What’s “Smarter”?

I agree in principle with Zachary Karabell’s plea in Time that the next round of federal “stimulus” should be smarter:

What’s needed is not just large stimulus but smart stimulus. That means supporting incomes, maintaining jobs and bolstering state budgets until tax revenue recovers, which will only happen when activity resumes, which can only happen if the virus is controlled. That then necessitates money for enhanced testing and money for school openings. And the final piece is money not just to address the immediate crisis but funds that can only be used for longer-term investment. That could mean not just the short-terms loans to businesses meant to keep them afloat but longer term loans earmarked for long-term growth. Biden recently proposed a massive “Buy America” program; Trump has long advocated reshoring. It would seem a perfect opportunity for all sides to support a multi-trillion plan to boost American businesses for the long term.

but doesn’t “smarter” smack a bit of “no true Scotsman”? I don’t think any strategy would truly be smarter without two features. The first necessary feature is certainty. He’s right that people will avoid spending anything they don’t need to without more certainty. The most serious defect of the CARES Act was that its horizon was so short and people quickly became convinced that it was just the first of several successive “stimulus” packages.

The second feature is that it should include a risk mitigation strategy. We very greatly need a way of dismounting the fiscal stimulus tiger without assuming a cure or even a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. That the price of gold is rising sharply is a signal that people believe that present policy encourages inflation. I hope that’s all it encourages.

2 comments… add one
  • TarsTarkas Link

    Interpret ‘smarter’ as in will it help the electoral prospects of one party and hurt those of the other party and you’ve got it right. We’re in tribal warfare mode now, worse than anything since the Southern Rebellion, and IMO it’s going to get worse rather than better.

  • steve Link

    Smarter means do it my (author’s) way.


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