"bait and switch"
laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 23 20:39:08 UTC 2005
At 11:03 AM -0800 1/23/05, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>I'd guess that Batura settled on "bait and switch" as a vivid
>alternative to "deception" or "hidden agenda", without thinking through
>the details. Are there other occurrences of such extended uses of this
That is curious. In recent political contexts, I've more often come
across "bait and switch" in op-ed pieces from the left, or at least
from those critical of the current administration and its policies.
Economist Paul Krugman in particular seems very font of this turn, as
applied especially (but not only) to the handling of Social Security
and tax cuts. Nexis turns up 11 hits of "bait and switch" (not
necessarily requiring the propinquity of an actual conjoined NP, as
the first example shows) from Krugman op-ed columns or, in one case,
a piece by him for the Magazine. Some random examples appear below.
But clearly these are all much more conventional applications of the
figure than the one involving Messrs. SpongeBob and Batura.
I wonder if there are enough critics of Bush et al. who follow
Krugman in this accusation to have inspired Batura to apply the same
term for their own ends, whether or not the circumstances justify it.
But it's even worse than that. Before Greenspan became Fed chairman,
he headed a commission that recommended changes in Social Security to
secure its future. The most important recommendation, adopted by
Congress, was for an increase in the payroll tax -- a regressive tax
that falls much more heavily on lower- and middle-income families
than it does on the well-off. The ostensible purpose was to generate
a surplus within the Social Security system, building up a trust fund
to pay benefits once the baby boomers retire.
That was the *bait*; now Greenspan has pulled the *switch*. The
sequence looks like this: he pushed through an increase in taxes on
working Americans, generating a Social Security surplus. Then he used
the overall surplus, mainly coming from Social Security, to argue for
tax cuts that deliver very little relief to most people but are worth
a lot to those making more than $300,000 a year. And now that those
tax cuts have contributed to a soaring deficit, he wants to maintain
the tax cuts while cutting Social Security benefits. He never said,
''Let's raise taxes and cut benefits for working families so that we
can give big tax cuts to the rich!'' But that's the end result of his
Last week The Washington Post got hold of an Office of Management
and Budget memo that directed federal agencies to prepare for
post-election cuts in programs that George Bush has been touting on
the campaign trail. These include nutrition for women, infants and
children; Head Start; and homeland security. The numbers match those
on a computer printout leaked earlier this year -- one that
administration officials claimed did not reflect policy.
Beyond the routine mendacity, the case of the leaked memo points us
to a larger truth: whatever they may say in public, administration
officials know that sustaining Mr. Bush's tax cuts will require large
cuts in popular government programs. And for the vast majority of
Americans, the losses from these cuts will outweigh any gains from
It has long been clear that the Bush administration's claim that it
can simultaneously pursue war, large tax cuts and a ''compassionate''
agenda doesn't add up. Now we have direct confirmation that the White
House is engaged in **bait and switch**, that it intends to pursue a
not at all compassionate agenda after this year's election.
That agenda is to impose Dooh Nibor economics -- Robin Hood in
reverse. The end result of current policies will be a large-scale
transfer of income from the middle class to the very affluent, in
which about 80 percent of the population will lose and the bulk of
the gains will go to people with incomes of more than $200,000 per
And the reason Social Security is in fairly good shape is that during
the 1980's the Greenspan commission persuaded Congress to increase
the payroll tax, which supports the program.
The payroll tax is regressive: it falls much more heavily on middle-
and lower-income families than it does on the rich. In fact,
according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, families near the
middle of the income distribution pay almost twice as much in payroll
taxes as in income taxes. Yet people were willing to accept a
regressive tax increase to sustain Social Security.
Now the joke's on them. Mr. Greenspan pushed through an increase in
taxes on working Americans, generating a Social Security surplus.
Then he used that surplus to argue for tax cuts that deliver very
little relief to most people, but are worth a lot to those making
more than $300,000 a year. And now that those tax cuts have
contributed to a soaring deficit, he wants to cut Social Security
The point, of course, is that if anyone had tried to sell this
package honestly -- ''Let's raise taxes and cut benefits for working
families so we can give big tax cuts to the rich!'' -- voters would
have been outraged. So the class warriors of the right engaged in
At one level, this pattern of cuts is standard operating procedure.
Just about every apparent promise of financial generosity this
administration has made (other than those involving tax cuts for top
brackets and corporate contracts) has turned out to be
nonoperational. No Child Left Behind got left behind -- or at least
left without funds. AmeriCorps got praised in the State of the Union
address, then left high and dry in the budget that followed. New
York's firefighters and policemen got a photo-op with the president,
but very little money. For that matter, it's clear that New York will
never see the full $20 billion it was promised for rebuilding. Why
shouldn't soldiers find themselves subject to the same kind of **bait
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