A lot of left-leaning commentators have expressed outrage over this Washington Post tidbit about Treasury secretary Tim Geithner’s role in discouraging more stimulus bills:
The economic team went round and round. Geithner would hold his views close, but occasionally he would get frustrated. Once, as Romer pressed for more stimulus spending, Geithner snapped. Stimulus, he told Romer, was “sugar,” and its effect was fleeting. The administration, he urged, needed to focus on long-term economic growth, and the first step was reining in the debt.
Wrong, Romer snapped back. Stimulus is an “antibiotic” for a sick economy, she told Geithner. “It’s not giving a child a lollipop.”
The problem is that Geithner could be so dumb as to think stimulus was merely “sugar.”
Whereas I think that the fact that our very top economic policymakers discuss such sweeping, complex issues in the simplest of metaphors is itself a huge problem.
Also, if Geithner was so wrong and Romer is so right (as per, for instance, Krugman), it’s worth noting that with antibiotics, a little goes a long way.