen to S-Town, a podcast on This AMERICAN Life. It stands for Shit Town, a place in Alabama so named by a colorful genius who keeps lists of global issues to despair over. He is hilarious and also heartbreaking. That podcast is something.

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