Photo: AFP

Hearing that Americans in the past few days had started receiving their stimulus checks, normally $2,400 per household, I went to the Internal Revenue Service site. Finding that I was deemed eligible – I have a tax home in the United States – but that the government didn’t know how to pay me, I entered my bank details and was told I could expect a check to be direct-deposited pronto.

I may even qualify for another infusion into my budget from Japan, which plans to pass out 100,000 yen ($930) per resident.

Now, what to do with the money?

Government’s purpose in funding stimulus checks was to stimulate the economy, reducing unemployment in the process. We want that to succeed, even though impossible-to-predict numbers of voters would then be susceptible to the argument that the president who put his signature on the checks (US) or the prime minister who announced the payments (Japan) is the one who saved us.

We need to give thought to the best ways to recycle those checks quickly.

If your own budget is tight enough to dictate spending the money on yourself, for example, you might call up your favorite handyperson or mechanic – who probably finds little or no work these days – and commission some labor-intensive home improvements or auto repairs that you’ve put off.

If you choose this route it’s advisable to use care in determining which unemployed or underemployed trades you end up hiring. Last I read, an opposition Japanese lawmaker caught hanging out in a Tokyo hostess bar had been shamed into contemplating resignation, for setting an unhealthful example.

Although you can practice social distancing while employing your carpenter, plumber or mechanic, that’s not normally the way it goes with bar hostesses.

“Can Do Without the Extra Money” is a category that many of my employed and retired friends fall into. One such friend in the US emailed, “Those of us who do not need the stimulus checks are being encouraged to donate the money to school food distribution sites.”

Hmmm. It’s a positive charitable impulse, but school food distribution sites may not be the best destination for economic stimulus checks. If we choose other ways to make our checks work for stimulus we can rest assured that, in a US election year, even a government run by Scrooges will not let people starve. So we may want to be more creative in our stimulus spending. 

Here’s an idea: Since it’s an election year, both US parties probably need to start building bigger campaign staffs pretty soon to handle the work to come between now and November.

If I were the head of the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee, I’d expand my hiring plans and solicit donations on the promise that all stimulus money marked as such and turned over to the party before such and such a date would be used to pay the wages of especially hired election staff nationwide – beyond the number the committee previously had planned to hire.

This I see as a 2020 version of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration. Party offices could double as hiring halls. Instead of getting hired months from now, for construction work on infrastructure projects that would have taken a long time to plan and set up, currently unemployed people would be working pretty much immediately in jobs ranging from plotting strategy to erecting “Vote Republican” or “Vote Democratic” lawn signs.

Which party do you imagine would jump on this first, and take in the larger share of such grass-roots donations? Which party would then be ready by Inauguration Day 2021 to start a governmental 2d New Deal including, if needed, a real 2d WPA?