If you are an American who makes poor decisions, fear not. Our government rewards you. In big ways and small, what was once the honorable virtue of forgiveness has been twisted into a pattern of taking the sting out of making bad decisions. This just fosters bad decision making and penalizes people who make good decisions.
Here’s four examples, starting with the trivial and working up to the biggies. I do it this way because the biggies are well-trodden at this point. Warning: I’m cranky this morning.
Reusable Grocery Bags
Good idea, right? Of course. While some of us paid for them, though, there are literally millions of them being given away. These are people who wouldn’t otherwise do their share. They need both the carrot and the stick. They keep using the environmentally-polluting bags until someone gives them a bag, and even then we have to threaten with taxes or fees just to make them use it. So your reward for not spending the $6 or $7 to get 6 or 7 reusable grocery bags is that you will have them given to you. Your reward for buying them 18 months ago: priceless—as in zero.
Maryland’s Tax Amnesty
At the end of a booming stock market, as we’ve slid deep into a recession, the state of Maryland is trying to boost its tax revenues. Its plan is a tax amnesty, the second one this decade. So what does this tell you? If you live or pay taxes in Maryland, don’t pay your taxes on time or in full. Use that money to invest in a booming stock market, make a bunch of profits and then pay the taxes during an amnesty. Done well, your market winnings should easily exceed the reduced interest and waived fees during the amnesty. If you don’t make a big bundle on the stock market, that’s OK. It wasn’t your money you were gambling anyways. And all the people who paid their taxes on time? They see no relief or reward.
Cash for Clunkers
I know of few other laws that slap good people in the face like this one. If you’re making good money and you drive a responsible car: keep doing that because we’re gonna take that for granted. People who drive gas guzzlers (which should never have been manufactured in the first place) will get a check, practically made out to GM, that lets them get a car more easily. Most importantly, the teeming millions who drive reasonable cars that are neither gas guzzlers nor hybrids get nothing. If you drive a gas guzzling beater and pollute to high heaven for years on end, you’ll get a nice government handout. Be responsible and pick a middle-of-the road car? We have nothing for you.
Gross Mismanagement? There, there, it’s not so bad, have a few billion”
As I said, I’m leaving this for last because it’s the biggest and it’s well trodden. The whole concept of capitalism, however, is that market forces pick the winners, thin the herd, etc. However, the new measure of corporate success is not being a blue-chip stock. That’s so 20th century. The new measure of corporate success is TBTF: too big to fail. Given the bailouts we’ve seen lately, why does it not make sense to build behemoth companies that acquire tons of strategic business units. Profit like mad as you grow, then when it falls, hand it to the government to clean up the mess. The list of companies where this is happening is staggering.
The problem with this one is that I’m way out of my league here. I have no solution. Economic armaggeddon might be a bit of a high price to pay to “teach those guys a lesson.” Fine. But surely there is something else we can do other than saddle our grandchildren’s grandchildren with the debts that our own grandparents created. I can’t believe that the best solution is to throw it in the landfill of public debt and let it become someone else’s problem.