I'll explain two reasons why you should not spend your economic stimulus check: the first applies to people who work regular jobs for wages, the second applies to people who work in investment banks for bonuses.
If you work for wages (or live on a pension), consider this, if every American said, "No thank you" to Bush's stimulus check and refused to cash them, the value of the dollars in your pocket right now, in terms of their purchasing power would go up by a factor greater than the face value ($600) of the stimulus check. In other words, if you didn't spend these checks, you'd be the richer for it.
The reason being that America does not have a hard-money economy, it's a debt-based fiat currency economy. All the money in circulation in America has been borrowed and then re-lent. So borrowing more money ($168 billion for the stimulus package) and then re-lending it to Americans, as Bush is doing, only increases the debt load and debases the value of the currency outstanding (against a backdrop of stagnant wages and minuscule interest rates for savers).
If an American was planning to spend $40K this year on food, clothing, shelter, health and various other expenses and they were hoping to defray some of that cost thanks to Bush's stimulus check understand that by simply adding another $168 billion of debt (the cost of the stimulus package) on top of America's current multi-trillion debt load will continue the Bush-Paulson-Benanke trend of debasing the purchasing power of your money and, therefore, raise the price of goods and services by more than the $600 'gift' (without a commensurate rise in wages or increase in interest paid on savings).
This is why America's debt problems won't go away. Every dollar spent adds debt and spawns more fiat currency issuance which has the effect of decreasing the purchasing power of the U.S. dollars in your pocket. Bush tries to make up the difference by borrowing even more; borrowing 340 million a day to fund the war and close to 3 billion a day to cover U.S. operating expenses, not to mention Wall Street borrowing over $30 billion a day to keep their Ponzi scheme going. All this borrowing keeps alive the vicious financial spiral trending lower towards permanent currency debasement and possible sovereignty loss.
Now, if you work in investment banking, the opposite is true. Bigger money supply growth means bigger fees and bonuses. You may lose more than $600 in purchasing power with that $600 stimulus check, but the fees and bonuses you make processing all that debt (read: dollars) is greater still. In other words, the more the government increases the debt load (money supply), the more you make -- even discounting for the lost purchasing power caused by the inflationary impact of higher money supply growth.
But listen bankers, resist the temptation to spend your stimulus check even though by doing so you are increasing America's indebtedness and, therefore, your fees and bonuses.
In a year or so, after 99.999% of America has cashed their stimulus check, any checks that have not been cashed will accrue value as collector's items.
As such, the value of these checks as un-cashed mementos of the failed Bush presidency should appreciate at the inflation rate plus a collector's item premium rate for years to come.
As a matter of fact, an enterprising soul might make a pretty penny by setting up a website to buy people's un-cashed stimulus checks at the face value plus a small premium. Five to six years from now, you might be able to re-auction and sell these un -cashed checks on eBay for double or triple the price you paid to Asian and European collectors buying these up like visitors to the Berlin Wall who buy chunks of concrete left over after the collapse of East Berlin.
UPDATE: August, 5th. Since writing this in April, the stimulus checks have gone out and circulated in the economy so the question is, did they in fact cause a greater net reduction in purchasing power? Would have Americans been better of not cashing these checks?
The answer, according to this DJ-Marketwatch piece is, 'Yes.'
And from the NYT;
"This is a kind of 'Honey, inflation ate my rebate check' story,"