Integrity Matters
October 8, 2008

Bailout worries Main Street

Question: (E-365)

Our elected officials are being paid, and expected, to carefully consider the issues before them, and take constructive actions to address them. When they fail to do so they are not doing their job.
A special friend, a retired judge, is clear about the responsibilities of his profession. "A judge is expected to render the right decision and at the same time be perceived as having made the right decision." As the person rendering just decisions, the judge needs to know the law and be effective in communicating the rationale for the sentences handed out. Such clarity is required in our current political-economic crisis.

Millions of "Main Street" Americans are still uncomfortable with the BAILOUT package - at least, what it smells like to them! And why wouldn't they? The study of general semantics acknowledges that words have an impact on our psyche, our attitudes, even our nervous system. So, why would really skillful "spin-doctors" in Washington choose to call this a give-away (also known as the $700 billion BAILOUT) program? And why would they not explain, in clearer language, that it is not just for the financial wizards club, whose members have created the mess by having operated in careless and sloppy, maybe even preferential and irresponsible ways? Further, this gigantic financial action should not be called a RESCUE.

Words matter

Our leaders need to employ the right words and acknowledge that Main Street folks deserve respect. What if this were called an INVESTMENT? Business ventures ask for capital infusions, often more than once, and they are not called BAILOUTS. Such financial infusions are called INVESTMENTS at the formation, mezzanine and advanced levels of enterprises - each with the expectation that performance will justify the financial support. Lots more people will be willing to get on board with that which they understand. Our leaders need to act as prudent managers, now, and communicate that our nation's economic engine needs an INVESTMENT.

Just how far off course our system has gone is revealed in the term used by Social Security to describe the monthly payment returned to tax payers: AN AWARD. Our tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars set aside, by law, into our retirement accounts, to be retrieved at the time we turn 62 or older, are titled: AWARDED BENEFITS. The implication is that our government - although simply returning to us what is rightfully ours - is at the same time telling us that this money is now "owned" by the bureaucracy, and has been miraculously transformed into Social Security's gift to us: an AWARD. No, bureaucracy, it ours to claim, not theirs to AWARD.

Please do not harangue the employees of the Social Security Administration. Find out who invented that wretched phrasing and get it changed. Congressional representatives probably do not know of this AWARD distortion, because most of them have a preferential program that is much better. Even so, the word AWARD really irritates me. How about you? Words matter.

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