prime the pump

Discussion in 'English Only' started by chopin7, Jun 21, 2013.

  1. chopin7 Senior Member

    It's the movie "Dark Skies".
    Four people are having dinner.
    It's some casual talk.
    One of them says,
    "The Fed can prime
    the pump in DC all it wants,
    but all it's gonna do is raise the price
    for a cup of coffee in California."

    I learned from net that this "prime the pump" can be used a metaphor for money infusing and so on.
    So, what is the idea here? The Fed can support financially whatever they want in DC and this will so on....
    Or is it something else?

    Thank you
  2. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    No, it doesn't mean "infuse money" and nothing else.

    For those of us familiar with pumps, "priming" means to add a little bit of fluid in order to get the desired process started.

    Thus, the metaphor.

    To economists, it means to add a bit of money to the economy in order to stimulate additional economic activity.

    Whether it works or not is immaterial to the metaphor.
  3. chopin7 Senior Member

    Adding money and infusing money is not the same?
    Isn't it "giving money" after all?
    Thanks for the response.
  4. sandra1968 New Member

    English - US-England
    The "prime the pump" metaphor, when used for economics, means any government action which is intended to create ongoing growth momentum. Kenysian economists would focus on government spending money as a stimulus, the Chicago Monetarists would emphasize increasing the money supply (by either lowering interest rates or changing banking regulations) as a way to stimulate the economy. Both are "pump priming."

    The second part of the quote is harder to interpret without knowing more about the film: "...but all it's gonna do is raise the price for a cup of coffee in California." I'd guess that they are suggesting that this government action, "pump priming" is going to have some unintended consequences such as raising the cost of a cup of coffee but will not necessarily improve the overall economy, or the part that they care about, much.
  5. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.
    I'd say it means the speaker thinks that 'pumping more money into the economy' (what some might assume is the government 'printing' more money than it has gold to back) will only increase inflation.

    It's like the old dilemma of raising minimum wage in America. If you raise minimum wage by a dollar, all you are doing (in theory) is decreasing everyone else's salary by a dollar. Inflation will always rise to combat wide wage scale increases.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2013
  6. chopin7 Senior Member

    Thank you, Sandra and Hau Ruck
  7. morior_invictus

    morior_invictus Senior Member

    I think you are not paying attention to the significant part of that nice and complex explanation.

    Priming a pump means to pour liquid (i.e. to prime) into a pump to initiate the pumping or in the given sentence to make efforts* (to "prime") to stimulate the economy (a "pump"). Government can stimulate the economy, for instance, through tax reductions, government spending, etc.
    I would substitute "always" with "mostly," as it is not always necessary to push the expenses of wage increases onto consumers. Besides that, your comprehension sounds good to me, Fil. ;)

    *To my mind, it is not just about the direct injection of money into the economy.
  8. chopin7 Senior Member

    Very nice indeed.
    How come I didn't notice the niceness?

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