So Much for the Stimulus Package

I shudder when I get those credit-card offerings that include some sort of bonus check attached to them. All I need to do is fill out the check, sign the bottom, and I'm granted an unsecured windfall I can blow on anything I please. Even worse, I'm willing to bet some people actually feel "richer" after cashing those checks.

Yes, most of us probably realize those offerings are a financial tragedy in the making. What should trouble you even more is that the government stimulus package offered earlier this year is about on par with those credit-card offerings.

Crank those printing presses up a notch
The federal budget deficit is now estimated to come close to $490 billion, or more than $15,000 per second, for fiscal year 2009. That's quite a leap from the $400 billion or so expected this year. Part of the cause of the jump? The stimulus package, of course.

The package was hailed back in January when consumers strapped with soaring energy costs and rising mortgage payments learned of Uncle Sam's kindness. Around $170 billion was to be sprinkled over the economy. All you had to do was go out to your mailbox, cash the check, and, voila!, instant wealth.

Sure enough, some retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) , Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) , and Target (NYSE: TGT  ) likely got a quick shot in the arm from consumers who had been held back from their love of things they don't need. Good for the retailers, and good for their quarterly results that have since been forgotten about, because that's about the only glimmer of hope the stimulus package was capable of producing.

Borrowing your way out of a borrowing problem doesn't work
As the old saying goes, money doesn't grow on trees. Well, it does, actually. Literally, it does -- all governments need to do is print it out whenever they need more of it. But governments get in over their heads when those money trees start diluting the forest of our economy. Just like those beloved credit-card offerings, spending money that you never earned and probably can't pay off doesn't make you any richer.

Now that the budget deficit has grown, the same taxpayers who received a stimulus check take claim to a larger national debt load. The quick euphoric nudge received from the checks is gone before you know it -- heck, oil alone ate up the bulk of your check before you even received it. National debt, on the other hand, doesn't go away until someone -- either you, or future generations -- ends up paying it off.

For more on the ups and downs of our stimulus package, national debt, and inflation jitters, check out:

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Wal-Mart and Best Buy are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Costco and Best Buy are Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy and keeps itself in order with a disclosure policy.


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