Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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August 19, 2005
awaiting the cash-filled helicopters

A former chief of staff of President Dubya's Council of Economic Advisers, Phillip L. Swagel, has suggested to the Washington Post that this year's one-time corporate "tax holiday" was not necessarily any more economically effective than if the administration had "taken a helicopter over 90210 [Beverly Hills] and pushed the money out the door. That would have stimulated the economy as well."

The comment gives us at TiR cause for optimism, although we are not necessarily based in Beverly Hills. Why? Because it calls to mind fiscal policies of a similar form actually administered last year by the Coalition Authority in Iraq:

One contractor received a $2 million payment in a duffel bag stuffed with shrink-wrapped bundles of currency. Auditors discovered that the key to a vault was kept in an unsecured backpack. They also found that $774,300 in cash had been stolen from a vault.

Cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck, and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices. One official was given $6.75 million in cash and ordered to spend it in one week, before the interim Iraqi government took control of Iraqi funds.

The above is from Rep. Henry Waxman's June 2005 report (.pdf).

Helicopters seem to have been one of the few forms of transportation not involved in the June 2004 "one time holiday," as the LA Times recounted:

The initial request from U.S. officials in charge of Iraq required the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to decide whether it could open its vault on a Sunday, a day banks aren't usually open.

"Just when you think you've seen it all," read one e-mail from an exasperated Fed official.

"Pocket change," said another e-mail.

Then, when the shipment date changed, officials had to scramble to line up U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes to hold the money. They did, and the $2,401,600,000 was delivered to Baghdad on June 22, 2004.

It was the largest one-time cash transfer in the history of the New York Fed.

Mr. Swagel's comment may have been a throwaway line, but it makes us hope that perhaps last year the administration was testing policies overseas for future use on the home front (Who knows? Maybe they've been doing the same with law enforcement and police interrogation techniques). We become all the more hopeful having been accustomed in recent years to watch how one year's parody becomes next year's headline.

So we will be listening for the rotor blades over our neighborhood.
And watching the skies.