An Engineer’s Suggestion For the Stimulus Plan

I’m sick and tired of politicians looking at the same law and proclaiming polar opposite results will occur if it’s passed.

I just saw a clip where McCain is saying a “disaster will occur” if the $800 billion stimulus package is passed and then a few minutes later a clip of Obama saying, a “disaster will occur” if it’s not passed immediately.  Come on.  Of course, the problem is that economists themselves can’t agree on this (and thus there are brand name economists testifying on behalf of both positions).

Where are the numbers in people’s arguments?  Why aren’t politicians referencing studies that indicate the efficacy of various programs?  I keep hearing that the $800 billion will “save or create” 4 million jobs.  Do the math…that’s $200,000 per job!  So if job creation is the goal, shouldn’t spending line items be listed by their relative cost-per-job?

[BTW, doesn’t $200K per job seem a bit high?]

I’ve often herd economists say in their defense that they can’t “run experiments.”  Really?  This is the difference between engineers and scientists.  The latter like to research what happens.  Engineers like to shape what happens.

Anyway, here’s my “engineer” suggestion.  Run an experiment.  Take the $800 billion dollars and distribute it to the states based on population then leave it to the states to decide what to do with their share.  Make the only requirement be that the states agree to provide detailed accounting and reporting into an open database accessible by all.  Red states can send the money back to Washington or cut taxes and the blue states can spend to their heart’s delight.

This way, in 10 years or so we will be in a position to say with some authority whether or not these spending, tax cuts or non-interference programs actually work.