And so it bugs me when political types insist on parsing every word Obama says and insisting that it's some sort of code for what he's about to do. I understand why his critics do that, as they're so eager for him to finally confirm their suspicions that they'll jump on every clue they can find, no matter how vague or bizarre it is. But I wish the media would be a little better about this.
So I see an article titled Obama Suggests Value-Added Tax May be an Option, which opened with:
President Barack Obama suggested Wednesday that a new value-added tax on Americans is still on the table, seeming to show more openness to the idea than his aides have expressed in recent days.And first off, he's got one advisor who mentioned the idea, and two spokesmen who denied it was under consideration when asked about it repeatedly. So this counts as "aides" expressing the idea? Does Paul Volcker now count as more than one person, or are they including these denials as "expressing" the idea?
And since when does the chair of an advisory board count as an aide at all? I mean, the purpose of the board is to find "new ways of thinking," so it's not like Volcker is expressing Obama's opinions. That'd defeat the whole purpose. This isn't like things were in the Bush years, when even cabinet secretaries were nothing but glorified hypemen for the boss. Volcker's there to advise, not sell policies or run the show.
A Better Picture of the Options
And did Obama actually show openness to the idea? Only if you take his words and twist them into ultra-code absurdity. Here's what he said:
I know that there's been a lot of talk around town lately about the value-added tax. That is something that has worked for some countries. It's something that would be novel for the United States. And before, you know, I start saying 'this makes sense or that makes sense,' I want to get a better picture of what our options are.All he said was that he doesn't have an opinion and wants a better idea of what his options are. Did he say it wasn't an option? No. But he also didn't rule out the use of Death Tax Panels to determine how much of everyone's stuff the government gets when they die. Nor did he deny that he'll start imposing a 100% White People Tax on all the people he hates. But that doesn't mean they're under consideration.
Obama as Regular Guy
And any normal person reading his words would realize that Obama said he doesn't even know what the options are. No, he didn't rule it out, but he also didn't say it was an option. But newsies desperate for a story were quick to jump on his non-denial as proof that he's at least considering it. And yes, perhaps he IS slowly trying to get us to warm up to the idea. But Obama doesn't really have a track record for speaking in code like this, and there's no reason why we shouldn't simply accept his words at face value.
And that's something that some people just can't seem to wrap their heads around: Obama isn't a typical politician. He doesn't speak in memorized talking points and codewords. He's a real person who happens to be extremely intelligent and actually thinks about what he's saying. Because it would be stupid for him to outright state that a VAT isn't an option, if he doesn't know enough about it. It might be the best option in the world and then he'd be branded a liar for changing his mind.
And that's something else his critics simply can't grasp: He's not an ideologue. He's not president so he can push a specific economic or political theory. He just wants the best policies possible, whatever they are. He's said so himself, and it just makes sense. Even if he's a selfish man (which I'm sure he is, to a certain extent), then he'll want to make sure to do the best job possible. That's all he's after. So he can't rule-out certain policies if they might be the best ones for us.
And that's something these people just can't wrap their heads around. Yes, many politicians speak in codewords to say things they can't actually say, and Obama's predecessor was definitely one of those types. But sometimes, the cigar really is a cigar.