For some reason, Pun Salad has long been fascinated with the rhetoric
of President Obama and his minions. One of our early catches
was his use of the word "dime", on which we blogged
and most recently
It's safe to say that when the President says "dime", it's a
signal that the truth content of his speech is about to plummet.
And the indicator remains reliable:
Obama was in Boston on Sunday, trying to resuscitate
the Senate candidacy of
Martha Coakley. Somewhere in the middle, he switched on
Demogogic Populist Mode:
It was your tax dollars that saved Wall Street banks from their own
recklessness, keeping them from collapsing and dragging our entire
economy down with them. But today, those same banks are once again
making billions in profits and on track to hand out more money in
bonuses than ever before, while the American people are still in a world
of hurt. Now, we've recovered most of your money already, but I don't
think "most of your money" is good enough. We want all our money back.
We're going to collect every dime. (Applause.) That's why I proposed a
new fee on the largest financial firms -- to pay the American people
back for saving their skin.
I didn't watch the speech, but Byron York deemed it
"lackluster", also "halting, wandering, and humorless." But at least one
blogger (who, darnit, I can't recall) noted that the above bit was
where the President actually seemed to come alive. Others noted that
Obama didn't want to talk much about an actual supposedly-important
issue: the increasingly-unpopular Obamacare. Instead we're being treated
to a sneak preview of Barackrobatics, version 2010.0: phony
We've already pointed to the WSJ critique
of the substance of
this proposal: the entities tasked with "paying the American people back"
are the ones who have already repaid the TARP money with interest.
GM, Chrysler, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac: all exempt, and will never pay
back their TARP funds.
But it's worth pointing out another dazzling feat of Barackrobatics:
calling it a "fee", avoiding (for some reason) the dreaded word "tax".
Obama went on:
But instead of taking the side of working families in Massachusetts,
Martha's opponent is already walking in lockstep with Washington
Republicans, opposing that fee, defending the same fat cats who are
getting rewarded for their failure. Now, there's a big difference here.
It gives you a sense of who the respective candidates are going to be
fighting for, despite the rhetoric, despite the television ads, despite
the truck. (Laughter.) Martha is going to make sure you get your money
back. (Applause.) She's got your back. Her opponent has got Wall
Street's back. (Applause.)
Emphasis added. Nope, can't call it a tax. Especially when Coakley's
opponent, Scott Brown,
has been painting her as anxious to increase taxes; it would
be inconvenient to have Barack Obama enthusiastically agree with him.
Jim Harper has an invaluable
post that debunks this nomenclature. If I may paraphrase "Yes, it's a tax. You're not
fooling anyone, Mr. President."
Harper was once responsible for
making this distinction for legislative purposes;
it's more subtle than one might think. And, he notes, that
even the NYT isn't fooled
by the Administration's "fee" misnomer:
President Obama laid down his proposal for a new tax on the nation's
largest financial institutions on Thursday, saying he wanted "to recover
every single dime the American people are owed" for bailing out the
Yup, there it is again: "dime".
(Also worth reading: Prof Althouse's analysis of the Obama
speech. She is not kind.)