Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Word Watch

"The White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families is a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America."

White House Press Release: www.whitehouse.gov/strongmiddleclass/.

A little task force name adjustment has created one of those special Orwellian moments of groupthink. Middle class in the context of the task force obviously means both a group of people feeling stressed in today's economy and an aspirational goal for most Americans. It's about money, access, choices, lifestyle, etc.

But of course a simple explanation wasn't sufficient. Was the intent only to focus on the middle class because it represented a more bipartisan goal (as opposed to poverty reduction). In other words, who was left out?

And hence the evolution to "middle class working families." Confusion about whether to have or not to have a hyphen remains unresolved.

New problem: Are there middle class non-working families? Are there (we know there are) working families who are not middle class? Adding "working" doesn't solve the problem; it compounds it. Now low-income working families who aspire to be middle class are left out. How can families be middle class without working?

Why kick off the Task Force on Middle Class Working Families off with a discussion of green jobs. Green jobs are a great idea, and I'm sure we'll create some, but
how many of these jobs exist right now? Is this what middle-class working families need in this very moment?

David Brooks has a point: "Democrats apparently think that dealing with the crisis is a part time job,which leaves the afternoons free to work on long-range plans to reform education, health care, energy, and a dozen smaller things."

David Brooks, "Taking A Depression Seriously," New York Times, March 10, 2009.

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