The accounts previously known as “private”

Objective journalism confronts Orwellian logic.

The Progress Report nails John Snow in Oceania-has-always-been-at-war-with-Eastasia mode:

As part of the effort to sell his plan, President Bush, who doesn’t like to “fine-tune [his] messages based upon polls,” has begun referring only to “personal accounts,” because it “polls better than the phrase ‘private accounts.'” Yesterday, during “Ask the White House” with Treasury Secretary John Snow, Jim from Colorado Springs took a ThinkProgress reader’s advice and asked, “What is the difference between the personal account now proposed by President Bush and private accounts he was talking about a month ago?” Snow responded, “The President has always referred to personal accounts, but some often mischaracterize them as ‘private accounts.'” By Snow’s analysis, Bush and his top aides have “mischaracterized” the president’s plan several times. Here’s our favorite, via Talking Points Memo, from a Bush-Cheney ’04 rally last September: “I believe younger workers ought to be able to take some of their own money, set aside a personal savings account that will help Social Security fulfill its promise, a private account that they can call their own, a private account they can pass on to the next generation and a private account that Government can’t take away.”

What’s really scary is not so much that we’re ruled by such a bunch of shameless liars, but that we’re ruled by a bunch of shameless liars who clearly believe — correctly, to date — that they can get away with this sort of crap.

So what’s an “objective” journalist to do? I suggest what might be called the “Prince principle”: refer to “the separate accounts which the White House previously called ‘private accounts’ but is now calling ‘personal accounts’.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com