Stimulating Language

I’ve argued for a long time that stimulus bills are poorly named; it implies that they stimulate the economy. “Spending bill” is a non-loaded term that has the added advantage of being accurate. Both parties have passed spending bills over the years in the hopes of stimulating the economy. Intentions being different than results, Democrats are finally starting to agree with me on this misuse of language, as The Hill reports:

Democrats are now being careful to frame their job-creation agenda in language excluding references to any stimulus, even though their favored policies for ending the deepest recession since the Great Depression are largely the same.

The article continues:

Recognizing the unpopularity of the 2009 package, however, Democratic leaders have revised their message with less loaded language – “job creation” instead of “stimulus” and “Make it in America” in lieu of “Recovery Act” – in hopes of tackling the jobs crisis.

Spending bills work by taking some money out of the economy and then putting it back in, minus transaction costs and political malfeasance; one can see why they don’t have much effect. The thinking is that Congress can invest money more wisely than private investors. If Solyndra is any indicator, that isn’t true.

Public opinion has soured on spending bills after some initial optimism. That same public also wants its politicians to do something, anything to get the economy going.

But the only tool available to Congress is spending. That’s why politicians insist on following the same failed policy over and over – it is their only tool. The only alternatives are doing nothing, or actively paring back spending and regulations. And those don’t look nearly as glamorous on camera.

Stimulus, spending bill, job creation bill – a rose by any other name has thorns just as sharp. And this particular rose refuses to bloom. That means it’s time to try something else. Maybe reducing spending to sustainable Clinton-era levels, which isn’t even particularly austere. Congress should also try a deregulatory stimulus sometime.

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