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Use California to Settle the Stimulus Debate

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How to settle the national debate about the value of economic stimulus? How about an experiment involving California?

Californians, after all, voted to elect and re-elect Democrats who have supported economic stimulus, most notably U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Much of the rest of the country voted for those who opposed the stimulus. So why not give the people what they want -- and figure out whether stimulus works in the process?

Here's my proposal. Since Californians clearly wanted more economic stimulus than the federal government has received (and this is bipartisan, given the support of the Republican governor for more stimulus), give it to us. Provide the state with the overwhelming stimulus its voters think they need.

And then to test the premise, give the rest of the country what they want. End the stimulus for the other states, and focus budget cuts elsewhere.

Of course, you might hear some Republicans and people in other states complain: why are you helping California with our money? But there are two easy responses to that. First, California is a net donor to the federal government, so you'd be helping California with California's money. Second, if you other states believe stimulus is so ineffective (that it's hurt the country, which was the position of Republicans in this election cycle), then sending California more money will only hurt California.

Let's try this experiment for two years. If California does better than the country, that might send one signal about the value of stimulus. If the rest of the country outperforms California economically, that would send a different signal.

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