Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | May 19, 2003

28 Words You Can Never Say on Television

There are some things you just can't say on television.

Comedian George Carlin once claimed there were "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television". The US Supreme Court (FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 1974) ultimately affirmed Carlin's view, and consequently these words are forever etched in the annals of Supreme Court argument.

There are some other things you can never say on television. If you dare let them pass your lips, a horde of c***s***ing corporate media c***s will f***ing p*** all over your m****f***ing s***, leaving whatever point you were trying to make t**s up in the ensuing rhubarb.

You can't say "We won't always have the strongest military" ... even though we won't.

History is clear on this -- powers rise, powers fall. Overextended powers even disappear. Nobody stays #1 forever.

We saw straight-talking Howard Dean try to say it. We saw Howard Dean get ****ed over, and back off.

You can never say "The Iraqi people are not yet better off" ... even though they aren't.

For now, the Iraqi people are objectively worse off in terms of common utilities (electricity, phone, water, sanitation) ... personal survival (physical security, emergency medical care) ... economic output and income.

For now, unemployment is near 90%, petroleum production is near zero, and the safety net is unraveling. The Iraqi people materially and culturally worse off.

For now, the people face more mortal uncertainty -- prospect of bloody ethnic and factional warfare -- not less. For now, there's more freedom of speech, but speech has no more effect on results than it did under Saddam (when people at least knew who to salute and when to duck).

We saw Howard Dean respond with insufficient enthusiasm when his minder prompted:

BLITZER: But aren't the people of Iraq so much better off now without Saddam Hussein on their back?
DEAN: We don't know that yet.
The reaction was overwhelming -- something like an Iraqi citizen might have gotten for failing to cheer loud enough on Saddam's birthday.

You can never say "Government creates jobs" ... even though it does.

One in five workers is a government employee. Government purchases, contracts, and compliance programs account for many more private sector workers.

Government creates even more jobs in less obvious ways. Jobs in private industry don't grow on trees ... they grow on industries. Government played essential roles in creating and advancing every major American industry, either by original initiative and investment, institutional innovation, research and technology transfer, financial support and risk reduction, early adoption and learning-curve amortization, conflict resolution, safety assurance, standard-setting, and countless more subtle influences.

It was true of 19th-century farming and railroads. It's true of genomics and the internet today. It's true on global scale. It's true on national scale. It's often true on state and local scale ... scratch a local boomlet in a particular industry, and you'll probably find creative partnerships bewteen private sector leadership and activist government.

It's true especially of growth industries, and there's every reason to think all this will be even more true of tomorrow's information-intensive industries.

But nobody dare say it. Laura D'Andrea Tyson -- economic front-person for the greatest growth era in US history -- used to mumble something about how government couldn't create jobs but it could create the climate for them. Nonsense. Tyson knew better. Everybody knows better. But she could never say it on television.

You can never say "Government creates wealth" ... even though it does.

Dollar for dollar, most of the accumulated capital in still existence today is the product of public sector expenditures. (This is still true if we exclude the squishy valuation of traditional defensive assets -- military, police, sanctity of contract, building codes -- and the more controversial forms of "social capital".)

More capital formation will take place this year in the public sector than in the private sector, if we properly weight capital assets by useful life. Public works and the human capital improvements of public education have useful lives of many decades. Advances in basic research may have useful lives measured in centuries. With small exceptions, private capital assets have useful lives measures in years.

When it comes to net capital formation, each public sector dollar outgains its private sector rival by a factor of better than 4-to-1.

If we were better capitalists we'd notice this, and plow more dollars into the higher-yield "line of business". Instead we plow money into think-tanks for tax-cutting, outsourcing, downsizing and privatization schemes ... fitting the Golden Goose for a pair of cement overshoes.

And you can never say "We have the worst health care system" ... even though we do.

America pays much more for health care than anybody else (13% of GDP). Everybody else (in the industrialized world, anyway) gets better outcomes.

Yeah, but it's better than Big Government, right? Wrong. America spends MORE TAX MONEY per capita than any nation on earth (with the possible, occasional, marginal exception of Switzerland). Tax money already buys 44% of total health care, if we count direct programs (Medicare, etc.) only ... with subsidies and other indirect spending, the government share is 60% of total spending. Big Gubmint is already here ... but our version doesn't cover everybody or get results.

Sen. John Kerry submits the required declaration in conventional form: "America has the best health care system in the world ... [BUT here's how we can fix it]".

This brings us to the threshhold of the health care debate. It's mostly dealing with unflattering realities ... not our strong suit. How will we ever get anywhere so long as everybody swears "America has the best..."?

RonK, Seattle

Posted May 19, 2003 12:01 AM | Comments (86)


Bush Administration
Business and Economy
Foreign Policy

© 2002. Steal all you want.
(For non-commercial use, that is.)