The Speculist: Have You Seen This one?


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Have You Seen This one?

I rarely open, much less read, much less blog about spam e-mails but this one really got my attention:

This was an article from the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper on Sunday. The Business Section asked readers for ideas on "How Would You Fix the Economy?"

This article was one of the ideas submitted...

This guy nailed it!

Dear Mr. President:

Please find below my suggestion for fixing America’s economy.

Instead of giving billions of dollars to companies that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan.

You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force.

Pay them $1 million apiece severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They have to retire.

· Forty million job openings.

o Unemployment fixed.

2) They have to buy a new American CAR.

· Forty million cars ordered.

o Auto Industry fixed.

3) They have to either buy a house or pay off their mortgage.

· Housing Crisis fixed.

It can't get any easier than that!

If more money is needed, have all members of Congress and their constituents pay their taxes... If you think this would work, please forward to everyone you know.

I'm not interested in getting into a political discussion about the merits of different approaches to stimulating the economy. What interests me about this is that its price -- I'm reading it as four trillion dollars -- is a lot of money, but within an order of magnitude of the kind of money we're spending on the economy anyhow.

That such an idea is even something that could be entertained -- only for entertainment! -- is a signpost that we truly are on our way to the end of scarcity. A country that can afford to give a million dollars to 40 million people (which we could do, irrespective of whether we should do it) is a country that enjoys significant abundance.

Now all we need to do is figure out a way to give a billion dollars to each of six billion people. But we're on our way!


1 million times 40 million is 40 trillion. The singularity and the end to scarcity might be coming, but I'm pretty sure that we're not going to bailed out in this particular financial crisis by the Rapture of the Nerds. Maybe a couple crisis' away. :-)

>>1 million times 40 million is 40 trillion.

Oops. Mentally multiplied 4 million rather than 40.

Okay, then. We're still within a couple orders of magnitude... ;-)

And, if I spend, say $250K paying off the house and cards and buying a car, and then I invest the remaining $750K in Jumbo CDs, I make about $17K per year, after taxes.

The current price tag that I have heard is $13 trillion on the US bailouts including the new guarantees.

An aggressive opt-in early retirement program and semi-retirement program would be the right price range.

Some people still have savings and are coming up short, especially with the decline in stocks and housing.

I think the problem is this would have deferred the asset price adjustment and keep the bubbles going. But the adjustment would still hit unless there was more adjustments made.

So maybe we only talk to people over the age of 55? 60? And remember, not all of them will take the deal, so maybe...

OK, I really should stop taking spam seriously...

Only a few problems --

Giving 40,000,000 people each $1,000,000 would costs $40 trillion, or more than 30 times what has already been spent to fix the economy.

Individuals in the workforce over 50 would not be easily replaced by younger less-skilled workers. The college professor, medical researcher, and surgeon with years of experience can't be easily replaced with someone fresh out of college or someone who doesn't have a high school diploma. Workers are not 100% fungible so you'd still have a lot of unemployed people, just not for the same jobs.

Spending $40 trillion would cause massive increases in the demand for goods and services. The huge increase in the money supply required to provide those funds would assure that the price of goods woud rise dramatically (think 1970s inflation of 10-14%. A few years of that and the money won't go nearly as far (a $3 gallon of milk would cost $3.35 after the first year, $3.75 after the second year, and $4.20 after the third year). Imagine if everything cost a third-more than it does now in 3 years. What you buy today for $30k a year would cost you $40k per year.

Third, a lot of fifty-year old people can't safely retire on $1m. Assuming the government doesn't tax the $1m, that would provide about $40,000 per year in income. Of course, you'd have to pay off your mortgage or buy a house with the money and buy a new car, so in reality, that's at least $150k off the top of your $1m, which brings you down to $36k per year. That may seem like a lot, but for a lot of 50 years-olds, it's not going to come close to what they are making now. Of course, this assumes a historical return of 6% of your money in the stock market (which hasn't looked so good over the last 10 years or so). It also assumes only historical 3.1% inflation. The higher inflation rate caused by the massive cash injection into the economy would make the money available for retirement that much lower.

Even if you reduce the numbers to 10 million people and $500,000 dollars, it still makes sense and could be much more effective than the current bail-outs, which are in essence a new version of Reagan's old "trickle-down" economics.

Hell, I'm almost fifty; give me a million bucks and I have no doubt I can make it last until I'm dead.

I've seen this stupid proposal before. The 40T is backed by nothing - the only result will be hyperinflation.

All of these approaches are on the wrong track. We need at least $1 trillion invested in growing Money Trees. We can pay all the money back with just the first year's harvest.

Hey - 40 bill ain't so bad - he also solved medicare and social security for a while...

Turning millions of productive people into non-productive people will only make matters worse.

This idea of handing out zillion-dollar checks is so economically naive (or tongue in cheek), I can't believe anyone is taking it seriously.

If you merely want to be a billionaire, you can buy a few billion Zimbabwean dollars on Ebay for a couple bucks. Poof. . .you're a billionaire.

Analogously, this is exactly what would happen to the American dollar if suddenly a couple extra trillion of them are introduced into circulation, by just handing them out (ie with no corresponding increase in wealth to account for the increase in the money supply).

As to the rest of this idea, handing out money from the Federal trough doesn't create wealth. It just redistributes it. In essence, you're taking money from the taxpayer (ie the productive citizen who actually creates the wealth), filtering it through the inefficient non-competitive and corrupt Federal gov't, then handing it to a bunch of undeserving people (who end up giving most of it back to the gov't in the form of taxes anyway).

The bottom line is that you're taking resources away from those that create wealth, and handing them to those who don't. This path leads to net economic growth, and no stimulation of the economy.

If you want to stimulate the economy, you have to increase net production of goods and or services.

The way to do that is to increase the net amount of productive work being done. You can either make existing labor more efficient or put unused resources to work.

The only way it could work is if half of them started new businesses with the money and continued generating wealth. It would also, in many cases, roll back the effects of the Peter Principle for some time.

Of course, it would have to apply to politicians, too. Which unfortunately would leave Locutus O'Borgus in place.

Congress should pass a law allowing us to manually add as many zeros to our paper banknotes as we wish. We'll all become asscraptically rich.

Note from Phil
Partisan politcal commentary redacted. Sheesh, people, don't you get enough of that everywhere else?

Obama's economic team says that if you give people $1,000 they will spend it and "create" $1,500, a multiplier of 1.5 on real wealth. Maybe that is where the "give everyone $1 million" comes from. I say, just give me the thousand or million, and I don't care what other people do with it. Isn't that closer to the spending (I mean fiscal) policies of the government?

When an idea leads directly to a crazy result, what should we think about that idea? Maybe laugh at it until the proponent explains in detail how it works. If you believe Obama, Keynes, and their proclaimed wealth multiplier of 1.5 on government spending, then it would be valuable to counterfeit as much money as possible, of course under government regulation. You don't have to borrow counterfeit money, or pay it back. It is ideal for Keynesian government projects.

Let's Counterfeit Our Way to Wealth

This is the worst idea I have ever heard. Tell me where you would get these trillions of dollars to do this? Would the Federal Reserve print the money? If they did, you would be lucky to buy a stick of gum with a million worthless pieces of paper. Inflation would be out of control and our nation's economy would come to an end, if it hasn't already. Now, please do some reading and educate yourself on economic policy!

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