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Do YOU feel sufficiently stimulated? ’Cause I don’t...

WHAT DID you do with your “economic stimulus” check from the government? Did you spend it in a suitably patriotic manner, doing your bit to kick-start the good ol’ U.S. economy?

You did? Are you sure? I just ask because, as a member of the U.S. economy, I’m feeling a little understimulated.

But then, I always had doubts about the whole scheme.

Sort of like with the government’s bailout of Bear Stearns. I’m not a libertarian, not by a long shot, but sometimes I break out with little itchy spots of libertarianism, and one of those itchy spots causes me to ask, Why am I, as a taxpaying member of the U.S. economy, bailing out something called Bear Stearns? I didn’t even know what it was. Even after I’d read about it in The Wall Street Journal, I still could not answer the fundamental question, “If you work at Bear Stearns, what is it that you do all day?” I understand what a fireman does, and if the fire department were about to go under, I’d be one of the first to step forward and say let’s bail it out. Of course, if the fire department wanted me to lend it $29 billion, with a “B,” I might have further questions. Yet that’s what we’ve done for Bear Stearns.

Apparently Bear Stearns is a financial institution that the federal government considers “too big to fail,” which makes me wonder, if it’s too big to fail, then why does it need to be bailed out?

But things like this always perplex me. I am not an economist, nor a financial expert, which I’m told is different. Nor am I any kind of a businessman. At my house, I am not allowed to try to balance the checkbook.

Anyway, while I’m still pondering why you and I and the guy down the street lent $29 billion to bail out this Bear Stearns, along comes Congress and the president wanting to send somewhat more modest checks to you and me and that same guy.

I’m all for Democrats and Republicans setting aside pointless bickering to do something for the good of the country, but when the economy’s going into the tank, and the Democratic Congress and the Republican president are racing to see which of them can send us the biggest check, sort of like the Three Stooges all trying to get through a door at the same time, I begin to have doubts.

I start to think, “With the national debt at — wait a sec while I go check the Internet — 9 trillion dollars, and climbing at a rate of more than a Bear Stearns bailout every month, the government is going to send several hundred dollars to every household in the country?”

It seems that everybody in Washington was acting along the same lines of reasoning as when, in response to attacks upon this country more deadly than Pearl Harbor, we were told to go out and shop, instead of buying bonds or rationing gas or something that would have made sense to an earlier generation. And now, six-and a half years into the War on Terror, some of us weren’t shopping hard enough. So to help us get back into the fight, the government decided to send us all some more ammunition.

As it got closer to time for me to get my ammo, my martial spirits rose, and I started thinking this was a better and better idea. If my country needed me to shop, I was going to make sure every shot counted. So I did some research.

Finally, a suitable target presented itself. Week before last, we all went to Memphis for a wedding. The wife and I stayed with Mary, one of her best friends from high school.

My wife has always held Mary up as one of the smartest in her class, not only a scholar, but a woman of great good sense and practicality. Mary had recently earned some extra money, and had spent it on a 42-inch, 1080-resolution flat-panel HDTV set. It had cost her $800 at Sam’s Club. I studied this item very closely while we were there, flicking back and forth between ball games on the HD channels and the same ball games on mere mortal channels, and came to the inescapable conclusion that Mary was indeed the smartest in her class, and had made an excellent investment — way better than the Bear Stearns thing.

So by the time we got back from Memphis, I was all in a sweat to get that stimulus check, which would amount to $1,200.

But when it came, do you know what we spent it on? A hospital bill. Not a hospital bill for major surgery or life-saving emergency treatment, because none of us had needed that, thank God. No, this was for a few X-rays for my daughter’s sprained ankle — for my baby, who was temporarily off my insurance but was covered by a separate policy that we were paying $117 a month for, which seemed like a really good deal until she needed some actual routine medical care.

When you have five kids between the ages of 19 and 31 in the United States of America, you spend a lot of time holding your breath until they get safe jobs with their own group medical insurance. Two of mine have achieved that status, and both know they’d better not try to actually stimulate the economy by starting their own businesses or anything, because their Dad would have a stroke.

All of this gets me to thinking... If Congress really and truly wants to help the U.S. economy, maybe, just maybe, it should pass a National Health Plan along the lines of practically every other developed nation on the planet, instead of sending me a check that would barely cover two months worth of premiums on health insurance for my wife and me and only one of my children.

So Congress, I appreciate the thought, but I’ve got to tell you: Sending me $1,200 to throw into a debt hole that I wouldn’t have if I lived in any other industrialized country just doesn’t cut it.

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