How to end the debate on the 'Stimulus Bill'

The current debating and posturing on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the “Obama Stimulus Bill” is troubling and unproductive. All of the partisan rhetoric and time-wasting by Republicans, Democrats, and the President could have been avoided by framing this bill properly and sticking to that frame.

The bill is going to pass. No one, not even Conservative critics, dispute this inevitability. It would have passed with little opposition if one thing would have been done differently: if they would have called it from jump a Jobs Bill, not a Stimulus Bill.

What’s the difference between a Jobs Bill and a Stimulus Bill?

No Congressperson, no matter how much they hate it, can make a justifiable political argument against job creation. Politicians and pundits can, however, make arguments against stimulus. By the way, what exactly is stimulus? Is it spending? Is it tax cuts?

President Obama and I think it’s the former, but the problem is there is room for debate. There is room for conservatives to attempt [with some success] to recast this bill as a spending bill, which to hardcore conservatives make it the Devil’s bill.

Winning the War on Policy happens when you win the War of Words

The President in recent days has gone on the offensive to defend this legislation. This is the right thing to do. What would have been even better to do was not even talk about stimulus plans in the first place, even during the campaign. After all, saying stimulus plan conjures up images of the Bush “Stimulus Checks”, which barely evened registered on any scale of positive economic impact. When you describe your plans and policies with the same language as failed plans and policies, it gives people the wrong mental images. And it is those mental images that are crucial for achieving buy-in in politics.

I’ll be watching this administration and how it frames policy debates. The Obama team was pretty good during the campaign season at framing. They shouldn’t forget that going forward.

One Love. One II.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

3 responses to “How to end the debate on the 'Stimulus Bill'”

  1. Clarence says :

    My thoughts exactly. Stimulus is too broad a term, and from jump provided way too much wiggle room for anyone wanting to oppose it.

  2. Garlin II says :

    For those of you watching tonight’s press conference with President Obama, pay special attention to the number of times he says the word stimulus compared to the number of times he says the word jobs.

    If he says jobs more, we’re in good shape. If he says stimulus, it’s gonna be a long recovery.

    Framing matters. Words matter. Public Policy, and our future depend on them.

    One Love. One II.

  3. Garlin II says :

    Total Job/Stimulus +/-: +31 (+17 during remarks, +14 during Q&A).

    +31 = Home Run.

    (from Garlin on Twitter).

    One Love. One II.

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