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Orwellian Newspeak has been thrust upon us by the new administration. For those of you who either don’t remember your summer reading from high school or chose not to read it at all, “Newspeak” was the means by which George Orwell, in his novel 1984, demonstrated the power of an oppressive regime’s control over dialogue and thus thoughts. The novel describes newspeak as “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.”
Language is the key to our very understanding. Studies have shown that most people think and contemplate by using a running dialogue in their head. Through the manipulation of the language that is used in the marketplace of ideas one can essentially control the parameters of any discussion. Essentially, the words used to describe the thought controls the thought. Here’s a quick refresher on Newspeak.
The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink) which reinforce the total dominance of the State. Similarly, Newspeak root words served as both nouns and verbs, which allowed further reduction in the total number of words; for example, “think” served as both noun and verb, so the word thought was not required and could be abolished. A staccato rhythm of short syllables was also a goal, further reducing the need for deep thinking about language. (See duckspeak.) Successful Newspeak meant that there would be fewer and fewer words – dictionaries would get thinner and thinner.
In addition, words with opposite meanings were removed as redundant, so “bad” became “ungood”. Words with comparative and superlative meanings were also simplified, so “better” became “gooder”, and “best” likewise became “goodest”. Intensifiers could be added, so “great” became “plusgood”, and “excellent” and “splendid” likewise became “doubleplusgood”. Adjectives were formed by adding the suffix “-ful” to a root word (e.g., “goodthinkful”, orthodox in thought), and adverbs by adding “-wise” (“goodthinkwise”, in an orthodox manner). In this manner, as many words as possible were removed from the language. The ultimate aim of Newspeak was to reduce even the dichotomies to a single word that was a “yes” of some sort: an obedient word with which everyone answered affirmatively to what was asked of them
The new administration has instituted at least two instances of Newspeak principles in the first 60 days. First, the administration has decided that we will no longer refer to terrorist attacks as such. They now fall under the category of “man made disasters.” How reassuring. Under the Obama administration we can be certain will be free of terror attacks. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes man made disasters as follows: “Man-made disasters are events which, either intentionally or by accident cause severe threats to public health and well-being. Because their occurrence is unpredictable, man-made disasters pose an especially challenging threat that must be dealt with through vigilance, and proper preparedness and response.” In fact, Janet Napolitano, the Head of Homeland Security, now refuses to use the words terrorism or terrorist threats. She calls their use part of the old “politics of fear.” By eliminating the use of the word “terrorism” the administration seeks to transform attacks on U.S. sovereignty from acts of war to merely unpredictable events similar to those caused by nature in the form of hurricanes or floods. Man made disasters “feel” much more palatable than terror. I know I feel safer now.
Further, the Obama administration had decided to no longer use the term “enemy combatant” instead substituting it with the term “detainee.” The Obama administration is seeking to sanitize an unsavory ingredient in combat, that of the enemy. It appears that under the new administration there will be no acknowledgment that the US actually has enemies. Individuals seeking to seek and destroy this nation are merely regular old gents hoping to be the source of man made disasters. Perhaps we should give this a try with the economy as well. Referring to the current state of the economy as “doubleplusungood” is sure to boost consumer confidence.
Credit: Michael Ramirez
Have you heard? AIG is using some of its government funds to pay contractual bonuses out. What an unspeakable outrage right? I too am pretty upset with the idea that government money is going to pay the bonuses of employees in a private [edit: public] company, but isn’t it laughable that the same government who insists we rescue AIG because of its “vital importance” to the economy is now enraged by the way they run their business? The problem is irreconcilable conflicts of interest between the employees who can freely work for the company with the best incentives, the corporation that wants to maintain a competitive advantage, the government who wants to control the operational affairs of private enterprise, and the tax payers who don’t want to pay a single penny to save uncompetitive corporations, no matter how “vital.”
Because of these diametrically opposite interests, the government’s plan is beginning to experience stress. Corporations like AIG are frustrated with the bureaucratic impositions on their ability to manage their business (e.g., Chrysler wanting to acquire Fiat). Government involvement requires companies to virtually zero out their risk, meaning less innovation, investment, and a less competitive environment. If you need an example, see Amtrak. The obvious differences between how the government and corporations run their business demonstrates the friction that is occurring between the two. Sure, AIG and GM and the rest may survive extinction, but they will not be any more competitive. Are we better off having used trillions in borrowed money to save them, or should we have let the market do our bidding instead? I bet you know my answer already.
Now, we hear how outraged the President is over AIG’s move to pay these bonuses. Well, if you give whiskey to an alcoholic, what exactly do you expect? The result is completely predictable.
There are public questions over whether Treasury Secretary Geithner knew about AIG’s plans, and if he didn’t, then why not. Is it becoming clear that Geithner is overwhelmed? That’s a subject for a future post. What’s important now is to point out that rescuing failed businesses isn’t healthy for the economy; it isn’t noble, responsible, or even reasonable. This will only become more clear as things play out.
