The excellent responses, even harsh criticism from some to my first article on my proposed Consumer Bailout http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Real-Bailout-Needed-is-by-Steven-Leser-081227-715.html helped crystallize some of the finer points of the proposal. They also made me surer than ever that the best thing to do to bring about a recovery is to address bailout efforts to the consumer.
To recap briefly before I go on, I wrote:
... the consumer is too deep in debt to be the engine that this country needs to drive the country out of the recession/depression. Second, without intervention, consumer debt will stifle the country's productivity and economic growth for the next 5-10 years. Third, if the consumer is the main force that drives the economy and affects whether the economy grows or contracts (recession), but the consumer cannot power the economy because they are in debt, something has to be done to fix that....
the consumers who agree to be bailed out will pay the government .125% more of their income in taxes each year for three years for every unit of debt that corresponds to one percent of their annual income up to a maximum of 12.5%. One of the more serious components of the current crisis that is just starting to become apparent is the catastrophic budget shortfalls in state and local budgets. Five to fifteen trillion dollars in additional taxable income for businesses all around the country would fix that portion of the crisis immediately as it seems to fix just about every other portion of the crisis. That is what I think is compelling about my bailout proposal. If you make a list of the problems in the economy and analyze the effect of this proposed consumer bailout, it eliminates them one by one from the bottom up...
There is another component to my proposal. The Government will pass legislation limiting the amount of credit that can be granted to consumers by percentage of annual income and type of debt so that the country will not again find itself in a position where a huge percentage of consumers are over leveraged. The government would also make it illegal to charge the kinds of percentage rates on credit cards we have seen in the past. Also, for those opting for the bailout, any negative reports on their credit ratings would be wiped clean.
Let me address some of the more important criticisms of the proposal:
Criticism 1 – This Consumer Bailout is not Affordable
Anytime you are talking about a government program costing in the trillions of dollars it is natural to have questions about how this program would be funded so these questions and criticisms are good and to be expected.
One thing that should be obvious is that those who would opt to have the government pay their debt would pay back on average between 20% and 30% of the money directly to the government in increased taxes over three years. That is part of the design of the bailout proposal.
Second, what happens with the money that is given by the government to consumer's creditors? Those creditors have to pay taxes on it. Whether the creditor is a bank, some other lending agency, Visa, or any other creditor, that business will pay taxes on that income. Let's assume a low average effective business tax rate of 25% to be conservative. Of the money lent to consumers, another 25% will be paid back to the government within one year in the form of taxes paid by creditors. Now we are up to 45%-55% of the total bailout being paid for by those who benefited most by it.
Third, what do the creditors do with the 75% of the money they receive that they do not have to pay in taxes? They invest it, they buy other goods and services, they pay salaries and other operating costs, pay back their own debt obligations, etc. Much of that also results in taxable income by those receiving this money. Let's assume that 2/3rds of that money, or 50% of the original outlay becomes additional taxable income. 25% of that (again, assuming an average effective business tax rate of 25% is 12.5% of the total bailout. Now we are up to 57.5% to 67.5% of the outlay by the federal government paid back to it in taxes. We can go another iteration and say that 50%-12.5% is 37.5% of the original outlay becomes taxable income for entities further down the road. We can say that 25% of that will probably end up being taxable income and results in another 6.25% of the original total outlay being paid back in taxes. Now we are up to 63.75% to 73.75% of the total bailout outlay being repaid.Finally, what then happens to the economy when consumers are debt free, their former creditors are awash in cash, as a result Visa and the banks and lending industry are no longer in crisis, in fact the opposite? When there is more disposable income all around, more money is invested, lent (properly this time with the additional regulations I specified in place) and spent. We call that an expanding economy. What happens in an expanding economy? Federal income tax receipts grow. Some of that is already accounted for in my above explanations, but some isn't. I don't know if we get back to 100% of the bailout being paid back directly or indirectly, but if we don't, we get close.
Criticism 2 – This Bailout Proposal Penalizes People Who Have Kept Up With Their Bills
Of all the top criticisms, this one was the most difficult for me to understand. People who have kept up with their bills are still hurting in this economy. Their investments have suffered, they are at risk just like anyone else for layoffs, if they are small business owners, they might be getting less business or the people that owe them money may be having difficulty paying their bills. All of those things mean that no matter how thrifty you are, you are probably feeling ill effects from this economy or at the very least; the current crisis makes you more at risk to be hurt.
All of the people would benefit greatly from an economy that gets moving again. Those who do not request a bailout would not be financing those who do. This bailout is self-financing as I illustrated above.Criticism 3 – This Bailout Encourages Bad Behavior
It definitely would encourage bad behavior if we don't include the additional legislation that I propose that specifies how much credit can be lent to a consumer based on his income. These limits are different depending on the type of debt that would be incurred. I'm guessing that total non-auto and non-mortgage credit would be such that the monthly payments could not exceed around 10% of monthly income of a household and total outstanding non-auto and non-mortgage debt could not exceed 5% of yearly household income. The legislation would also prevent lenders from charging exorbitant interest rates.Criticism 4 – The New Legislation you propose that would Limit Creditors in How Much they can lend to Consumers is Unworkable
For people who earn almost all of their income from a straight salary, these limits are straightforward. For those whose income is commission based or dividend based or whose income is otherwise variable, or for those who have high net worth, there needs to be another section to the legislation that better deals with their circumstance. My suggestion would be that for people who have a net worth over $250K, they could have consumer debt up to 1/3rd of their net worth.