I have been selected to serve as the point man for economic recovery. Last week, the Social Security Administration notified me that as part of Obama'ês stimulus package I would receive a one-time payment of $250. I am not making this up. I would not joke about assuming this awesome responsibility.
Saving the economy is now all up to me. As a CEO I felt the pressure of being responsible for a single company, but now I am responsible for the entire economy. I don'êt know if I am up to it.
Keynes argued that infrastructure spending is highly simulative, so I thought of building a bridge. I was disappointed, after getting quotes, to learn that one couldn'êt get much of a bridge for $250. Being the shock troops for economic recovery is not for the faint of heart.
I then considered the troubled financial sector. Perhaps I could unfreeze credit markets by purchasing toxic Collateralized Mortgage Backed Obligations. Under the Treasury program, the feds would match my $250 equity and then loan another $2,833.
I called Bank of America. Unable to reach an actual person I left a voice message, 'êI am in the market for toxic sub-prime assets. My appetite is somewhere in the low four figures. I am particularly interested in defaults on Belltown condos. What have you got?'ê No one returned my call. I became morbidly worried about completing my assignment. I could not sleep.
Since education is President Obama's long-term solution for economic growth, I next contacted Columbia University'ês development office.
Steve: I am not saying I will give you $250, but if I gave you $250, how would you spend it?
Major Gifts Officer (MGO): General university purposes.
S: If I made it a challenge grant that had to be matched by others givers, how would you use the entire $500?
MGO: General university purposes.
S: Could you be more specific?
MGO: Without making any commitment, but simply to illustrate, we are currently raising funds to expand courses on 16th Century Sub-Sahara Female Composers.
Would more courses on 16th Century Sub-Sahara Female Composers reduce the unemployment rate to 5%? I'êm not sure. My stimulus responsibilities are inducing acute anxiety. Concluding that the stimulus funds could be better used to save the auto industry, I resolved to purchase $250 of General Motor'ês debt.
Then Larry Summers called.
Larry: Steve, how will you allocate the stimulus funds?
Steve: I though I would buy some GM debt.
L: You moron! I recommended you to spearhead the economic recovery. Now you plan to join the uncompromising GM debt holders who may force the company into bankruptcy. Don'êt you understand that millions of jobs depend on your actions?
S: I was just trying to help. This is my first experience with stimulating the economy. What if I apply the stimulus funds to my quarterly estimated tax payments?
L: You idiot! The government entrusts you with stimulus funds and you propose giving it right back to the government. Are you trying to make me look bad? Is one of your daughters a scientist?
S: No. They are both journalists.
L: Female journalists? No wonder newspapers everywhere are folding.
S (letting that pass): So what should I do?
L: Spend all the stimulus funds — fast. The nation is depending on you.
S: I could buy a box of Cuban Montecristo No. 1'ês for $237.95. That would leave $12.05 for three lattes.
L: Where would you buy the cigars?
S: On an Internet site in Switzerland.
L: You imbecile! I promised the President that given stimulus funds you would be the Avatar of Abundance, the Paladin of Prosperity, and the Godfather of Growth. Now you want to use 95 percent of the stimulus funds to illegally purchase Cuban cigars from the Swiss. How would you explain this to Congress? We gave you stimulus funds to provide the solution, not to aggravate the problem.
S: Maybe I did not get the right tools for the job.
L: It is a poor craftsman who blames his tools. The President contends that we cannot have vigorous economic growth until we fix the health care system. Spend the stimulus funds fixing health care. Millions of threatened homeowners are counting on you. Remember — health care.
I followed Larry'ês advice. I bought $125 of Valium from my local drug store and $125 of Crystal Meth from a website in Canada. I do not know if I fixed health care and or stimulated the economy, but I'êm feeling great.