The mantra that guided both the small stimulus legislation signed by President George W. Bush in January 2008 and the much larger stimulus legislation signed by President Barack Obama a year later was that fiscal stimulus should be "timely, targeted, and temporary." The Brookings Institution went so far as to publish a primer on fiscal stimulus emphasizing this approach. One can only hope that with five years of hindsight and a continuing struggle to recover from the Great Recession, this approach has been discredited.
I also spent some time discussing the fiscal cliff on a radio program last evening. Listen here.