Wednesday, September 7, 2011



The Wall Street Journal

"Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats have dropped the word 'stimulus' from their vocabulary," the Hill reports. The news comes on the eve of President Obama's history-making speech before a joint session of Congress, in which, as Bloomberg's Al Hunt reports, the president is expected to propose a $300 billion "jobs plan" that "follows the contours of his $830 billion 2009 economic [CENSORED] package."

The Hill report adds that "the House minority leader and her caucus are still pushing an economic [CENSORED] agenda," but because the 2009 whatchamacallit was a ruinously expensive failure, "they've radically changed their rhetoric." Do the Nolabelists know about this?

"Democrats are now being careful to frame their job-creation agenda in language excluding references to any [CENSORED], even though their favored policies for ending the deepest recession since the Great Depression are largely the same," the Hill adds:

The Democrats' signature "Make it in America" platform aims to create jobs by increasing infrastructure spending, providing financial help to struggling states and expanding tax credits for businesses, all of which were key elements of their 2009 economic [CENSORED] bill.
Recognizing the unpopularity of the 2009 package, however, Democratic leaders have revised their message with less loaded language--"job creation" instead of "[CENSORED]" and "Make it in America" in lieu of "Recovery Act"--in hopes of tackling the jobs crisis.

Pelosi is working out on the "euphemism treadmill." Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker described this metaphorical fitness machine in a 1994 Baltimore Sun op-ed: "People invent new 'polite' words to refer to emotionally laden or distasteful things, but the euphemism becomes tainted by association and the new one that must be found acquires its own negative connotations. 'Water closet' becomes 'toilet' (originally a term for any body care, as in 'toilet kit'), which becomes 'bathroom,' which becomes 'rest room,' which becomes 'lavatory.' "

[botwt0907] Getty Images

Pelosi: That's a bad word!

Another example: "Idiot," "imbecile" and "moron" are now insults, but they originated as clinical terms referring to various degrees of low intelligence. "Retarded" became the euphemism of choice until it too took on an insulting connotation. Now there's actually a website,, whose goal is "to eliminate the demeaning use of the R-word." Meanwhile, the people to whom the R-word referred when it was a euphemism are said to have "special needs."

Maybe Pelosi and Obama could take a cue from the R-worders and start a site called to eliminate that hurtful $830 billion word. For that matter, why doesn't Obama explain that the purpose of the $300 billion he's going to ask Congress to blow is to help the economy with its special needs? The Republicans probably wouldn't have a response to that!

Oh wait. "Republicans have decided they're not going to give a rebuttal to President Obama's jobs speech later this week," Fox News reports, adding that Pelosi is taking the decision "as a high affront to the White House":

Pelosi said the party's "silence" would "speak volumes about their lack of commitment to creating jobs."
"The Republicans' refusal to respond to the president's proposal on jobs is not only disrespectful to him, but to the American people," Pelosi said.

It seems to us it's highly respectful to the American people. After all, the president decided for whatever reason to schedule his speech right before the opening game of the NFL season. Maybe that wouldn't be a big deal if a crummy team like the 49ers were playing, but this is the Packers vs. the Saints, the last two Super Bowl champions.

This is also the first time we've ever heard a rebuttal from the opposite party cast as a show of respect to the president. We suppose one might plausibly understand it that way, but it seems to us that Pelosi and other Obama supporters don't do the president any favors by constantly complaining about imagined slights. It makes him look as if he has some sort of special need for deference--or, to put it bluntly, as if he's weak.

Everyone's a Tax Cutter
"Until quite recently," Journolist founder Ezra Klein writes, "both parties supported the idea that you combat bad economies with stimulus spending. Now, during an extremely bad economy, the Republican Party has completely abandoned that position." Why? Because Republicans are a little crazy (or perhaps we should say "troubled"): "Don't ask a pundit, or a politician, or a pollster. Ask a psychologist."

But wait. Before we ask anyone to explain what ails Republicans, we'd like to ask Klein to explain his diagnosis. What gives him the idea that Republicans used to favor "stimulus spending"? Conveniently enough, he has an answer:

In 2001, Grover Norquist called a national sales-tax holiday "exactly the kind of immediate stimulus our shell-shocked economy needs now." Norquist went on to quote George W. Bush's chief economist, Glenn Hubbard, saying we needed stimulus "sooner rather than later." Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced a bill to that effect.
Around the same time, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) held a hearing in which he invited Kevin Hassett, a conservative economist based at the American Enterprise Institute, to make the case for a fiscal stimulus. "The economists who studied this were quite surprised to find that fiscal policy in recessions was reasonably effective," Hassett testified. "It is just that folks tried a first punch that was too light and that generally we didn't get big measures until well into the recession."
Ryan was delighted by his answer. "That is precisely my point," he replied. "That is why I like my porridge hot. I think we ought to have this income tax cut fast, deeper, retroactive to January 1st, to make sure we get a good punch into the economy, juice the economy to make sure that we can avoid a hard landing."

