I’m Untrustworthy And Proud Of It

People make fun of me because I always have NPR, CNBC or The Nightly Business Report on in the background when I’m working. They tell me I’m a finance junkie, and they’re not far off. But, it’s entertainment for me and every now and then I get to hear someone utter words that are so stupid or shocking that I nearly fall off my chair. It happened this week.

The pundits on one show were arguing about the new stimulus plan and going back and forth over what they thought should and should not be included. Then they started arguing about how the stimulus money should be distributed to the public. Lump sum check like last year? Dole a little out in each paycheck? Reduce taxes so take home pay goes up? Finally one genius on the panel (I didn’t catch his name, but I’m sorry I missed it) says, “I think the money needs to be given out either as a small bit of money tacked on to each pay check or through reductions in tax withholding so that take home pay increases by a small amount each week.”

The moderator asked why and he replied, “Because the American people have proven that they cannot be trusted to spend the stimulus money. We gave them a lump sum last year and the majority of Americans did not spend it. They either saved it or used it to pay down debt, which was wrong. If we put the money in their paychecks, they will spend it. If they’re living paycheck to paycheck, then we know the money will be funneled back into the economy because they will drain their entire paycheck. That’s what we’re after.”

After I got up off the floor, I thought about this moron’s words. There was so much wrong with his statement that I didn’t know where to start. First of all, I didn’t care for his notion that, “Americans can’t be trusted to spend the money.” As if we’re all selfish little children and the government parental units doled out money to us to pay the ice cream man and said, “Now go straight to the curb and get an ice cream cone and don’t do anything else.” Instead, some of us were bad kids who ran home and stuck the money in our piggy banks instead so we could buy comic books later, proving we couldn’t be trusted to do what was expected of us. When I got my check last summer, it didn’t come with a list of do’s and don’ts. I didn’t ask for it for any specific reason; it was given to me. Therefore, it was mine to use as I chose. I chose to save it. I resent the attitude that I did something wrong and that I have proven to be untrustworthy in my country’s eyes. Maybe I am selfish to act in my own best interest rather than in the interest of my country, but I have no choice but to look out for my own interests. I haven’t seen the government looking out for my best financial interests in quite some time.

I like that I can’t be trusted to spend the stimulus money. Call me irresponsible, unpatriotic, or untrustworthy. I’m proud of it. And if I got a second stimulus check, I still wouldn’t spend it, even if this pundit came to my house and taunted me with my apparent inability to follow basic directions. Spending everything we had before we even had it (as a nation) is what got the economy in this mess to begin with. The pundit who uttered these stupid words needs to remember that. What he also needs to remember is that saving or paying down debt is good for the economy in the long term. Banks have more money to lend, people have more money to spend if they save, and the entire financial system isn’t crushed under an unmanageable level of debt. No, it doesn’t boost spending right this instant, but the “instant” solution is rarely the correct solution. Apparently, we need more irresponsible and untrustworthy people who do the wrong thing with stimulus money to stabilize the economy.

The other thing that bothered me about these comments was the notion that the government wants us to spend every cent of our paychecks; that living paycheck to paycheck is desirable, from a governmental point of view. This pundit wants to put extra money in our paychecks so that we will spend it. He assumes that we all have no self control and that if money is in our checks, we will spend it. He assumes that will all be unable to detect the extra money and save it or use it to pay down debt. The idea is that they give us “stealth money” and we’ll mindlessly spend to the bottom of our checkbook without even realizing that we spent the extra.

To some extent, I realize he’s right. There are a lot of people with no self control. If the money’s in the check, it’s meant to be spent. Every cent of it. Give them a lump sum in a separate check and they might think twice before spending it. But sneak it in their checks and they will spend it. However, desiring (and openly rooting) for people to live that way is wrong. Our government and media should be encouraging people to get away from that type of lifestyle and guide them toward a more stable and sustainable way of spending. Otherwise, we’ll be experiencing this same economic crisis in another fifty years. We have to get away from “spending” as the only indicator of economic or household success. To openly encourage people to spend everything they have is, to me, irresponsible.

