Stimulus Package: Refreshing but Restrained

cavatappiPeople are always asking me what I think about the stimulus package and they never seem to be satisfied with my answers.

What Stimulus Package?

For a while I was telling people, “Stimulus package? What stimulus package?” My reasoning was that the tax cuts were more political than economics — no one seriously thought they would stimulate much consumer spending — and the big government spending programs will take several quarters to kick in. Only a small percentage of the money has been spent so far. The promise of economic stimulus in six or nine months is a useful thing, but there hasn’t been much in the way of a direct effect yet.

Here in Washington State, cutbacks at the state level seem to be more than offsetting whatever Federal stimulus there has been. Although the Washington situation is very serious (see the recent Economist article on the recession in this state), things could be worse — think California.

Too Soon to Tell

Recently I’ve changed my tune a bit. Stimulus package? Too soon to tell, I say, or impossible to know. These are both good answers even if my friends don’t like them. Too soon to tell because it will take more time before the full effects, positive and negative, are felt. Too soon to tell because we haven’t figured out yet  how to deal with the inevitable consequences of the recent spectacular money creation and public debt increases. Some people fear that the cure to these problems will be more deadly than the recession’s disease.

Impossible to tell? Yes, because economics isn’t a hard science and we don’t have the luxury of running controlled experiments. We know that unemployment has increased to 9.5% with the stimulus package in place — that’s pretty shocking — but how high would it have been without the federal emergency programs? We will never know for sure, so these policies are sure to be debated back and forth for years.

No one seems to appreciate my analysis of the economic stimulus package so I’m going to change gears again. Now when people ask me my opinion I’m going to give them a wine review. That’s because I recently discovered an interesting white wine called Cavatappi Stimulus Package 2008.

In Vino Stimulus

Cavatappi (it means corkscrew in Italian) is a winery founded some years ago by former restaurateur and Italian wine lover Peter Dow. Cavatappi produces mainly Washington-grown Italian varietal wines (23 vintages of Washington Nebbiolo and Sangiovese). I’ve seen a Cavatappi white blend before, but this is the first one with an economic crisis hook. I couldn’t find anything about the wine on the web so I wrote to Peter Dow. He reports that

It is a blend of SB and Viognier. I tasted a similar wine in the Rhone last winter that was a Marsanne Roussane and SB blend and I really liked it.  It is designed to be a simple summer quaffer and at 10.00 retail it is being well received.

I was speculating about what message Cavatappi is trying to send by naming this white blend in honor of the economic stimulus program. Is it to show support for the Obama plan? To send a message to consumers: spend your tax savings on wine? Or maybe it’s a cash flow thing — white wines can be turned over relatively quickly, providing an economic stimulus to the winemaker. Buy this wine and stimulate the Cavatappi economy!

Unfortunately the correct answer is much less complicated. “I used the name because I thought there was some humor in it, but mainly wanted to see if I could get it by the TTB,” according to Peter. Apparently he did!

So here’s the bottom line: what do I think of the stimulus package? Refreshing, but restrained. (I’m not a skilled wine taster but it seems to me that the Viognier tames the Sauvignon Blanc and shapes it a bit.) It made a nice match with a hearty salad at dinner last night.

Refreshing but restrained. Not a perfect description of the economic stimulus package, but not completely off the mark either.

And I can honestly recommend this stimulus to all my friends. (Or almost all of them: ten dollars is more than my senior cheap wine researcher  Michael Morrell likes to spend — I guess you can’t please everyone.)

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