The Multiplier Effect

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why do the President and Congress always talk about programs in terms of 10 year periods? Sometimes it’s because the changes they’re trying to accomplish are so huge, so momentous they’ll actually take 10 years to accomplish. Mostly, it’s because they want to exaggerate the beneficial impact of some new program or law while spreading out the negative effects on their corporate contributors and electorate supporters. They are, in other words, cheating. Spinning like a top.

Those of you who studied economics when you were in college are probably familiar with “the multiplier effect.” It’s the way buying one thing creates demand for other things that go into making the first thing, and so on. It may take only one stubble-faced guy, wiping his hands on an apron that had to have been dirty when he bought it, to slice that shwarma and make the gyro you’ve been thinking about all morning, but think how many other people were involved in making that giant lump of who knows what meat, the pita bread, the paper plates and 34 napkins you’ll need to eat it and the chewable antacids you’ll be popping later that afternoon – and the ingredients that went into making those things too.

I’m not suggesting that eating more shwarma will restore the American economy to full employment, but it wouldn’t hurt. (Come to think of it though, why isn’t shwarma on the Surgeon General’s food pyramid? An obvious oversight.)

No, not that kind of multiplier. What the President and Congress are doing is far more simple. They’re just taking a small thing and making it seem bigger to trick us into voting for them.

“Good news, my fellow Americans,” the President tells us. “Under my leadership and despite intense Republican nitwit resistance, we are cutting the budget by a whopping $1.4 trillion,” and then he clears his throat and mumbles, “over the next 10 years,” on his way off the podium. Let’s see. $1.4 trillion, only 10% of the national debt today, never mind what it will be later, over 10 years is $140 billion per year. Now that’s impressive, until you consider that we’re spending approximately that much every year fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m just sayin’…

The interesting thing about “the multiplier effect” is that it can work equally well in reverse. “Not to worry my fellow Americans. Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are only costing us $4,745,” and then the President mumbles, “per second, not to mention injuries and loss of life.” “Wow,” we’re supposed to say. “$4,745?! That’s like, free.”

I think I’m going to take “the multiplier effect” out for spin at home…

“Hey, honey,” my wife observes, coming down the stairs into the kitchen, on her way to the only job we still have between the two of us. “You look awfully pleased with yourself.”

“And I am,” I tell her, pointing with my pen to the calculations I’d been doing on my yellow pad. “If I just stop eating the one Baby Ruth I buy every day to pick up my spirits on the way home from the unemployment office, we’ll save, let me see… $1.25 a day, 365 days per year, over, let’s say, the next 10 years, $4,562.50!!” I’m bobbing my head up and down and left to right while extending my arms, palms up which is universal sign language for, “Hey. Am I brilliant, or what?”

“That’s wonderful, dear.” She tells me, chugging the orange juice I’d poured for her, and taking her peanut buttered wheat toast to go. “Oh,” she turns on her way out the door to ask, “what with the $4,562.50 you’ve saved us, can we afford maybe $50 to get my hair cut?”

“Yes,” I tell her, “but not for another… roughly 6 weeks.”

“Wonderful.” And she left for the day, the sound of sarcasm wafting in her wake.

-wf

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