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The economy according to Eddie Wetzel

February 04, 2009
I received a phone call one morning from Eddie Wetzel of Marengo.

Wetzel, who works at Fred Smith's Store Fixtures near Depauw, had an idea about how to help the economy. I listened as he laid out some details of his plan, and I did my best to find something wrong with it. But for the life of me, I can't see why his plan wouldn't work — at least as well as anything the politicians have tried and are still trying.

As the economy began to fall apart during the last ad-ministration, several attempts were made, at least that's what we were told, to stabilize it. Former President George W. Bush's tax break for the rich to "help the economy" only helped certain people get richer. Then, his stimulus package, giving taxpayers a $600 "stimulus check" was put in place, but the economy just kept slipping downward. Deregulation and the greed of mortgage companies, Wall Street bankers and hedge-fund managers brought the housing industry to its knees, and company after company began laying off workers — and the trend continues to snowball.

On Monday of last week, more than 75,000 people lost their jobs at places like Home Depot, Caterpillar, Sprint Nextel and eight other companies. Later that same day, Texas Instru-ments announced that it would eliminate 3,400 jobs, or 12 percent of its work force. Just a week before that, Microsoft announced its first-ever significant job cuts. Indiana now has an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, with more job cuts predicted in coming months.

Just weeks before he left office, Bush and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson announced a $700 billion bailout plan for banks that were in trouble — the whole plan was drawn up on three sheets of paper, devoted mostly to ensuring that Paulson couldn't be held accountable for anything that went wrong with the plan. More than $350 billion was divvied out to several banks with no oversight — no questions asked — just tell us what you want, as Bush walked out the door. It has now come to light that several of the banks that received money weren't in trouble at all, and several went on to give extravagant bonus payments to bank executives. One bank that received bailout money was buying a brand-new corporate jet, but when the deal was exposed, canceled the order, and some banks that got money bought out other banks. The banks are now refusing to disclose what they did with the money they received and most are also refusing to extend credit to those who need it — a stipulation of what we thought were the bailout terms.

Now, President Obama has put forth his own stimulus plan package totaling almost $900 billion, but he may have an uphill battle getting the Republicans to go along with the plan (as if they have a better one). But at least the Obama plan includes jobs, long-overdue spending on the country's infrastructure — and oversight. The question I hear most from people is, "How's he going to pay for it?" My only answer is, "The same way Bush paid for two wars and a $700 billion bailout. He'll probably have to borrow it." But we all know that, at some point, that money will have to be repaid, and where will it come from if we don't get our economy on the right track?

Eddie Wetzel's plan is a little more down-to-earth. Instead of giving Wall Street bankers and large corporations billions of dollars and hoping for the "trickle-down" of money to working Americans — the same theory that has been around since the laughable Reaganomics, Wetzel would like to see it all turned upside down. Give every working, taxpaying American a one-time, $1 million check. Instead of "from the top down" economics, we would try "from the bottom up" economics.

"If working Americans had money, they would spend a lot of it," Wetzel said. "And the things they buy would help keep others working. It would eventually make its way back to the banks and corporations anyway. For instance, why give the automakers billions of dollars to stay in business? If they make more cars, no one can afford to buy them anymore. How would it help the economy for them to have more unsold cars sitting on their lots?

"Americans need to spend money to keep the economy going, but how can that happen if they have no money? Any family of four making under $35,000 a year now is living below the poverty line. And it's almost impossible to find a job making even that much now. By the time most people pay for their rent or housing, insurance, taxes and groceries, there's nothing left. And how will tax cuts help if people aren't making enough money to even live on? A $10-a-week tax cut isn't going to do anything.

"I talked to State Sen. Richard Young the other day," Wetzel continued. "He added some ideas to my plan. He proposed that instead of giving workers a million dollars, it should be deposited in an interest-paying account, and could make 6 percent in interest. Give that 6 percent — or $60,000 — to workers every year. Then, we could work until we're 55, then retire, letting a younger person have the job. We could then live off the million dollars for 10 years, while still paying into Social Security, which would help build up the Social Security fund and it would, once again, have a surplus. At 65, we could start drawing Social Security."

Wetzel's plan would only include those who are working and paying taxes. People under 25 would not be eligible. If someone loses their job, they would have a set amount of time to find another one or lose their $60,000 for the year. Those serving life sentences in prisons and those on death row would not be eligible either. Their share would go to the prison system to pay for their keep.