On Fox News Sunday, Austan Goolsbee, chief economist for the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, answered some questions from Mike Wallace. Goolsbee, a decorated orator with several international championships under his belt as a competitive extemporaneous speaker, proved adept at answering questions by saying nothing at all.
Though Goolsbee is a Sloan Fellow, Fulbright Scholar, and has received a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT, he seems to also be educated in purposeful avoidance of important questions. During the interview, Goolsbee struggles with the administrations apparent inability to control unemployment numbers, or the actions of private corporations, despite the promise of endless billions from the Obama administration.
Below are segments of the transcript from Goolsbee’s rope-a-dope. I think you will find Austan Goolsbee says a lot without saying much at all.
WALLACE: The president is also set to announce billions of dollars in federal aid to open up lending to small businesses. What do you hope to accomplish?
GOOLSBEE: The — the market for credit to small businesses is completely frozen in an already terrible credit crisis. […] And so we’re trying to reignite through direct intervention the small business credit market so that they can — so that they can expand.
WALLACE: Last month you gave a magazine interview in which you said that we should see signs the stimulus plan is working within six months, and one of the key indicators, you said […] is if unemployment rises to the 8 percent range rather than the 11 percent that some are predicting.
What’s your revised estimate now that it’s already 8.1 percent for unemployment this year?
GOOLSBEE: I agree we’ve gotten some bad news on the labor market front, so that the — trying to keep the unemployment rate in the 8 percent range — we’re already in the 8 percent range.
I still think it is vital that by the end of the year that we try as hard as we can, through whatever means that we have — and the president has tried to do so — to keep the unemployment rate from getting into the multiple double-digit range that people were forecasting before that policy.
WALLACE: So you’re talking under 10 percent [unemployment].
GOOLSBEE: Ten, 11 percent people were forecasting — what would happen without any policy intervention. Now, we have passed […] the biggest financial rescue package that we have seen in decades, the largest stimulus probably in the history of the country, the biggest home foreclosure prevention and mortgage assistance program since the Depression.
Those three actions together are really very dramatic. They have just — the first checks from the stimulus haven’t even gone out, so I think that it’s, in my view, premature to be talking about what else is going to be necessary until we see how those things have worked.
WALLACE: How much will the government have to spend in guarantees against losses to get those private investors to buy these toxic assets? Geithner, at a hearing talked about another trillion dollars. In the president’s budget, he has a placeholder of $750 billion.
Are we talking about a program in the 7, $8 trillion dollar range?
GOOLSBEE: I’m not going to speculate on that number, because we haven’t done the bank — we have not completed the bank examinations that allow us to answer that question.
WALLACE: But does this mean another, in effect, TARP III, another big relief program?
GOOLSBEE: I’m not going to speculate on that. We have to do the bank examination to answer that question.
WALLACE: Finally, I want to get into a little bit of the Obama budget with you — $3.6 trillion, which calls for major tax increases on the wealthy.
And I want to read you something from the president’s budget. “While middle-class families have been playing by the rules, living up to their responsibilities as neighbors and citizens, those at the commanding heights of our economy have not.”
Mr. Goolsbee, it’s a blanket statement from the administration. People who make money have not played by the rules?
GOOLSBEE: I think you’re stretching a little bit the blanket statement.
WALLACE: Why make that a moral argument, something wrong?
GOOLSBEE: Well, you’re — you’re taking a line from the introduction that sets the stage for the discussion, which is we need to go back to an issue of balance. So in the ’90s we had a more balanced view. We’ve gotten out of balance.
People at the commanding heights of the economy with incomes over $250,000 a year have been receiving trillions of dollars of tax cuts…
Remember when Bush 43 glibly told liberals, “I won,” after they voiced concerns over his fiscal policy. Yeah, neither could I; however, that is precisely how President Obama responded to concerns over his spending proposals. In other words, Obama seems to be adopting the position on governance that says, ‘I will listen to your ideas, but only if they fit within my narrow set of liberal policy principles.’ Austan Goolsbee, the Chief Economist for Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board recently said with regard to conservative healthcare proposals, “if these ideas can fit in with [Obama’s] principles, then we’ll consider them. And if we go through and they don’t, then he won’t consider them.”
Another aspect of Obama’s “post-partisan” approach is to attack high profile members of the media who dare speak out against his policies, via Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. To date, Gibbs has savaged CNBC Correspondent Rick Santelli for suggesting a modern-day tea party (guess what? they are happening all across the country), Rush Limbaugh was purposefully attacked, “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer, and most recently former VP Dick Cheney.
