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PHILADELPHIA (CAP) - A new study out of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania has cast some doubt on whether the government's $800 billion stimulus package has really helped the U.S. economy, with results showing that the recipients have already spent more than half of the money on prostitutes.
"And not even legal prostitutes, like in Nevada," said Dr. Felton Merkelson, who led the study.
The results, released this morning, drew an immediate response from President Barack Obama, who said he was "very disappointed."
"We knew a certain amount of the money would likely be spent on prostitutes," acknowledged Obama. "Men have needs. Not me - I'm talking about lesser men.
"But to use that much of it on hookers is patently, you know, just unacceptable," he said. "Clearly I miscalculated the ability of financiers to keep it in their pants, as it were."
According to Merkelson's study, which focused primarily on financial institutions that received stimulus funds, the uses for the money break down as follows:
- Hookers: 51 percent
- Cuban cigars: 22 percent
- Cocaine: 18 percent
- Mail-order products (Sham-Wow, etc.): 5 percent
- Ponzi schemes: 4 percent
None of which, Merkelson noted, will do much to boost the U.S. economy. "Even the mail-order products are mostly out of Thailand," he said.
In the case of the Ponzi schemes, most of which had already been dismantled by federal authorities, Merkelson attributed investors' continued attraction to them as a matter of habit.
"A lot of them just don't know what else to do with the money," he said, noting that more than 20 Wall Street financiers have been caught in recent weeks trying to smuggle investment money to Bernard Madoff in prison.
Similarly, the immense amount of money spent on cocaine can probably be attributed to Wall Street mavens' fond memories of the 1980s boom years. "Back then you would go to work and they'd have big bowls of coke you could just stick your face into and snort, like in Scarface," said Merkelson. "Um - That's what I've heard, anyway."
But prostitution is by far the most popular stimulus fund target: "Business is booming," said one New York City call girl who asked to be referred to simply as Rocquelle. "And with bankers it's always over so quickly that they'll usually pony up for seconds."
In turn, that money has apparently been funneled into similarly problematic related activities, such as gambling and protection. But some of it has made its way to legitimate industries that need it, such as "adult services" ads in urban alternative weekly newspapers.
"It's been a big help," admitted Boston Phoenix publisher Steven Mendelssohn, noting that it also helps his reporters, some of whom have taken to advertising their own "adult services" in the wake of a recent pay cut. "Although they haven't been that successful, because frankly they're not that attractive," said Mendelssohn.
In the meantime, President Obama said steps are being taken to remedy the situation. "For the next $800 billion we give out, we're going to make darn sure that less of it is spent on hookers, probably," he said.
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