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Fighting Debt With... Debt?


Officials advocate buying things you don't need with money you don't have.

Our elected officials appear convinced that Americans should buy stuff they don't need with money they don't have.

The Senate, in passing its version of the over $800 billion economic stimulus package yesterday, threw a great deal of cash at 2 industries whose products we have far too much of already. Despite the fact that we have too many cars on the road and far more homes than we do people to buy them, lawmakers are determined to prop up both the auto-making and home-building industries.

According to Bloomberg, Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, the latter 2 already suckling the government teat just to stay alive, will benefit from a provision that allows consumers to deduct car-loan interest payments and local sales taxes from their income tax.

Meanwhile, Centex (CTX), DR Horton (DHI) and other homebuilders are salivating at the prospect of a $15,000 tax credit for those brave enough to buy a new home. The new, more generous tax break replaces a $7,500 credit granted last year.

In what shouldn't come as a surprise, Brian Catalde, the president of the National Association of Homebuilders (or NAHB) is pleased that his group's intense lobbying efforts paid off.

"We're pretty happy with the way the Senate bill is shaping up," Catalde said. "We think it will entice a lot of those people sitting on the sidelines into the marketplace.

"NAHB members nervously await the disposition of the final bill as their balance sheets remain bloated with unsold homes priced well above prevailing market prices.

Lawmakers seem determined to dig our way out our debt problem with yet more debt. By encouraging Americans to borrow more to buy the cars and homes irresponsibly manufactured by these industries in the first place, Congress and the President alike reward the very poor financial decisions that brought our economy to its knees in the first place.

To borrow the analogy from Professor Succo's piece yesterday, Economy: Code Blue, this is akin to handing an obese person a donut, telling them to munch away as long as they stay away from pizza. It just doesn't make any sense.

Among the Senate bill's numerous differences from the House's version passed last week -- most notably the handouts earmarked for homebuilders and automakers -- it also excises more than $20 billion in funding for new public-school construction.

Once again, lawmakers display their unparalleled financial acumen: Only more McMansions will counteract the vast oversupply of schools this country is struggling to get out from under.
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