No plain speaking

In the heady world of high politics and high finance, when the going gets tough, the tough get metaphorical or need similes. I guess the issue is that saying something about stuff in words other than those which actually state what is really at stake may get a better reaction from people. People who have worked in large organizations have long been accustomed to hearing about ‘restructuring’ when jobs were being cut. But, some of it is about images and they are better to grasp than the reality of what is actually involved.

I’ve heard some great metaphors in recent days about possible budget cuts that are being proposed by the bipartisan National Commission of Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (while, I’m at it, perhaps that would become and acronym like NATCOFFR–geddit?).

First, was a quote attributed to Alan Simpson, one of the commission leaders: Government is “like a milk cow with 310 million tits”.

The dangerous political task that is being undertaken in cutting the woods and trees for every citizen cannot be understood unless you hear that the widespread proposals for cutting the government budget “has no 3rd rail” (untouchable item). Sorry, if you come from somewhere where there are either no trains or you have no idea what a 3rd rail could be.

Then, on the political front, as the president headed to Asia to deal with economic, financial, trade, and political issues, that in many instances he and other negotiators would have to deal with the “elephant in the room” (obvious problem that no one wants to discuss). I wondered if, during the visit to India, he would be taken aback if he actually saw an elephant in one of the state rooms. While there, I would suggest that he not mention taking the bull by the horns. He also should not get confused when visiting South Korea and wanting to take that one-time Asian tiger by the tail.

As a sign of the times, it was interesting to note that some commentator wanted to explain that problems used to be seen as “stovepipes” (dealt with separately), now they are “more general” (no metaphor for that). He also wanted to see that the US government was going to be “more like Google than …”.

The president too talked about “instead of hitting home runs, we may be hitting singles”. There’s a long history of using sporting metaphors and how they can often be totally misunderstood. POTUS, please note, and avoid another shellacking (a word whose fortunes have greatly increased since last week’s midterm elections).

Finally, I heard reference to something being like an “Ewok village on steroids”. It was not in relation to politics or economics, but I wonder how long it will take to cross over. That would be a game changer.

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About The Grasshopper

Professional international economist, recently retired from an international organization. I use blogging as a way of organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, and spent many years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for a few decades, and worked and travelled abroad extensively. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of girls. Also, married to an economist.
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