I’m not certain that he meant his remarks in that way, but since he said it, I’m assuming he did mean it. I’m assuming that he really meant that we cannot be trusted to manage our affairs so that they best benefit the country rather than ourselves and that we should all be spending everything we make to save the economy. As I’m writing this, the final details of the stimulus package haven’t been worked out so I don’t know what we’ll get, if anything. But I personally am hoping for no money. I don’t want an extra check and I don’t want any more in my take home pay. Anything “extra” is an illusion; one that I and my heirs will be paying for with higher taxes for generations to come. Since I obviously can’t be trusted to do the right thing and spend any stimulus money I’m given, please spare me the chastisement next year and just don’t give it to me.

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9 Responses to I’m Untrustworthy And Proud Of It

  1. Philips says:

    Excellent blog:

    Assuming that he really meant that we cannot be trusted to manage our affairs so that they best benefit the country rather than ourselves and that we should all be spending everything we make to save the economy.

    Untrustworthy and Proud of it

  2. Broken Arrow says:

    I have long argued that people need to stop revitalizing the old consumer economy. The fact that people are using their stimulus checks wisely should be applauded, not chastised.

  3. Heibi says:

    I think there was an article about this in Time magazine recently. That in the long term it is better for Americans to save, but in this short term ‘exceptional’ period it is better for the economy if Americans spend. I’m not sure that I buy this totally, but it is what the experts are saying.

  4. Dawn/FFL says:

    I always felt that cnbc and other financial markets are a couple of years behind the times when it comes to understanding “main-street” people.

    I don’t think they will ever catch up.

  5. ceejay74 says:

    It IS offensively worded, to imply that saving money and trying to get out of trouble is “untrustworthy.” However, I said nearly the same thing to my wife recently: that doling the stimulus money out in small increments will probably get more people spending, more than with lump sums of money.

    And even though many people have wised up in this economy, I still see comments on news sites from readers to the effect of “25 bucks a week? Big deal. That’s not going to help me at all.” Anyone in trouble who thinks $1300 per year isn’t going to help at all has not learned to budget effectively.

    As for me, I’ll probably “stimulate” with half the money, save or pay down debt with the other half. That’s usually what I do with windfall money.

  6. Max says:

    The US economy is 2/3 consumption-based … why the surprise about this?

  7. Diane says:

    ceejay74 – I said the exact same thing to my boyfriend recently – that the gov’t wants to put the money in our paychecks to get us to spend it without thinking twice. The statements made on the referenced news show just confirm it!

    I realize we have a consumer based economy, but I agree with Jennifer that its time for people to stop spending everything they make – and then some. And I DON’T like being told that its irresponsible to save money!

    I have paid off all debt except my mortgage and I AM saving money. It’s the personally responsible thing to do in these scary economic times.

    I just might have the extra money in each paycheck go directly into my ING savings account by auto deposit!

  8. Cindy M says:

    I get no thrill anymore from spending money on brand new things, period. The things I’ve replaced lately (new gutters on the house, new windows, a new fridge, new cabinets in my kitchen) are frankly just plain badly made compared to what I had before. They all look “pretty” but again, I know they’re junk compared with I had before. I went middle of the road on all of them (not the cheapest or the best) but I have to say I’m very disappointed overall with the replacements and would not do it again. You can imagine how I feel about even looking at a new car. I won’t be anytime soon; I’ve stimulated the economy enough

  9. Gail says:

    One of the benefits of no newspaper and no TV connection (nor do I listen much to the radio). I don’t have to hear all about this so much of the time.

    For some reason the government has decided that IT needs to personally bail out every floundering company and family in the USA with money it doesn’t have. Where is this money to come from? As Jennifer said our heirs will be paying for this for generations to come. This is the time to learn how to handle money wisely not hand out freebies. I don’t think stimulus and bailout checks are the answer because it doesn’t address the basic issue and that is that so many ARE untrustworhy about handling their own finances and the finances of their companies and to give them more money just will get them expecting MORE handouts. If we get any kind of stimulus check (I don’t know what is happening about this) it will be promptly used to pay down debt.

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