- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

The U.S. government is about to leverage nearly $3 trillion into the economy to get it moving again, but none of that money will do any good if the recipients don’t spend or lend it. But this is the U.S. government. It knows people. It has ways.

Let us limn out the following scenario on how that might work —

You knew right away from the gray pinstripe suits, the red ties, the wingtips. They were feds. No, not those feds. These are Kelly and Lasky, agents of the feared Federal Reserve Board.

The middle-aged owner of a neatly kept suburban bungalow answers their knock.

“You’ll have to come with us, sir. There’s a problem with all those government subsidies, tax credits and cuts and rebates you’ve received.”

“But I haven’t done anything with them.”

“That’s the problem, ingrate. Our surveillance shows that you’ve saved every nickel of the money our government has been forcing on you. Let’s go.”

“But … but ….”

“Look, Mr. A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned. We’ve dealt with your kind before. Just get in the car.”

The scene is a small, windowless office, with cheap artificial-wood paneling and harsh fluorescent lighting. Various awards for “Zone Manager of the Year” hang on the wall, the last of them from 2006. He is beginning to realize his worst fears: It is the sales manager’s office.

”OK, now what kind of car do you want?”

“I don’t want or need a car, but I’m pretty happy with my Toyota.”

“Uncle Sam doesn’t have any money in Toyota, but he has a bundle tied up in General Motors. I’m thinking a Chevy Suburban with two-zone AC and deluxe rims, rear-seat TV. No money down, five years to pay.”

“But I can’t afford that car. I’ll never pay it off.”

“No one pays off their cars; you just roll the debt into a new one. Besides, you can put it on your credit card.”

“But I don’t have a credit card.”

“You do now. You think we went to all that trouble freeing up credit so you can walk around paying cash?”

“Now, you’ll need an extended warranty.”

“No, I don’t. You never get your money’s worth out of them.”

“It’s always about you, isn’t it? Do you have no faith in America? The extended warranty is your way of showing confidence that the car company will be around long enough to honor it. Now, sign here so we can get to the real-estate office.”

“Real-estate office? Why a real-estate office?”

“So you can buy a home.”

“But I already have a home. It’s all paid off.”

“You know, I’m picking up a real anti-American vibe here. Homeownership is the American Dream. We’re giving you the chance to live the dream twice, maybe three times. There are some real bargains out there. I’m thinking something in Florida, not too far from the ocean.”

“But we don’t like Florida. If we have to do this, couldn’t it be someplace in New England? Maybe up in the mountains.”

”You don’t catch on real fast, do you? Florida is a swing state. Do we have to spell it out for you? Now, sign these mortgage papers and you’ll have your house.”

”But this is a terrible deal. Zero down payment, an adjustable rate that resets every six months, a balloon payment that’s almost as much as the entire mortgage. We’ll never get out from under this. We’ll be ruined.”

”So you think you’re better than millions of other Americans? Better even than Lehman Brothers? Get in the car.”

“Where are we going?”

”To put your savings in a nice hedge fund. This guy Madoff has an incredible track record. But first we have to stop and pick up your second mortgage. Maybe I misjudged you. You’ve got the makings of a real patriot.”

Dale McFeatters is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.

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