Sssh. Don’t say stimulus

December 15, 2008

William Safire, the language maven whose musings on how we use words have graced The New York Times and other newspapers for decades, has discovered something about the current crisis. Not for the first time, politicians are scrambling to avoid using common words that might get too close to the truth.

This time the target is the economy, specifically what needs to be done about it. In a column, Safire notes that some Democrats, notably the incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, are steering away from using the world “stimulus” when referring to efforts to, er, stimulate the economy. “Recovery” is being used instead. As in,┬árecovery plan.

Who could argue with that? Republicans, apparently. According to Safire, they are favouring “spending”, presumably as in spend, spend, tax, tax etc.

┬áLet’s think up some more. How about the “defibrillation” plan?


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What’s in a word? Well, I prefer ‘recovery’ to ‘stimulate.’ The economy is sliding downhill fast. I want a grab and pull up, not a ‘goose.’ We’re in an example of the damage that a word can do. When people stopped being ‘customers’ and became ‘consumers,’ they stopped being ‘right’ and became hogs at the trough, expected to ‘consume’ whatever businesses poured in and marketing departments told them they wanted.

Posted by Sharon | Report as abusive

stimulus checks! just last month i wasted 170$ on stuff that was inadequate. while theaters are almost empty. and there is still no room at the inn.

Posted by pencil | Report as abusive

They can start calling apples oranges if it makes them feel better. It’s not going to make apples actually appear like oranges, is it? My generation grew up with constant bombardment of high-tech advertising that has been further developed by uptodate market research provided by industry psychologists. They will have to do better than just swapping words.

Posted by Adam | Report as abusive

Whether we call it “stimulus” or “recovery”, we cannot and should not deny the history of such interventions. Most economists agree that FDR’s recovery plan did not produce the intended effect. WWII, like it or not, was the stimulus that we needed to drive us out of the ditch. Contemporary economists have made it a point to assert that FDR’s failure was in large part due to the “size” of the stimulus package. This line of reasoning negates the fact that Japan, on seven different occassions, injected stimulus into an economy that remained “stuck in neutral”. Frankly, I am amazed that such learned minds have deduced a solution that rests on the magnitude of an intervention rather than on the design of the intervention itself. In my work, I seek to solve the health care crisis and in doing so, remove government and private industry from the management of this essential life need. As importantly, if the model were implemented, a dramatic and vital end-result would occur – the significant downsizing of government at all levels. If you want “recovery”, then you should embark on a systems design that genuinely solves problems and produces the catalyst for reducing the strength and drain of the greatest negative force on our economy – our government. Please visit to review my work. I am NOT selling anything. Thank you.

Posted by Mike Slyder | Report as abusive

Call it whatever you want. The title has no relevance to the outcome. Call it the “fluffy bunny package” if you want. A failed plan, is a failed plan. No matter what you call it. Need solutions, not clever language.

Posted by Mack Michaels | Report as abusive

Already parsing words and not even in office. We are in for at least four years of deception, er, enlightenment.

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