I wouldn’t call myself an economic genius, but lately it seems that those who have been considered economic geniuses haven’t given us much to praise them for. Some of these geniuses have been indicted; some have resigned their positions, or been fired; and some of them have talked out of both sides of their mouths.

a 365 degree walk around the salesforce tower and transit center, scott richard
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The smartest thing I’ve heard this entire week that’s related to money and finances at all is President-elect Obama’s nomination of a new position, chief performance officer, and person, Nancy Killefer, whose role it will be to go through the budget and the stimulus package, line item by line item, and identify what’s good and what’s bad. This is bigger, if you ask me, than when President Reagan named a drug czar (which turned out to be very ineffective), and the present President Bush named the first Homeland Security adviser.

Since the mental giants of finance aren’t doing such a good job, I figure it can’t hurt for me to throw a few ideas out, and if anyone else wishes to play along, please share your thoughts on the matter. We certainly can’t do any worse than what’s happened thus far.

First, please, no more tax breaks. As much as I’d love to have more money in my pocket, that money can be used for better things. President Bush encouraged people to go out and spend the money he sent us to help stimulate the economy, but most people used that money to pay existing bills.

It might work better if the government sent people $600 coupons for particular stores, where we couldn’t get money back (I hate those things from stores, by the way), but most of us probably wouldn’t like the stores we had to end up buying something from.

Second, move up the implementation of the credit card plan from July 2010 to March 2009. Most people need that break much sooner than later, because many of these same banks that you’re now trying to save are going to take it out on us for the next 18 months, and frankly, that doesn’t help the consumer believe in spending anything, which is what you’re hoping we’ll all do.

Third, change the criteria that lenders, including credit card lenders, use in determining just who they’re sending all this junk mail to, trying to entice people who really can’t afford it to sign up for credit cards in the first place.

One tactic that no one has talked about from what I’ve been reading is the “bait and switch” of offering a certain card with a certain credit limit just to get people to apply, then deciding on the back end that their credit isn’t really that good, but they’re eligible for a lesser card with maybe a $500 credit limit and a higher APR than what was initially promised. What a scam! The banks knew those people didn’t qualify based on normal standards to begin with, and now a person has a card that they should cancel, which may hit their credit report, and that’s one more negative against the consumer.

Fourth, the bailout plan. I don’t mind the bailout plan in general, but I think it’s been scattered and done haphazardly.

I’ll admit that my reaction was probably more emotional than thoughtful when I wrote about my support for bailing out the big three car companies, but as I’ve had more time to think about it, I’m thinking that they might have to be considered as being in the same boat as the retail sector, which has just seen the Goody chain of stores closing and the expectation of many more stores closing.

Instead of a total financial bailout for one or two specialty groups, why not help figure out the reason why all these chains are falling, then offer a temporary respite to allow all of them to reorganize their finances? If there are immediate payroll issues, like one of the car manufacturers claimed, well, that may need to be on the fast track; otherwise, isn’t it more important to try to help keep jobs rather than allowing everyone to shut down and have even higher unemployment rates?

Fifth, helping the states. States are hurting, especially New York and California, and many of the budgets being proposed by the governors of these states is quite scary. Why not take some of that stimulus money and invest it back into the states, but earmark it for specific things such as infrastructure improvements?

My goodness, have you seen so many areas in your life that need an overhaul? Have you seen how many services people really need to have done, but put off because the costs are too high, because there’s not enough specialists around who can do the work, and those who are specialists seem to take advantage of it and never show up on time, if at all (yeah, I threw in a personal rant there)?

I’d love to see more training programs for careers such as plumbing, contracting, electricians, mechanics, welders, etc, which would give way more people skills that are needed, and the opportunity to make more money with even more training that they could try to obtain on their own later on, once they’ve started working. It doesn’t always do so much good to create jobs that don’t have enough skilled employees to accept these jobs in the first place.

I’ll stop there, because I think that’s enough to look at and evaluate initially. I’m not saying any of this is easy, but it’s a different way of looking at some of these financial issues and figuring out how to possibly maximize some benefits in a relatively short time.

The idea is to stimulate the economy, which is better done with jobs and protections. I don’t like the idea of bailing out a bank so its CEO can purchase a $30 million condo in NYC (happened, then he got fired), while regular folks are having their jobs outsourced, or eliminated entirely. And I don’t like throwing money at a problem without knowing where it’s going to go. I don’t even know if my ideas are actually fiscally sound. Then again, those who supposedly knew what was fiscally sound or not missed that we’ve been in a recession since December 2007.

I’ll take my chances; what say you?

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