There's an email named "Congratulations. You now understand the stimulus bill." working it's way around the web and in blogs. There's one version here. The condensed version is this: An economics student asks his professor to explain the stimulus bill. The professor teaches by example as he has the student take one bucket after another from the deep end of the swimming pool to the shallow end, accomplishing nothing.
But that's not the full story. In passing from inbox to inbox this internet meme has somehow lost the second half of the story. Which follows:
This economics student had another professor to whom he posed the same question. This second professor also had a pool at home and also told the student to come to his home for a weekend project. This pool was at the base of a small hill in the professor's backyard. It looked like the small hill had at one time been lush and green and well-manicured, but since there'd been a drought for the past two years it was just dirt.
The professor told the student, "take a bucket of water from the pool, carry it up the hill and dump the water." The student did as told. "Take another bucket..." and so on. After a while the confused student said, "Why are we doing this? the water just runs down the hill right back into the pool. We're accomplishing nothing except, perhaps, to make your pool water dirty."
The professor said "come back and lets do it again next week."
This went on for a couple of months. Finally, the student was tired and exasperated. "Professor, I've been carrying water from your pool up that hill for two months, but hardly any of of it ever stays there because it almost all just flows back into the pool. The amount of water hasn't changed. The level of the pool hasn't changed. This has been totally unproductive."
The professor said, "look at the hill. what do you see?"
"Grass," said the student, "grass and flowers and bushes and weeds. Two months ago it was just dirt, and now it's a garden."
"Congratulations. You now understand the stimulus bill."