Now hang on a second. As Klein tells it, both Norquist and Ryan were talking about tax cuts, not spending increases. If Klein recognized the distinction, he might have been able to make a stronger case by pointing out that Norquist's proposal actually did involve the spending of federal money, in the form of payments to states to make up for forgone sales-tax revenues.

But Ryan was talking about the Bush tax cuts--you remember, the ones that liberals hate and that President Obama and the Democratic Congress extended for two years in December. To be sure, there is justice in the accusation that Bush-era Republicans were big spenders--but only to the extent that they spent large sums of money.

Meanwhile, President Obama is trying to portray himself as a tax cutter. In his Labor Day speech, he boasted that he had signed the "biggest middle-class tax cut in history." The only problem, according to Klein's colleague Glenn Kessler, is that it isn't even close to true:

Imagine our surprise when the White House responded that he wasn't talking about dollars at all.
"The point the president was making that is there is not a tax cut that has been enjoyed by such a broad section of the population," an administration official said, pointing to a report that said that 95 percent of working families received some kind of tax cut under the Making Work Pay provision in his stimulus bill.
In other words, this isn't about the size of the tax cut, but about the fact that every working family, except those making more than $190,000, received as much as $800 in tax cuts.

Kessler says in reality "John F. Kennedy seems to win the prize for biggest tax cut, at least in the last half century," and the Bush tax cuts were "more than twice as large as Obama's tax cut over the same three-year time span." And as we recall, those cuts went to 100% of taxpayers, not just 95%, so they were broader as well as bigger.

Train to Nowhere
Yesterday we noted that President Obama was holding up Detroit, a once-great industrial center that precipitously decayed in the latter half of the 20th century and has continued its decline ever since, as a model for America. An editorial in the Detroit News points to another similarity between the Motor City and Obama's America--boondoggle trains:

The rail system circles downtown Detroit and was built in 1987 on the theory that it would help fill office buildings and draw new restaurants, residents and retail outlets. It was also supposed to connect to hoped-for subway and rail lines.
But like many government projects built without regard for a return on investment, the People Mover never delivered on its promise.
Ridership never reached the 12 million annual passengers predicted before it opened, let alone the 20 million needed to break even. So the city has kicked in huge subsidies to keep if from shutting down and standing as yet another reminder of Detroit's struggles.
This year, the subsidy was $4.4 million. Ridership is 2.2 million. That means the city subsidized each ride by $2. Passenger fares bring in just $900,000.
The expense might be justifiable if the People Mover had sparked development. But many of the stations are in empty buildings, and there's no noticeable concentration of commercial activity around the rail stops.

A news story reports that the Detroit City Council "cut the People Mover's subsidy by $1 million to $3.4 million, which will trigger a reduction in state aid. [Mayor Dave] Bing could submit a budget amendment to avoid a shutdown, but Council President Charles Pugh said he's not sure whether that's the right course of action. 'That's a big problem, (but) this is not an essential service, so we can't fully fund them,' Pugh said." Meanwhile, the City Council is hard at work on another boondoggle: a $550 million "light rail" project.

Reader Jim McGovern, who lives in a Detroit suburb, describes the proposed 9.3-mile train: "9.1 miles of this route will run through one of the most dilapidated, burnt-out stretches of urban cement in the country, if not the world. Imagine the Orient Express running through Mogadishu."

He's the One
"A man accused of stealing a cellphone from a teen at a bus stop was found thanks in part to his President Barack Obama T-shirt," reports the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times:

Officers were called to a convenience store in the 4300 block of Ayers Street at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday where a 16-year-old told them he was robbed while waiting at a nearby bus stop. The teen said a thin black man between 20-25 years old with short hair and wearing a black shirt with President Obama's image, red shorts and black shoes threatened to shoot him if he did not give up his cellphone.

It's a bit of a surprise that there's a street named after Bill Ayers in Texas of all places. But think of this: Two or three years ago, there were a lot more people wearing Obama T-shirts. Now, thanks to the president's declining popularity, it's a lot easier to find the criminals.

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