It is the curse of capitalism that it suffers boom-and-bust cycles. In recent economic history, we've had the savings-and-loan bubble, the tech bubble and now the housing bubble. The lesson of all of them is that if it's too good to be true, it is. The blessing of capitalism is that -- often brutally -- it adjusts and re-establishes its equilibrium. If too many houses have been built, the only way to stop it is if their price goes down -- exactly what's happening now.
For the most part, government can't game the economy through clever temporary fixes. The key dishonesty in any stimulus debate is found in the phrase "jump-start," suggesting it's within the power of government to quickly and precisely influence the course of a $13 trillion economy. The Clinton campaign promises not just to "jump-start" the economy, but to "jump-start green-collar jobs." This is supposed to happen through a "crash weatherization program," tax credits for hybrid vehicles, and a "Green Building Fund" and "green-collar job training programs." Talk about a fairy tale.
Clinton is embracing the kind of massive stimulative public spending that her husband proposed in his 1992 campaign, before abandoning it as fiscally imprudent upon taking office. It turned out that the recession of the early 1990s was over even while Clinton was campaigning against it. That's the way it usually works -- the market moves faster than politicians.
By the time you get your rebate check, the chances are a recession will already be upon us, or the threat will already have passed. Enjoy the extra couple hundred bucks.
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