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Tony Fratto: A Stimulus by Any Other Name


What are words for,
When no one listens anymore?"
("Words", Missing Persons)

Good question.

The White House is now considering new options for additional spending in light of weak employment data last week - spending that would be intended to both boost employment and economic growth.

But, in their latest round of rhetorical hijinx, the White House has instructed reporters not to call it "stimulus."

For a White House that has already played word games with "jobs saved or created", and Medicare cuts now lovingly labeled as "savings", it should come as no surprise.

For to call it "stimulus", you see, would be to admit that the mammoth stimulus bill passed in February didn't work. But the stimulus, they have repeated assured us, "worked", so no need for additional "stimulus" -- just a little additional spending...to...you know...create jobs...and boost growth.

Uncle Sam and money
Uncle Sam and money

Yeah...that's it...that's the ticket...

Sigh...

I actually feel sorry for reporters trying to unscramble this jumble box of White House commentary on the effects of the stimulus. They were told the economy early this year was on the brink of collapse, then told it was even worse than anyone thought - leaving reporters to contemplate "the brink", while leaving unanswered the question of why an "even worse" economy didn't require more stimulus...

Then they were told that stimulus would break records for speed, but later announced a plan to speed up the spending - but that the "speeding up" was all according to plan.

And now, reporters have been told that something can look and sound like a "stimulus" plan - in fact, it can contain the very same programs trumpeted in the earlier stimulus plan - but, alas - foolish reporters - it's not stimulus. It may be a lot of things, but don't dare call it stimulus.

So what should a reporter call it?

It doesn't matter: no one is listening any more.

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Tony Fratto is a CNBC on-air contributor and most recently served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary for the Bush Administration.