Between Obama’s penchant for only listening to ideas that fit within his “principles,” and the use of the White House Press Office to publicly attack those with whom they disagree, the empty suit is FINALLY starting to fill in. And is anyone surprised that Obama seems to be trading “hope and change” for fear, loathing, and personal attacks?
While I am not surprised, a question still remains: why? Why would the President feel it is appropriate or necessary to ignore other points of view, even though he often reads from the tele-prompter how important it is to respect them? Why would he feel it is appropriate or necessary to unleash his press secretary to attack any media personality that challenges his policies?
As Obama makes his case for early admittance to the liberal tax and spend hall of fame, his increased attacks on conservative viewpoints begin to make sense. Taking the debate down to a personal level narrows the conversation and serves to distract from the actual policies being implemented. Clever, huh? I’d agree in the short run, but as people begin to understand the Obama administration’s tactics, their prospects for public support will rival that of Nancy Pelosi. Assuming they are preparing for such an outcome, then an approach that attempts to spend all of its political capital in the early run would be understandable. If political suicide could make sense. But these guys are so much smarter than I am. Surely they have considered what happens when you become a lame duck in your first term?
Esteemed liberal economics blogger Megan McArdle discusses her new doubts about Obama:
Having defended Obama’s candidacy largely on his economic team, I’m having serious buyer’s remorse. Geithner, who is rapidly starting to look like the weakest link, is rattling around by himself in Treasury. Meanwhile, the administration is clearly prioritized a stimulus package that will not work without fixing the banks over, um, fixing the banking system. Unlike most fiscal conservatives, I’m not mad at him for trying to increase the size of the government; that’s, after all, what he got elected promising to do. But he also promised to be non-partisan and accountable, and the size and composition stimulus package looks like just one more attempt to ram through his ideological agenda without much scrutiny, with the heaviest focus on programs that will be especially hard to cut.
Isn’t there anyone at BLS who could have filled him in on the unemployment figures, or at Treasury who could have explained what a disproportionate impact finance salaries have on tax revenue? These numbers . . . well, I can’t really fully describe them on a family blog. But he has now raced passed Bush in the Delusional Budget Math olympics.
Can’t say you weren’t warned, McArdle.
HT: James Taranto
Speaker Pelosi, hero of Global Warming, is demanding a Gulf Stream Jet to ride around.
She just came out and said NOT to rule out another Stimulus Bill…I suppose asserting that the last one was not enough.
I heard someone compare her to Eva Braun yesterday.
I am still trying to figure out how a woman with a Bankrupt state, residing in the center of bankruptcy, is trusted with running part of our Congress. And also why Republicans force themselves to be so rational…or at least pretend to, while she says whatever she wants. And Barney Frank says whatever he wants. And Arlen Spe-oh yeah, he’s a “Republican.”
Wonder if he’ll vote for this stimulus Bill too?
“This just in, Obama lifted the George Bush ban on stem cell research…and now Obama really did make people like Christopher Reid walk! Get your lollipop on the way out!”
Ladies and Gentlemen, doesn’t that sound fantastic?! But hey, we left out something…Embryonic stem cells, research that has NEVER generated a cure (as opposed to adult stem cells), and…its on EMBRYOS…a.k.a. experimenting on Unborn Children! I would bet that most people would not support someone harvesting an unborn child to experiment on them…as it flies in the face of the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for that unborn child, but unfortunately, we are LOSING THE P.R. WAR.
Other than our “Navy Seals” on the conservative front: Coulter, Limbaugh, etc, there are few people that are even taking on the P.R. War (Breitbart has at least been giving it a try with Big Hollywood), and as a result, we lose. Let me clarify the point. When I talk to some conservatives, they say (as we had one comment on a recent article) that we are no longer intellectual because we have Sean Hannity, Coulter, Limbaugh, and Beck. Three words: Krauthammer, George Will, and Fr. Neuhaus what we actually have is both a popular and intellectual voice, which is a great thing. I’ll go further.
Recently I attended a symposium where some very intelligent liberals spoke. Afterwards the audience talked about how wordy and confusing their discussions were. Very true. Academics speaks to a certain taste, and popular speaks to another. And guess what?! Entertainment speaks to another. We as conservatives have GOT to understand the power of entertainment, the popular voice, the common understanding. STOP just saying “low taxes,” and start saying, “We have a lot of people that need relief, that need the burden of taxes off of them. We need to cut more than income taxes, so the family next door has more to put on the table…” STOP saying “We don’t need Universal Healthcare,” and DO say “We need healthcare for everyone, and we will do it this way: we’ll give hospitals easy paths to construction, and simplify insurance by streamlining regulations.”
And when Obama has a crowd together to applaud experimenting on unborn children, let’s understand the power of the audience. Remember, Obama ONLY had 52% of the vote against a very weak candidate. People do not love him like the media is saying, but we have GOT to provide an alternative.