The Great Depression Online

Great Depression Online Archive Issue:

Healing The Crippled

Great Depression Online
Long Beach, CA
May 13, 2008

Inside This Issue You Will Discover…

*** The Elite Spin Doctor
*** Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson In Review
*** Hoping For Spin
*** And More

“Human life and its persons are poor empirical pretensions.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Elite Spin Doctor

We’ll take a moment of your time today to reflect on an important and admired aspect of the modern world.  It’s an old shortcoming of humanity.  And it expresses itself in the individual in relative proportion to the size of one’s ego.

While it may not be entirely upright, it’s respected.  In fact, it’s revered.  Mastery of this single skill ensures gainful employment.  And it’s even a prerequisite for successful leadership in public office. 

What we’re getting at is the modern art and science of deception.  And in this day and age it’s attained the much esteemed and exclusive title of “spin”.  Moreover, skilled practitioners of spin have earned the elite title of Doctor – or “Spin Doctor” – for their divine ability to heal the crippled, cure the ailing, and transform the truth.

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Dexterous spin strategies include cherry picking facts, substituting euphemisms and doublespeak to distort reality, and qualifying statements with “I believe” or “it’s my opinion that”.  Another popular method is to develop a predisposed study to fashion misleading statistical arguments.

Then there’s the advanced “non-denial denial” technique…where the Spin Doctor denies allegations with responses that appear direct even though they are evasive.  Classic “non-denial denial” strategies include bold responses beginning with “that’s ridiculous” or “that’s absurd”.

Yet with all these strategies and tactics, it’s important for a Spin Doctor to remember that overuse can result in a rapid loss credibility.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson In Review

On August 1, 2006, Henry Paulson delivered his first major public speech as Treasury Secretary of the United States.  On that summer day he told the audience at Columbia Business School

“I believe that a strong dollar is in our nation’s interest and that currency values should be determined in open and competitive markets in response to underlying economic fundamentals.

“So you will see me continue to focus on policies that maintain and strengthen confidence in the U.S. economy and increase productivity.”

Less than two years later, on March 6, 2008, the dollar index – which measures the value of the dollar relative to a basket of foreign currencies – touched 72.89, the lowest level since its inception in 1973.  Last Friday, May 9th, the dollar index was at 73.05.

Then there was this observation, which was made on the eve of the largest banking crisis in modern global finance, and reported by Leon Hadar in a March 14, 2007, article posted on the Asia Times Online…

“Credit issues are there, but they are contained.”

Several days later Treasury Secretary Paulson followed it up with this…

“I feel very good about the global economy and the fundamentals.”

Just a few months after these statements it was clear that credit issues weren’t contained and that global economic fundamentals weren’t good, as global credit markets seized up and fell into a state of chaos. 

By April 8, 2008, the IMF estimated that the price tag for the global credit crisis could reach $945 billion…nearly $1-trillion.  “The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday [April 8, 2008] the worldwide losses stemming from the US subprime mortgage crisis could hit 945 billion dollars as the impact spreads in the global economy,” reported Veronica Smith for AFP.

Hoping For Spin

We presume that staff at the United States Treasury tracks and compiles some of the best economic research in the world.  And we know that hindsight is always 20/20…accurately predicting the future is impossible. 

Still we can’t help but wonder if Paulson’s statements on the “strong dollar,” “credit issues,” and the health of the “global economy and the fundamentals,” are merely spin.

In fact, we hope they’re spin.  Because if they’re not, the term moron is best suited to describe their communicator.

Last week, “In an interview with The Associated Press,” reports Jeannine Aversa and Martin Crutsinger, “Paulson said that the turmoil that has gripped Wall Street and took a turn for the worse again in March has eased somewhat. ‘There’s progress,’ he said. ‘I think we're closer to the end of this than the beginning.”’

Based on Paulson’s track record…we’re skeptical.


M.N. Gordon
Great Depression Online

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