There’s an old nursery rhyme that goes:
Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so between them both, you see
They licked the platter clean!
Well, in a clear cut case of life imitating art, we have seen how this cultural touchstone transfers to our everyday lives. The fat that entranced Jack Sprat’s wife can be found all over the internet and it looks delicious. Meanwhile, the lean that caught Jack’s fancy has hit our bank accounts and 401k’s. From the increase in the unemployment rate to the drop in consumer spending, America hasn’t seen such lean times in decades. But luckily, in this drama the role of Jack Sprat’s wife is played by the Federal Government and she’s never seen a big ol’ plate of fat that she didn’t like. This is why we will soon be the proud owners of a $800 billion dollar stimulus package.
It would be nice if we could just blame this whole thing on one party or the other. It’s the Republicans’ fault for the past eight years of profligate spending and expensive foreign entanglements. Or the Democrats are responsible because they rammed a pork laden bill down the collective American gullet while paying mere lip service to the idea of bipartisanship. But, let’s call it like it is here. Pork, in all its many wonderful forms, is the American way.
That being said, this stimulus package is nothing when compared to the recent automobile and bank bailouts. The overall price tag on this one may be higher but at least there’s a legitimate goal. The bailout? Well, for you baseball fans, here’s an easy way to look at it. Let’s say you have a team, we’ll call them the New Pork Spankees, and they decide that things aren’t looking as rosy as they’d like. So, they tell the city of New Pork, “Look, things are kind of rough and the only thing that will help is if you build us a new stadium. You’re going to be on the hook for most of the costs but really, you owe us because we’ve been so good to you over the years. Here’s the thing, though. If you don’t do it, we’ll close up shop, maybe move someplace else and then where will you be?.” It’s like Congress telling the American people that we have to rescue Detroit but the taxpayers are going to have to pay for it because the automakers have been so good to America in the past. It’s time we payed our dues.
Inevitably, these two eerily similar bailouts end up helping certain special people (i.e. the owner of the Spankees or the auto executives) a lot more than they help the people who are footing the bill. It also doesn’t help when the real price of the package skyrockets as time wears on.
But what about all of us, the guys who are footing the bill? What do we get in return? Well, we get higher ticket prices, a sense of disenfranchisement and then we’re forced to watch our teams perform at some unacceptable level of status quo.
The difference between the Spankees and the American taxpayer, though, is that without some sort of package, the taxpayer is soon going to find his or herself standing in line outside the unemployment office. The city of New Pork? Well, they’ll just create their own bailout plan and float the costs on down the line to the taxpayer. Individualized gains, socialized losses but the same old story no matter where you look.