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.