ON THE MISUSE OF METAPHORS

Posted in Rants on August 16th, 2011 by Ed

Two vignettes from American political discourse, Summer 2011:

1. Warren Buffet, patriarch of the "celebrity CEO"/Kindly Market Oracle phenomenon, took to the nation's op-ed pages to state, "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice" and raise taxes on millionaire households, including capital gains and dividend taxes. He discussed the 400 highest-earning households, the "Super Rich", with authority; he is not only one of them, but he knows the majority of them personally. I choose not to participate in the kind of idolization we are urged to direct toward men of great wealth like Buffet, but it is clear that in this instance he is making a reasonable, obvious, and economically sound argument. This is what the kids might call a no-brainer.

2. Chuck Asay of the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, a syndicated columnist described as, "one of the few quality conservative cartoonists working in the industry today," offers this take on the same situation (click to embiggen):

It matters little how cogent an argument Buffet can make – this much more accurately reflects the way we see the plight of our social betters. The heroic Job Creators (and their friend Free Market) are being asked to carry the weight of the rest of us, be we the elderly, Unions, or god forbid College.

While the cartoon is easy to interpret, it is at the same time baffling. The scenario implies that Job Creators actually want someone to take over the oars or would allow that to happen if Entitlement Nation offered to help. And of course Entitlement Nation doesn't want to take the oars; it only wants to stare and say "Oh, help me, Popeye!"

Moreover, what exactly is Entitlement Nation supposed to do on a boat with two sets of oars? Perhaps the Job Creator and Free Market could bear the blame of using such little foresight when designing that product. Most importantly, though, is this Entitlement Nation-to-Job Producer ratio representative? If so, this only highlights what a small share of the population our political system, as Buffet points out, is catering to.

Job Creator and Free Market love this situation. They wouldn't have it any other way; they want control of the oars and great masses who are docile, worshipful, and compliant. Just look at the numbers and you'll see why. If everyone finally wakes up and realizes that the boat is going over the edge, guess who's getting thrown overboard or getting brained with an oar first. This is, in short, a very stupid metaphor that depends on the patently silly pretense that we all want nothing more than for our Job Creators to save us. Something tells me that everyone would chip in if the opportunity to do so existed, but since the Job Creators and Free Market only made oars for themselves I guess we're all going over the damn edge.