Can anyone really explain the stimulus package or the TARP program beyond telling us the intent is to stabilize and reverse the economy?
The Democrats will tell you money needs to be spent to kick-start the economy and rebuild the foundation of America's financial institutions. Republicans roll their eyes, thinking Democrats are seeding social projects and improving their standing with the average worker.
My view is that I don't know, but I agree with President Barack Obama. That is, if the other way were working, we wouldn't have to be making any changes. What is happening in Washington is no different than what is happening across corporate America. Everyone is looking for a solution and changing management teams with the hopes that a new plan will bring about a winning attitude and new revenue.
I was a Reaganite when I was in college. All my family members were small-business owners, and I believed there was too much government, and taxes were killing the system. I don't think we can cut taxes any further, but I also believe that raising taxes takes the money out of private hands and puts it into government hands, which in the long run is a bad idea.
The principles behind the stimulus package—investing in the country's infrastructure—is an absolute must if we want to compete globally, and especially with China. I have visited other countries, like Chile, whose transportation and highway systems are superior to ours. Friends have come back from China with pictures and tales of incredible cities, highways and subway systems. Who can forget watching the magnificence of the 2008 Olympic Games?
So where is the money going to be made?
- Community banks: The days of the super-banks are over. The government will want tighter regulations and more scrutiny, which favors small banks. Those are typically risk-reserved, and they will take advantage of the TARP money. This means the banks will be willing to lend money, but like good stewards, they will make sure applicants have the financial wherewithal to make their monthly payments. Community banks don't aim to build assets for the sake of paying higher bonuses to management. They have a community they see at Rotary Clubs, school meetings, Little League games and other community activities, so I believe there will be growth in community banks.
- Entrepreneurship: When the country was conceived, most people worked for themselves. Over time, they began working for others when manufacturing took hold. This trend is going to reverse itself for several reasons because people want more professional control over their futures, and companies can save money by using contract employees. Therefore, I see universities and educational companies running programs on starting businesses; office supply and computer companies selling more products as people use their homes as a base of operations; and increases for various Internet business applications.
- Health care: We will have some type of hybrid private/social system because we are a religious country that believes in the sanctity of life, and Congress is tired of hearing complaints about the lack of treatment for people of little or no means. Our population is also aging. Becoming a doctor instead of an investment banker is going to come back into vogue. There will be increased spending on medical equipment for home and hospital use.
- Transportation: No doubt we are going to need to overhaul the country's highways, bridges and develop a better transit system. The price of a barrel of gas has dropped from $140-plus to around $40, but gas is still $2 a gallon and rising. Therefore, construction, heavy-equipment, cement and other related products will do very well, as will architects and engineers.
I have heard many people point out money being earmarked for golf courses, a new census and other projects that on the surface look like a waste of money. The reality is that there will be a significant amount of money that won't go to projects that should get first priority, but there will be, in my opinion, enough with matching funds from the private sector to change the country's fortunes. Even less-desirable projects will make a contribution in a variety of ways.
Let's give the new team and plan a chance before saying "I told you so." At a minimum, people aren't standing still in Washington, and for anyone who has worked for a big corporation knows, progress is made over time, not overnight.