Where will our stimulus checks go?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I won’t opine in this space on the wisdom n nor the politics n of the federal government’s decision to send us taxpayers $175 billion in “economic stimulus” payments.

Our own U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, one of a handful in the House of Representatives to vote against the idea, noted the irony of America’s borrowing even more money from China to send out money that, in many cases, will be spent on products made in n you guessed it n China.

Forbes makes a persuasive case that the stimulus package is dreadful economic policy.

Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority in Congress and President Bush, mindful of the upcoming presidential election, saw fit to make the package law. And the checks are coming, beginning Friday.

The question becomes, Will we make the best of it?

“We,” in this case, is our community: the people of Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County.

I did some rough calculations based on Census Bureau data and estimated, conservatively, that households in the three localities will receive a collective $7 million in stimulus payments over the next few months.

To those who plan to put the money in savings or use it to pay down debt, bravo. But that’s not what Bush and Congress want us to do with it. They want us to spend it, and the reality is that the overwhelming majority of Americans will do just that. It’s our nature, evidenced by a record-low savings rate in this country.

As we spend the money, we have an important choice of whose economy we stimulate. We can stimulate the Beach’s economy. We can stimulate the Outer Banks’. We can stimulate Richmond’s. Or we can stimulate our own.

Any of the above communities would welcome some stimulation in this tough economic climate, but ours really needs it. As a newspaper publisher responsible for my own company’s fiscal health, I talk daily with other business owners and managers in our readership area. These are tough times, regardless of what industry you work in. The housing crisis and record-high gasoline prices are a double whammy.

The power of $7 million invested in our own economy is substantial. Economists estimate that a dollar spent locally turns over at least six times and as many as 15 before it leaves the market. That potential impact of $42 million to $105 million is enough to create jobs, raise the wages of existing jobs and spur new investment in our local economy. Prosperity for local businesses means more money for our churches, charities and community organizations, whose fates are tied to the financial well-being of their donors.

While waiting on your stimulus check to arrive, give it some thought: Whose economy will you stimulate?