25 February 2009

How Stimulus Worked for the Dittes Family

I'm just so proud of the job that President Obama is doing, and I appreciated his handling of the stimulus debate. Seeing right-wingers (the very ones who drove our nation to the verge of bankruptcy with eight years of mismanagement) get completely unhinged at the idea of spending was quite fun indeed.

Why am I not terrified at the thought of "spending"? Why am I not tearing my hair out and screaming "socialist, socialist!" at the thought of doing something to help my own country?

It's probably because I've been through an economic crisis in my time, and I have seen for myself how stimulus works.

It was 2003. Jonah had just been born. Jenny tried to return to work after maternity leave, only to learn that she had been replaced. Shortly thereafter, I was fired from my job. Oh yeah, at six weeks of age, Jonah ended up at Vanderbilt Medical Center. I sold my pickup truck to pay for three months of family health insurance. Thank God we had that.

The first job Jenny took was with a new doctor at an inferior rate of pay. Once I lost my job, we knew that she needed something new. She signed on with a new doc, who paid better, but whose practicing philosophy was a polar opposite to what Jenny wanted to do.

One year later, Jenny was ready to quit. I had found a part-time job teaching, but we still weren't out of a financial rut. Jenny had a dream of starting up her own clinic--a non-profit clinic that could treat patients the way she wanted them to be treated, and could provide care for those who couldn't find it elsewhere.

Where was the money coming from? We certainly didn't have the savings to start up a new business. The only option was debt--quite a bit of it.

Fortunately we had equity in our home. I didn't question it when the idea came out. I have complete faith in Jenny, and I knew that she would be successful, even if many of her prospective patients wouldn't be paying lots of cash. We took out a 2nd mortgage of $30,000. It was all or nothing.

Four years later, Jenny's clinic provides her with a good salary and employs 12 other people as well. Last March the clinic paid off the remainder of the debt it owed us, and it is free and clear. It was stimulus, plain and simple. It worked.

As I think about my country, I see a similar scenario. The USA is already in terrible financial shape, and $789 billion seemed tough to add to our debt in that situation, but we need new direction, we need something daring, and President Obama's plan could do that.

But this is more than about President Obama, who won 53% of the vote and whose approval ratings approach 70%. It is more about America. If we believe in her, we know that this crisis could be the beginning of greatness, just as the Great Depression launched the USA on the track toward superpower status.

If there is no stimulus in 2004 for the Dittes family, where would we be now? Who would have cared for the thousands of patients who have patronized Hope Family Health Services in the last 4 years? It's amazing, when you think about it.

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