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Can incentives help our industry?

Ken Clark kclark@homechannelnews.com

How would this sound for a stump speech on the presidential campaign trail: “As president, I promise to send $600 checks to voters, several times a year.”

If any opponent would dare criticize the policy as irresponsible, he (or she) could be attacked as “soft on sending $600 checks to Americans.”

The scenario sounds comical. But here we are discussing a $150 billion or so stimulus package that includes a wildly popular “tax rebate,” (that would actually require federal borrowing) to send “stipends” of $300 to $1,200 to middle class Americans.

Most of the people I’ve talked to subscribe to the theory that individuals know how to use their money better than tax collectors and governments. Furthermore, any shift of money from the tax collector to the tax payer is a good thing.

Sure. Lower taxes are one thing and lead to freedom of the consumer to choose. But borrowing money from future generations so that today’s Americans can enjoy a quick dose of retail therapy, a few hundred dollars a pop, seems to me to be quite another.

At one of the recent presidential debates, candidate Mike Huckabee, the Arkansas governor, a rare opponent of the policy, quipped “We’ll probably end up borrowing this $150 billion from the Chinese.”

Happily, there are better proposals on the table. Ones that might actually stimulate long-term spending, or even home purchases. The National Association of Home Builders rightly pointed to the need for housing incentives to be included in the package. (See Web Exclusives at www.homechannelnews.com .) Tax credits for new home purchase and revitalizing the Federal Housing Authority are among the proposals.

A few hundred bucks could be gone in a week, but the purchase of a house inspires a hundred trips to the home center or hardware store and chips away at the excess inventory. Not a bad combination, election year or not.

It’s only natural in this election year that there are a lot of ideas about how best to run the country.

If our democracy is to thrive in the 21st century, we need an active press to examine where candidates stand on the important issues. Too much of the media coverage is of the horse-race variety—who is winning in this state, who is favored in that state.

Home Channel News can’t reform the U.S. media, but we can offer a “Home Channel Presidential Campaign Scorecard.” It’s on page 38. Associate editor Kate Fazzini gathered positions from the most powerful contenders left in the race (at press time) and distilled policy positions in areas affecting our industry.

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