Policy Corner: How to Think About 'Stimulus'

One of many victories for Republicans over the past year has been to convert the word "stimulus," in its economic sense, into a term of abuse. In ye olden days, it was a neutral description of public spending used to offset a fall in private demand. Now it's shorthand for government excess and waste.

The conundrum ahead is how the Administration will present a case for further stimulus "expansionary fiscal policy" if it appears that the overall economy is in danger of contracting again -- and what the results will be if the Congressional Republicans oppose such efforts, under any name.

For a primer on what that will mean, see this special dispatch for the Atlantic, by the veteran economic analyst Robert A. Levine. He was the deputy director of the Congressional Budget Office during the Ford and early Carter Administrations, has been associated with RAND for years, and wrote this article for the Atlantic about Bill Clinton's anti-deficit efforts. Digest of his argument -- which, conveniently, is also the headline of the article: "The United States Can Prevent Economic Disaster, But It Won't." Useful policy background.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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