A reader writes:
August, 2001: In the backyard of our modest home, we erect the "George W. Bush Memorial Jungle Gym" for our four kids, purchased at Toys R Us with our $600 Tax "Rebate" (which later came out of our potential tax refund, if I remember correctly).
August, 2009: Sitting in our driveway is our new gas efficient, and more importantly, reliable, Honda CRV purchased ONLY because of the new $4500 Cash for Clunkers program. Contrasting the two in terms of helpfulness to our family finances:
2001: we really didn't need the jungle gym. We had a two-income family at the time, and could have afforded to buy the thing had we prioritized it. Later that fall, I unexpectedly lost my job and began what has become an eight year journey back from economic hell. Had I known, I would have put the damn check in the bank.
2009: We have struggled, but as of this year, we are finally able to pay all our bills and not have to rob Peter to pay Paul. We (my husband, me and my two college age sons) have been driving vehicles for years that were paid for, but ranged in age from 12-18 years old, were gas guzzlers, and constantly required expensive major repairs. After I graduate in December with a BS degree in nursing, I have had offers and expect to work right away. What has been years of fear, compulsive avoidance of spending or accruing credit debt, literally not being able to pay utility bills and buy groceries, we had a definite sense that we would drive our vehicles until their wheels flew off (that literally did on one) before giving ourselves another car payment.
However, this month, all that fear gave way to a sense that this was the opportunity of a lifetime, that things are getting better, and that this purchase was a necessary and reasonable risk. You do the math on the benefits to our economy from the two. Bush put us into the national crisis we are in right now.
Obama's plans will slowly, but steadily bring things back.