Sometimes nothing is the right thing to do.
Earlier this week, here is what Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid had to say concerning passing the $800 billion stimulus bill.
“One option that we do not have is to do nothing.”
Actually senator, doing nothing might be the best option.
Now I know that some form of a bill totaling over $800 billion will soon be on President Obama’s desk. But humor me and let me explain anyway.
I’m a pilot. Early in my flight training, Keith Bollman, my instructor, told me a story. Prior to me, he had a young female student. One afternoon, after she had soloed and was in that phase of primary flight training when you spend hours by yourself in a small trainer airplane practicing the techniques your instructor has taught, she was working on her stalls.
A stall in aviation has nothing to do with the engine. A stall in aviation is that state of affairs when the wing surfaces stop producing lift and the airplane quits flying and becomes a falling object. Recognizing and recovering from stalls is one of the earliest and most basic skills that a flying novitiate must learn. Stall practice is necessary in order to eventually pass a practical flight test.
Anyway, this young lady was practicing stall recovery in a Cessna 152 trainer airplane when she got careless and pushed in a bunch of right rudder as the aircraft entered the stall. The result was a spin. A spin is that state of affairs when the airplane is pointed mostly nose down and it looks out the cockpit window like the earth is rotating around and around as it gets closer and closer. Unless you’re putting on an air show, spins are not good.
There is a way to quickly recover from a spin but this young woman didn’t know what it was and she was running out of time. So she did the only thing she could think of. She let go of the controls, put her hands over her face and waited to die.
And waited some more.
Finally, aware that she was not dead, she summoned the courage to look between her fingers out the cockpit window. What she saw was an airplane that was flying straight and level. The airplane had recovered on its own.
The lesson Keith offered me in that story was that the aircraft is designed to fly and a big part of your job as its pilot is to let it. If this inexperienced young lady had tightened her grip on the controls and tried to fight her way out of the spin she had clumsily created, she would have likely crashed. In her case, doing nothing was the absolute right thing to do.
So what’s the larger lesson?
The larger lesson is that if you don’t know what to do, doing nothing is not a bad option. The U.S. economy has entered a stall. Some would say it has entered a spin. But just like a Cessna 152, the U.S. economy is designed to fly.
We are about to go into a massive amount of debt in order to spend in ways that were once truly unimaginable under the completely unproved theory that doing so will revive the economy sooner than it will revive on its own. The fact that many scholars believe that the spending under Roosevelt’s New Deal did nothing to shorten the Great Depression seems to have no chastening effect on our current leaders.
Debate on the Obama stimulus plan has raged over the amounts given to such “stimulus” as sexually transmitted disease prevention and money for schools in Milwaukee (where they currently have nearly two dozen unused school buildings).
The debate you don’t hear is whether the federal government should intervene so massively in the economy in the first place.
For that young lady in the spin, she didn’t know what to do so she did nothing. And thus avoided doing something that would have made her situation much worse.
For the U.S. economy, the situation seems remarkably similar.