The idea of a stimulus, as I understand it, is to increase spending. The debate (on the surface) is mostly about what stands the best chance of accomplishing this: (1) reducing taxes on middle and lower income people and hoping they’ll spend their new-found surplus; (2) reducing taxes on wealthy people and corporations and hoping that they’ll spend their new-found surplus, which will then hopefully “trickle down” to the rest of us; (3) increasing government spending on programs that will directly or indirectly put money into people’s pockets, through reducing their expenses or creating jobs, and hoping they will, in turn, spend this new-found surplus; (4) some combination of these things; (5) and so on. In addition, there is the ideological question of whether and to what extent the government “should” manipulate the economy at all. Republicans and Democrats clearly agree that it should, but differ in their preferred methodologies (tax cuts and corporate welfare or government spending and citizen welfare). I think the more basic question is whether or not a stimulus is even a good idea. Is it?

I don’t feel good about either Dubya’s first stimulus package, TARP, or the currently-debated stimulus bill. A funny column I read the other day likened our stimulus efforts to stitching a dead man’s mouth into a smile, propping him up with a body splint, and shocking the corpse to simulate movement — the argument being that we need to stop trying to force a dysfunctional economy to survive and allow a functional one to develop. That rings true to me. Moreover, the so-called bi-partisan approach in the current legislation has so far produced bills that combine reducing national income with increasing national spending. At a very basic level, that seems like bad thinking. Rather than asking if the current bill fits in with preconceived ideology, or if we’ve displayed a properly bi-partisan approach, we should be asking “what have we learned from what we’ve done so far, and what has that taught us about where to go from here?” We seem to be more concerned with who is “right” than with what it would be wise to do, and that’s not a wise thing to do. And, of course, the politicians are primarily concerned with mollifying their constituents so that they can be re-elected, rather than with actually doing right by us. So, it’s hard for me to be enthusiastic about a stimulus because I don’t trust the motives or thinking behind the debate about the particulars.

I have to admit that my ideal would be minimal-to-no governmental interference. Period. If we were the mature, intelligent, fair creatures we “should” be, we wouldn’t even need government. But, that’s a Platonic Ideal and it’s unrealistic — and we’ve already seen the unpleasant results of deregulation. So, to what extent and in what ways do we compromise the ideal? I can’t give a definitive or comprehensive answer to that question. I just know that what we have been doing clearly doesn’t work. If I were King, I’d be inclined to apply my favorite suite of ideas, evolutionary theory, to the whole mess and say let everything fail. Let natural selection do the work of producing a viable economic organism. The problem with that approach is the callous lack of compassion for the many of us who would be effectively screwed by that approach. But, we did all this to ourselves, of course, and the process has been apparent to anyone willing to see it for quite some time. So maybe letting ourselves hit bottom is the best option. Who knows? Maybe that’s what it would take for us to sober up.

Many people still argue that what mainly brought us to this near-bottom point was simple bad money management, at both the top and the bottom: bad loans and using them as investments (of course that’s debatable). I remember when I first learned about so-called “smart loans,” the interest-only loans that people seemed to be snapping up like Halloween candy. It seemed like a foolish way to go. Permanent, unbounded economic growth is flat-out impossible, so *counting on* the values of homes to go up enough to compensate for not paying down principle is an excessive risk, especially since so many people seem to decide what to buy based on what monthly payments they think they can afford. The point is, I can’t muster complete sympathy for people who fell for that canard, on either end. On the other hand, it’s hard to begrudge anyone trying to reach for the best attainable quality of life. And if a bank tells you you can afford it and that it’s a perfectly acceptable risk — well, why would you doubt that? Clearly many people should have, but part of the essence of conservatism is faith in established institutions, so why would people have doubted banks, of all things, especially during the conservative era the last many years have been?

I don’t think the housing market crunch is the true core of the problem, anyway. Even it were, the problem was not that too many people were buying houses, but that too many people were buying houses they really couldn’t afford with loans based on dangerously unstable terms. And then investors were investing in those dangerously unstable loans, because they too believed in unlimited economic growth. I think the true core of our problem is the basic “profit above all” paradigm that makes us worship the concept of never-ending economic growth. Really the stimulus debate right now looks more like a bidding war between the Democrats and the Republicans based on who can rightfully claim they’ll bribe the most taxpayers with the most economic growth, all for the privilege of staying in office. Profit is a fine thing, and I sure like it too, but it is not the sole purpose of life or the sole purpose of government. I think that as long as profit remains our collectively exclusive objective, no stimulus of any size or composition, nor any lack of stimulus, will solve our basic problem. As one writer said: it’s like we’re putting a band aid on a gunshot wound.

