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Are Bailouts the ‘New Normal’?

Oct 7, 2022

Hi friends. In this lesson, you will see what the word ‘bailout’ means, and you will also learn the expressions ‘to dole out’ and ‘to turn on the fiscal taps’.

Before I get underway, I do want to mention that I was traveling in Europe recently and spent a good deal of time in Normandy, France. It was particularly interesting to see how the French are managing the current fuel crisis provoked by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Did you know that France gets more than 70% of its electricity from nuclear reactors, which has given them a little more breathing room than some of their neighbors? There is also an important component of hydroelectric and other renewable energies. The French might feel the pain at the gas pump, but it looks like this year their electricity bills are going to be under control.

Coincidentally, our topic today is related to the fuel crisis, which brings us to the first word in our key vocabulary: ‘Bailouts’. So, what is a “bailout”?

According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, a bailout is “an act of giving financial assistance to a failing business or economy to save it from collapse”.

A recent headline in the Economist magazine titled “The World Enters a New Era: Bailouts for Everyone” details how there has been a growing trend over the past 15 years for politicians to disburse public funds to help out companies generously, and now even individuals, in the wake of different crises, such as the global financial crisis of 2007-2009, and the crises provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic, and most recently, the spike in the price of fuel.

Hey, did you hear how I used the word ‘wake’ just now? I said, in the “wake of different crises”. ‘Wake’ means in the aftermath. Or in other words, something that follows something else.

By the way, ‘crises’ (plural of the word crisis) is commonly mispronounced. Learn the pronunciation of ‘crises’ here.

Anyway, I digress. Let me get back to ‘bailout’.

You will be interested to know that the origin of the word bailout was the act of removing water from the hull of a ship with a bucket so it wouldn’t sink! By “bailing out” the ship, you would save it. It is ironic that now, instead of pouring water out, ‘bailing out’ means pouring money in!

The article, which I have linked to in the show notes, states:

“Today’s governments have introduced some measures to cut consumption. But mainly they have turned on the fiscal taps.”

You might recognize the word “tap” from your bathroom sink. You turn on the tap to get water. Well, in this case, it is the fiscal taps, which refers to government spending.

The article goes on to say this:

“America has spent, too, if on a smaller scale. State governors are doling out “gas cards” and suspending fuel taxes to help people refill.”

“Dole out”?  ‘Dole out’ means to hand out; to distribute rather freely.

Since there is little evidence to suggest a change in government attitude, this is all super-useful vocabulary.

So remember this:

Bailout: To give financial assistance to companies.

Fiscal taps: Government spending.

Dole out: To hand out. To give away.

Friends, that’s all for now. I will be back with another English lesson for economists soon!

This is Alan Robert. Take care!

What do you think of this lesson?
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2 Comments

  1. Joel

    Thank you so much

    Reply
    • Alan Robert

      It’s my pleasure!

      Reply

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