Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Professor and the Pool

I received the following email in a chain about the stimulus bill. Suffice it to say it's from people who are frustrated and confused (and that's okay) about the stimulus policy. I'm "that jerk" who responds to these chain emails with my own opinion, posted below under the original email here...

I love this explanation. Makes total sense to me!! n

Shortly after class, an economics student approaches his economics professor & says, "I don't understand this stimulus bill. Can you explain it to me?"

The professor replied, "I don't have any time to explain it at my office but if you come over to my house on Saturday & help me with my weekend project, I'll be glad to explain it to you." The student agreed.

At the agreed-upon time, the student showed up at the professor's house. The professor stated that the weekend project involved his backyard pool.

They both went out back to the pool & the professor handed the student a bucket. Demonstrating with his own bucket, the professor said, "First, go over to the deep end & fill your bucket with as much water as you can." The student did as he was instructed.

The professor then continued. "Follow me over to the shallow end & then dump all the water from your bucket into it." The student was naturally confused but did as he was told. The professor then explained that they were going to do this many more times & began walking back to the deep end of the pool.

The confused student asked, "Excuse me, but why are we doing this?" The professor matter-of-factly stated that he was trying to make the shallow end much deeper. The student didn't think the economics professor was serious but figured he would find out the real story soon enough.

However after the sixth trip between the shallow end & the deep end, the student began to worry that his economics professor had gone mad. The student finally said, "All we're doing is wasting valuable time & effort on unproductive pursuits. Even worse, when this process is all over, everything will be at the same level it was before so all you'll really have accomplished is the destruction of what could have been truly productive action!"

The professor put down his bucket & replied with a smile, "Congratulations. You now understand the stimulus bill."

My friend who sent this to me, and with whom I'd previously discussed our nation's situation as we've discussed on this site, is a very very smart man, a PhD in fact, and I adore him and his family. He didn't deserve my frustrated tone, but he did deserve another point of view. He replied, "I obviously touched a nerve." Friends are great to remind us (me) of our outer bounds. Anyway, my reply:

That's wholly inaccurate and makes no sense, FYI. It's more like the pool is full of shared drinking water, and there was a catastrophic leak and the pool is now only half full. Nobody wants to put water in the pool because nobody's sure if it's still leaking, and nobody's really sure what happened, so everyone is hoarding their own water, what little they have left, and they are damming up every little contributory stream near them, diverting it from the pool, which only exacerbates the problem as water continues not only to leak but to evaporate.

Now the government, in charge of the pool, can piddle around complaining about who caused the cracks and blaming enemies and getting the people with little water left to get angry at those who have more water and those with more water to blame and make fun of the people who depend on the pool for daily needs and nobody pays attention to what caused the catastrophic leak or even verifying if the damn thing is still leaking. Even if the leak has stopped, how do we get the level back up so everyone will stop being afraid and restore the flows? Should politicians ask everyone just to pour their water back in on a voluntary basis and in the meantime everyone just stick it out while people with little water run out, and even those with more start running out?

Should the government put a garden hose in the pool to try to overcome any remaining leaks and maybe start to fill it back up and just hope for the best? Is a trickle sufficient? Is a garden hose insufficient? Are there enough people and neighbors who are willing to divert their own water through their own private hoses to try to fill the thing back up while nobody's sure if it's still leaking?

What if the government is the only entity with a firehose capable of shifting water -- with the promise to repay -- from big neighbor's giant pools back into our pool until we can a) stop and fix the leak and b) restart the flow of contributing streams in the system from the citizens? Mind you, our pool is already the biggest of them all, and all our neighbors' pools have unexplained leaks too, and we're all facing the same problem.

Scared water doesn't flow.

Scared money doesn't spend.