While we're dishing out cash to big companies, and thinking about insignificant sums to be returned to taxpayers, maybe we should think of one more thing. In Fareed Zachariah's new book, "The Post-American World," (which I plan to write more about) he offers an idea from one economist -- that our definition of savings is flawed. Cash, stock and property are dollars reserved instead of spent, it ignores another big class of deferred (monetary) gratification -- education.
Plenty of people sinking under loads of debt are those with big student loans. They followed conventional wisdom and invested in knowledge that will not only benefit them in the future, but will benefit all of us in their increased competence and ability to serve our needs (except for those studying to be stockbrokers, of course). Then they graduated into this economy and are waiting tables, if they're lucky.
So why don't we look at a student loan forgiveness program? We'd need some criteria for whose loans would qualify, maybe just those who are unemployed or making less than $20,000, or something. (It would probably be cheaper to just forgive student loans across the board rather than pay for a whole phalanx of examiners of applications.)
At the same time, let's find a way to beef up scholarship funds. As Toyota demonstrates, slack times are opportunities for training and improvement. As a society, couldn't we invest in that as well?