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Economic stimulus starts at home

February 04, 2009

Dear Sen. Mikulski:

I am watching with great interest this week's debate over Barack Obama's zillion-dollar economic stimulus package, and I only have one question.

Now don't worry, I'm not going to bust your chops for relying on those witch doctors we know as "economists."

Hey, did your hear this one? Shepherd is driving his massive flock of sheep across a rural Scottish road and a dude drives up in a car. Rather than being perturbed at the delay, he gets out and appraises the herd.

"I will bet you one of your sheep that I can tell you exactly how many animals you have in your herd," he says.

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Shepherd gives him a long, even look and finally says "Deal."

Fellow squints at the flock and says "You got 2,235."

Shepherd's jaw drops. He stares at the guy and says, "Amazing. You're spot on - guess you get a sheep."

The driver picks up an animal and heads back to his car.

"Wait, wait," says the shepherd. "I bet you double or nothing I can tell your profession, even though I've never seen you before in my life."

Smug, the guy says, "You're on."

"You are an economist."

"I, I well yes I am, but how did you know?"

"Well, put down my dog and I'll tell you."

But Barbara, I am not here to make fun of a profession that believes it can explain life in a pie chart. I am not even here to claim that I have any particular wisdom in matters economic.

I know that you're hearing from people every day who say, "The problem with the economic stimulus package is that it backloads capital improvement projects until the out years while failing to inject Treasury with enough funding to cover mark-to-market toxic assets, therefore assigning unrealistic derivative values that can only be addressed through cutting year-over payroll taxes under the Trouble Asset Relief Program thereby guaranteeing unmanageable credit spreads and an inverse yield curve."

Then you ask the guy what he does for a living and he tells you he lays carpet for Motel 6.

Everybody's an expert. I understand that. Opinion writers such as myself are the worst. We can tell you exactly what tweaks are needed for the economic stimulus package, when the fact is that we don't even know that you shouldn't add bleach to a load of colored socks.

I do not believe there is an editorial writer in the nation by now who has not weighed in on the question of whether the economic stimulus package is a good witch or a bad witch. That's because the higher-ups storm into the board room and demand a cogent editorial on the nation's finances from a man who, just 45 minutes previous, was trying to figure out how to get the vending machine to take a creased dollar bill.

But that isn't my question. I don't want you to tell me how I should define economic policy to the public. I really don't care about that.

My question is much simpler:

Can I have $1 million?

You can write that into the bill, you know that you could. No one would notice. Call it the "Boy, economic life would sure be a lot easier for Tim Rowland if you would do this" line item.

And out of a trillion dollars, who in the world would notice? President Obama said that we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back to making America the best it can be. I'll be honest, I've made a few bad spending choices, including all those 900 calls to "Girls On Dirt Bikes."

But I think I can say with confidence that a mere $1 million would put me back on the straight and narrow and help the economy in a very, well, personal way.

It's your call, Barbara. Do you want to be a part of the problem or do you want to help one average American get back to the business of lying on his couch?

I eagerly await your reply.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com.

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