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Economy

When Tails Aren't Legs and Other Hard Truths

Thomas Sowell's column today at RCP begins with this great bit of wit from Abraham Lincoln: 

Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has, if you called the tail a leg? When the audience said "five," Lincoln corrected them, saying that the answer was four. "The fact that you call a tail a leg does not make it a leg."

The same hard truth, Sowell argues, can be applied today to things now veiled with the gauzy mantle "stimulus" and "jobs bill."  These failed attempts to "prime the pump" have failed (and will continue to fail), Sowell argues, because the whole point of priming a pump is to draw out the water that is already there but reluctant to come out.  Banks aren't lending and the economy is not growing because the "priming" they are getting feels a bit more like an attempt at a draining:

You don't lend when politicians are making it more doubtful whether you are going to get your money back-- either on time or at all. From the White House to Capitol Hill, politicians are coming up with all sorts of bright ideas for borrowers not to have to pay back what they borrowed and for lenders not to be able to foreclose on people who are months behind on their mortgage payments.

A priming is not supposed to replace the flow of latent waters or to chastise those latent waters for not adequately seeking to quench the thirst of all those longing for a drink. It isn't too much to ask of the thirsty that they come to the well, on their own . . . and with a cup of their own.  For only then will the pump be primed and the waters feel justified in flowing freely.

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