Taxpayers Aren't Asked

So I was intrigued by this Victor Davis Hanson post at the Corner:

I think our president needs to invest more in the use of the third-person "government," since his speeches more and more center on the narcissistic "I" and "me." Even the car-takeover speech was "I-ed" to death. E.g.
My Auto Task Force

And so today, I am announcing that my administration will...

In this context, my administration will offer General Motors adequate working capital over the next 60 days. During this time, my team will be working closely with GM […]

… and so on. Is this fair? I mean, most politicians have healthy egos. (And by "healthy egos", I mean "egos that dwarf those of most normal people, which probably isn't healthy at all".)

But there will always be at least one brave blogger to do the math. Dan Riehl, in this case. He compared Obama's speech with Dubya's "first big bailout speech." Result: Obama's speech used the first-person singular nearly twice as frequently as Dubya's. Not definitive, but one data point is better than none.

If you would prefer a more substantive critique of Obama's speech yesterday than pronoun-counting, Russell Roberts of Cafe Hayek does a pretty merciless fisking. Check it out.

Pun Salad, on the other hand, would like to hit on this one little thing from the speech that drives your faithful blogger slightly nuts, emphasis added:

What we are asking is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more. It will require creditors to recognize that they cannot hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts. Only then can we ask American taxpayers who have already put up so much of their hard-earned money to once more invest in a revitalized auto industry.
Argh. I hate that.

I am an American taxpayer. I wasn't asked.

I will not be asked.

Saying that I will be asked insults my intelligence.

As a matter of fact, when my elected representatives were asked—specifically—to authorize a automaker bailout, they failed to approve it. Good old Dubya went ahead and did it anyway, using funds that were—specifically—intended for bailing out financial institutions. And Obama continues this relatively dictatorial abuse of executive power.

If it were a matter of "asking", then GM could "ask" investors to voluntarily provide the funding for its makeover. Since that would be insane, "asking" is not in the cards. It's a matter of coercive force, thank you very much.

In a just world, using such dishonest, weaselly rhetoric by high government officials would be grounds for old-school punishment.

"Mr. Obama, step to the chalkboard, and write 'Taxpayers aren't asked' one hundred times. Neatly. Then you will write a 300-word essay on the meaning of that statement. And please remember: each time in the future you claim that taxpayers will be 'asked' to fund one of your schemes, you will be 'asked' (in the same sense) to come back here and redo this assignment, doubled."

If I could do that without getting involved with the Secret Service, I would. In a heartbeat.

Last Modified 2009-03-31 8:31 PM EDT

The Ghost Brigades

[Amazon Link]

An impressive sequel to Old Man's War (blogged here). John Scalzi imagines a future where intelligent life is plentiful in our neck of the galaxy; unfortunately, most of it is really pissed off at humanity and not shy about demonstrating it without remorse. Genetic bio-engineering, transfer of consciousness, computer/human interfaces, and nanotechnology are all highly developed, and all developed into awesome and awful war-fighting tools.

This book concentrates on the "Special Forces" of humanity's interstellar soldiers; they are mostly clones, created from the DNA of Earthlings who volunteered for duty, but kicked the bucket before actually getting to serve. (Hence the term "Ghost Brigades") One exception is the hero: Jared Dirac, a clone of an apparent traitor to humanity, scientist Charles Boutin. Dirac gets a download of Boutin's consciousness in an attempt by higher-ups to get clues about what Boutin's up to; this doesn't appear to work, so Dirac goes right into the Special Forces. But then…

Scalzi continues to write wonderfully Heinleinesque prose, in service of a great yarn. I don't read much science fiction any more, but I've gone ahead and ordered the next book in the series (The Last Colony) and it will go near the top of my depressingly tall (and fortunately virtual) to-be-read pile. There was a Last Colony preview at the end of this book, so I know that the hero of Old Man's War, John Perry, will return; he's only mentioned in passing here.

[Update: just noticed, nearly six years after posting, that I misspelled Scalzi's title The Last Colony as The Lost Colony. Don't know why I did that, fixed in 2015.]

Last Modified 2015-02-01 10:31 AM EST