Soon after the financial collapse in 2008, the federal government’s policy was to kick-start the recovery by pumping money into the economy by any means possible. There was even the frivolous suggestion of printing money and throwing it out of helicopters (a term coined by economist Milton Friedman in 1969, but only to illustrate an economic principle). This was not meant to be taken literally, but to indicate spending whose only purpose was to put money into circulation. Any funding such as this was called “helicopter money.” The term is now broadly used for government money directed to specific groups as an end in itself with no expectation of results.
It was thought money going to the inter-city poor would be quickly spent on goods and services, thereby supporting companies who would spend their profits on supplies from other companies, who would spend on others, repeated over and over, creating a cascade of new jobs at each step. The rich would simply park the money in a bank, although a bank would invest it, also creating a cascade of new jobs.
But politics dictated the money go into the poor communities where the effects would be most noticeable, and we saw the creation many programs of dubious value, such as classes to build self-confidence in minority girls, to fund pie-in-the-sky start-up companies, or to provide a venue for entrepreneurs to network (they all have a recognizable jargon that I am still learning). Their value didn’t matter. The point was for the government to spend money.