Bob Herbert has a novel solution to the economic crisis we're in -- JOBS:
... the way to put money into the hands of working people is to make sure they have access to good jobs at good wages. That has long been known, but it hasn’t been the policy in this country for many years.
Big business and the federal government have worked hand in hand to squeeze the daylights out of working people, stripping them (in an era of downsizing and globalization) of much of their bargaining power while ferociously pursuing fiscal policies that radically favored the privileged few.
One-time rebate checks -- even when they are "as much as $800" -- and billions of dollars in additional tax breaks for businesses are not a solution for the millions of Americans who are struggling to pay rents, mortgages, utility bills, and car payments, and put food on the table every day. The solution is decent paychecks coming in every week or every other week.
There is no question that some kind of stimulus package geared to the needs of ordinary Americans is in order. But that won’t begin to solve the fundamental problem.
Good jobs at good wages — lots of them, growing like spring flowers in an endlessly fertile field — is the absolutely essential basis for a thriving American economy and a broad-based rise in standards of living.
Forget all the CNBC chatter about Fed policy and bargain stocks. For ordinary Americans, jobs are the be-all and end-all. And an America awash in new jobs will require a political environment that respects and rewards work and aggressively pursues creative policies designed to radically expand employment.
I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.
The country that gave us the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe ought to be able, 60 years later, to reconstitute its own sagging infrastructure.
The New York Times points out, in an editorial, that tax breaks don't help people who don't pay taxes:
But in its embrace of the notion that relief means letting people keep their own money, the White House’s proposal excludes those who have no money to keep — about 45 million families earning too little to pay income taxes and to qualify for a rebate. Yet these are exactly the people who should be helped, not only because of their dire need but also because they would be most likely to spend quickly whatever assistance they got.
There are more effective and progressive ways to provide an economic stimulus. Democrats have suggested a flat tax credit for all workers, regardless of whether they pay income taxes. To help the worst-off Americans, they have proposed extending unemployment insurance and increasing food stamp benefits.
Better, but it's still only temporary pain relief, not treatment for the disease.