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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Economic Stimulus

Well, President Obama has signed this bill or that bill. Even President Bush signed a few of his own. Stimulus money has been appropriated. And the critics are saying it's not enough, or it's too much, or it isn't working.

I'm not sure I know the answers. But I see a few things in this economy that the government could do that I think would help. You could file these things under what I would do if I were the President.

One government stimulus I'm thinking of today is a minimum employment schedule. For years now, large corporate businesses (mostly retailers and restaurants) have exploited people by not giving them enough hours for them to earn a living wage.

The government mandates a minimum wage per hour, but it doesn't mandate a working schedule. So businesses like Albertson's, Walmart, Dominoes, Whattaburger and others employ people for 32 hours a week. This falls short of any government requirement they might have to pay benefits or for these people to actually live.

The federal, state or even local governments could mandate that anyone doing business in their jurisdiction must give all the people they employ the opportunity to work at least 40 hours per week. Even a city could pass such a law. You want to do business in my city? Then you'll have to employ my people, and not just nickel and dime them death. Employers would still be allowed to hire part-time or temporary workers for seasonal fluctuations. But the government could limit the percentage of worker hours that could be filled in these categories.

Another stimulus act that I think I would pass is to eliminate the minimum social security tax rate, and put a cap on the ability one has to claim social security benefits. Presently, individuals pay social security tax only on income they earn up to a certain amount. After that, they pay no social security tax. Let's remove the cap and levy social security tax on all of our earnings. That way, the people who earn more are truly paying more.

When it comes to benefits, anyone who has paid in is eligible to collect social security. In fact, you don't have to have even paid in. Widows can collect it on the earnings of their husband or even their ex-husband. But it looks more like an entitlement than a "social security" provision. Even a billionaire can collect social security. Let's put a net worth test on it - so that only the people who don't have the resources to care for themselves are collecting social security. Why give social security to people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other such types?

I'm all for government leadership in troubling times. But I wonder if simply throwing money we don't have at problems that are ill-defined is the best solution. Maybe this current economic crisis could spur Congress to do more than stick their fingers in the leaking dam.

Would it be asking too much for Congress to focus on fundamental change to our infrastructure that would provide a more secure economy in the future? Would it not be better to be proactive instead of just implementing permanent measures and infrastructure changes ---- in response to a current crisis?

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