By Dave Simpson, Columnist
“Will you be taking the money?”
The question came in a Facebook thread, after I wrote this initial post:
“Don’t anyone tell them what comes after a trillion.”
That observation, as the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill had just passed in Congress, drew mostly friendly replies.
“McZillion sold,” one friend responded. “A Gazillion? Asking for a friend” another replied.
(The answer: A “quadrillion.” And I don’t even want to think about it.)
So the mood was light regarding a heavy subject: This country’s mountain of debt has grown over most of my life, and is growing much faster in recent years. It stood at $23 trillion before this latest stimulus bill. It will soon be $25 trillion. And Nancy Pelosi promises that more trillions will be needed before the coronavirus nightmare ends.
A friend of almost exactly 40 years asked if I will take the $1,200 that will soon be on its way to most Americans. This guy is about as far left on the political spectrum as I am to the right. He seemed to be asking if I would be a hypocrite, and take the money despite my national debt worries. The question had an edge.
I hadn’t given the matter much thought. Not taking the money hadn’t occurred to me. And turning it down would be a tough sell with my wife, who is twice as frugal as I am. (We crawl under doors to save wear and tear on the hinges.)
So I replied:
“I’m thinking of giving it to my grand daughter. It’s only fair. Her generation will get stuck with the debt. It’s stupid to give it to people like us. (We’re retired.) The people out of work need the help. What will you do?”
I added this: “And what on earth do the Kennedy Center and NPR have to do with this crisis? Why shower them with millions?”
Well, that last part must have struck a nerve, and my old friend replied that he would be giving his $1,200 to people in his family who are out of work, and to a young man he helped pay for college, “who now finds his whole world slipping away.” He added, “What did you think I would do?”
He agreed that showering the Kennedy Center and NPR with millions is crazy, but added that he also didn’t want to see money go to “huge corporations” that spent millions on stock buybacks last time we doled out borrowed stimulus billions.
Off to the races…
So I asked why he was picking this fight, when we both knew we would never change the other guy’s mind on anything political. He replied that he’s getting cabin fever being cooped up in his house, and just needed to vent. My post gave him the opportunity.
I replied, “I have lost a couple long-time friends over politics, and I don’t intend to lose you. Not gonna happen.”
Then I had a better idea. A couple weeks ago we were about to move my 95-year-old mother-in-law from assisted living to a nursing home. Then the coronavirus hit, and because we couldn’t visit her in the nursing home, we decided to bring her to our home instead. While moving her, on top of everything else, downed power lines knocked out electric service to our neighborhood.
We live outside of town, with a well, and a lift station for the downstairs plumbing. So nothing was working as we moved her in. And for a while, there was no power for her oxygen machine.
“That’s it,” I said. “We’re getting that standby generator we’ve been talking about.”
It’s the perfect solution. A good cause: Caring for an elderly family member. Money to a local electrician who has a passel of kids. And money to Home Depot, a business started by Ken Langone, who has given $200 million to the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.
The project will cost more than the $2,400 my wife and I will be getting, maybe as much as $10,000.
But the government money will quickly be out there, stimulating up a storm. And everyone will be happy.
Maybe even my old liberal friend.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org