46 Responses to “I Got Yer Stimulus Package”

  1. How many know that the word “Democrat” was an epithet in the early days of our Republic. Still is for me.

  2. sturmoli bricias says:


  3. New poll says God has a 52% approval rating. Obama is at 41%. It’s not like the president created cancer, Nazis, and mosqu

  4. Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina (Kindle Edition) newly tagged “bush” Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear… –

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  6. espedrick baudeleppl says:

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  7. PHOENIX (Reuters) – A powerful Republican state Senate leader who championed Arizona’s controversial crackdown on illegal immigrants appeared headed for early removal from office on Tuesday in a historic recall election, returns showed.

  8. charv svenegg says:

    2010 Democrat people failed to showup to vote-Democrats failed to campaign-Hopefully this is a lesson & we vote every election

  9. oyendriggi says:

    Thanks to liberal policies America can no longer afford to pay for medicare, social security, unemployment and many other services. We also need to lower the minimum wage to $2/hr in order to compete with China and bring jobs back home. Fiscally responsible conservatives like Paul Ryan and John Boehner know this and are currently
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  10. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars aren’t illegal because they were approved by Congress. Likewise, the war in Lybia IS illegal, because Obama did not receive Congressional approval.

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  13. Yesterday, Roger Simon ludicrously claimed that Huntsman “is probably in the wrong Mark Kleiman recoils: Simon seems to be implying that Huntsman ought to be a Democrat. That’s an insane thing to say. It’s true that someone with Huntsman’s…

  14. bonne dine says:

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  20. A Canadian’s View: The only politician making sense in the USA is He’s a Republican- they hate him because he does make sense

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  23. yusofenday says:

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    United Press International
    Wisconsin voters are used to being involved in significant statewide elections, but this Tuesday they will play a role on the national stage when they vote in the Republican presidential primary.

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    Connecticut State Votes To Do Away With Death Penalty CNN: The Connecticut Senate voted 20-16 early Thursday morning on a bill that would do away with the death penalty and make the state the fifth in five years to abolish capital punishment. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is also expected to pass. Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, has vowed to sign the measure into

  26. takai pfafadio says:

    Democrat Elizabeth Warren, the consumer advocate, raised twice as much as GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts in the first
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  29. 100% OF ALL VOTER FRAUD IS DEMOCRAT DRIVEN. The Reality of Voter Fraud – John Fund – National Review Online via –

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    It’s time for the wealthiest Americans to pay their share. End the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% via

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  35. nobuyseric says:

    Just lost four followers…sorry, Republican friends!! I promise I’m not like this the other 3 years and 8 months of the elect …

  36. Our singing abilities are fantastic… im thinking we go on xfactor next year with the name “dying cat dragged through a bush” 😀

  37. Thats right! He can take up rap as a second career! Yo yo yo, Im Barack Obama, I messed up the economy and d …

  38. silhaege siss says:

    if Herman Cain(Black Male Republican) and Hillary Clinton (White Woman Democrat) ran against each other to be our next president who’d win?

  39. rope morgrevill says:

    “One interesting takeaway from this is just how great of a job the Texas Republicans are doing at hispanics, and also how the Bush family as a whole seems to have a decent brand with Hispanics. Could it be Jeb Bush 2016?”

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    Business owners and investors are rapidly maneuvering to shield themselves from the prospect of higher taxes next year, a strategy that is sending ripples across Wall Street and broad areas of the economy. The NYT

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  43. Progressives labels everyone by sex, color, social status (i.e democrat or repub) so u should NEVER be offended with “mocha”

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  1. Living Simply - [...] I wrote earlier, I question the approach we’ve taken so far with these various types of “economic [...]
  2. OK, Hand It Over | Living Simply - [...] stimulus model would be effective — indeed, about whether any stimulus would be effective. As I wrote earlier, the…
  3. The Great Recession: Inevitable Outcome? | Cogniphilia - [...] they inherited — and why their efforts were insufficient (here is what I wrote about the stimulus in [...]

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