"We should also be able to come up with a plan that, from the $60,000 a year, everyone could pay a flat rate to eliminate health insurance costs," Wetzel said. "And if the government could also add a percentage to help with health care, we could have a healthier country and no one would go bankrupt because of medical costs. And we all know that tax breaks for businesses will not keep them in business, but more people coming in the front door and buying something will. However, those people won't show up if they don't have money. Everything we buy keeps another person working. And we have to keep jobs here — in this country. A lot of companies have taken their jobs to places like Honduras, to take advantage of cheap labor, then bring their stuff back here and sell them to us at regular prices. We need an import tax that would discourage that kind of thing. If they take their jobs to Honduras, they should have to sell their goods there, to the people who work for them. If American companies want to sell goods to Americans, they should have to hire Americans to produce them."

With Wetzel's plan, income taxes generated from the $60,000 a year could be used for road, bridge and other infrastructure improvements, putting even more people to work. Auto companies would benefit because people could afford to buy more cars. Homebuilders would also benefit because people could afford to buy homes, creating even more construction jobs.

"Factories, in general, would also benefit," Wetzel said. "New furniture, clothing, appliances, electronics and other goods would, once again, be affordable to the average worker. When I go to the grocery store, I have to walk on by the steak. I can only afford hamburger — if I'm lucky. But we need a plan for the working people of this country, not for the rich.

"And if we're given the opportunity, we'll work to improve things for ourselves and will, at the same time, improve our own government and the economy. Just look at a typical McDonald's worker making $15,000 a year. Give that person an additional $60,000, and you've got a taxpayer — and someone who can feed his family. How can that be bad?

"And why should Americans adopt this plan? Because we taxpayers have been paying for everyone else's mistakes. Why shouldn't we use our money for our own good this time? It's always went for someone else. It's time to give it back to the American people so we can save our country from ruin by putting it right back into the American economy."

Wetzel's plan is laid out in detail in about 10 or 11 pages, more than we can cover here. But anyone wanting more information about the plan can contact him.

"I've watched news programs where they unloaded huge pallets of money, billions and billions of dollars, from airplanes in Iraq, and it just disappeared." Wetzel said. "No one knows where it went. Halliburton took billions that we paid them and moved to Dubai, so they won't have to pay us taxes on their income. We've already given hundreds of billions to banks to offset their bad decisions and corruption — and we don't know what happened to that either. What's so wrong with giving a mere hundred billion back to the people who paid it in taxes? At least we'll know where it's going and can track what it's being spent on.

"Some people may say that I'm someone just looking for a government handout. Well, yeah — why not? It's my money, too. We keep handing it out to people who are already rich so some big shot can put in a bigger pool or buy a bigger mansion and have lavish parties. The American workers just keep paying and losing. So, why not let the people who need it most have some of it? Most of us are living paycheck to paycheck. It's time for all of us to have a chance to share the American dream — debt free."

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    lee cable columns
    February 04, 2009 | 09:39 AM

    everything I read that lee cable writes, is so far to the left, or shall I say socialism that it stinks, he and his ilk is what is wrong with this country now ...

    kenneth colber
  2. print email
    response to Kenneth Colber
    February 06, 2009 | 12:22 PM

    Mr. Colber, Your lopp-sided, right-wing ranting and hate is what's wrong with this country. You guys think that you are the only one's allowed an opinion.
    Your hero, Rush Limbaugh can run his big mouth every day, but no one else can? ...

    An American
  3. print email
    kenneth colber feedback
    February 06, 2009 | 01:12 PM

    lee writes the story as he gets them regardles of public opinion. You should put away your partisan veiws and read his stories using common sense and respect for others opinions. The goverments plan for the bailout doesn't help anyone put more food on the table. So what's your plan.

    lonnie wetzel
  4. print email
    I agree with 50% of what Kenneth Colber said.
    February 10, 2009 | 03:54 PM

    Mr. Cable is obviously pretty far to the left, all his columns prove this. I do not agree that all liberals are to blame for the current mess that we find ourselves facing. Do some research on the community reinvestment act, fannie mae, freddie mac, barney frank. While these are the same of the main reasons for the current housing mess, the main reason is very simple actually. John Doe makes 35,000 a year and gets a loan for 350,000 for his dream home that he knows he cannot afford. People like John Doe are the reason for the housing mess. Some people who lean towards the left will say, "the banks shouldnt have loaned them the money", I agree, but if you do some research of the people and companies I talked about earlier then you will see its not that simple. A lot of these banks were forced to make risky loans to people because of government bills like the CRA. I will say from the government end of things, that mostly liberal democrats caused most of this mess by believing that everyone is entitled to a new home even if they cannot afford it. On the other hand both republicans and democrats got loans for homes that they could not afford. This is huge mess that has been building for almost 30 years, and it has now blown up. I just hope our new President is up to the task of figuring out that mistakes of the past and making sure he does not repeat them.

    Ronald Lincoln
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