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Sun., July 3, 2011

Smart Bombs: Floyd was suited to the task

On Election Day, you’ll find Doug Floyd trudging up to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (or wherever) to drop off his ballot. If you wonder why, he’ll be glad to tell you – just make sure you aren’t needed elsewhere in the next hour or so. It’s something about communal practices of democratic rituals strengthening the bonds of our republic. In short, he despises mail-in voting.

Probably hates the designated hitter rule, too.

Doug’s last day on the job was Thursday, capping an illustrious 42-year newspaper career. No, he wasn’t one of Gutenberg’s interns, but his journalism arc did cover “hot type,” Teletypes and typewriters. He had the great fortune of working when ink-on-paper journalism ruled the day. His younger colleagues, which is to say all of us, are envious as we grapple with the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Doug ended his career as my boss. Don’t read too much into that. The best way I can describe what he was like at work is to tell a story about somebody else.

My first exposure to an editorial page editor was in Arizona, when I was temporarily assigned to edit copy for that section. The editor was a jolly soul who chortled and guffawed for hours to whoever was on the other end of his phone. He had a large staff for writing and editing, so he didn’t do a lot of that. He did wear nice suits. About that, he was quite diligent.

One day, I heard a rattling in the halls and looked up from my computer. The editor was heading for his office with a slight fellow pushing a rack of suits. From the tape measure around his neck, I deduced that this visitor was a tailor. They went into the editor’s office, closed the door and drew the blinds. Nobody else found this odd.

This is so not Doug.

While he did wear suits, the jacket didn’t stay on long and his shirt sleeves were usually rolled up. He wrote, edited, researched, reported, debated, negotiated with letter writers, organized and ran meetings, listened to public complaints and generally made his fellow board members’ lives easier by shielding us from the less appealing aspects of the job. Oh, and he produced an editorial page each day.

Typically, he ate lunch at his desk.

He did all of this with humility, humor and hardly any food stuck between his teeth. On his final day, he wrote two editorials and wrapped up that in-depth interview on the opposite page. Nobody found this odd.

On a personal level, Doug is a great guy. When I was struck with family tragedy, he was steadfast in his support and flexible upon my return to work. I will never forget that compassion, or the everyday examples on how to be a better journalist and a better man.

All the best, my friend, and enjoy those symbolic strolls to the ballot box. Just be sure to read our endorsements first.

Addition by subtraction. My favorite oxymoron of the moment is “job-killing government spending.” It stems from the penchant for placing “job-killing” in front of anything related to the Obama administration. So it’s job-killing health reform, job-killing stimulus, job-killing job training, job killing … whatever.

That’s smart politics, I suppose, since all polls find that job creation ought to be the nation’s No. 1 priority. So just note that something kills jobs, even if you can’t identify the victim. If you and I spend money, that’s good for the businesses we frequent. But if government officials write the checks, this somehow kills jobs.

“Look, boss, sales are way up this quarter!”

“Yeah, but that’s because the government bought a lot of the stuff. I’m afraid I’ll have to lay you off.”

Once you buy this theory, then “job-creating spending cuts” are an easy sale. But good luck with that in practice.

“Hey, the government stopped buying stuff. Can I have my job back?”

“Er, what?!”

Look, I understand spending cuts as part of a deficit reduction strategy, but to suggest they would spur job creation is absurd. I understand tax cuts to stimulate the economy, but to suggest they would lower the deficit is also absurd.

If budget-cutting did spark hiring, we could expect a drastic drop in the unemployment rate as state and local governments impose austerity budgets and lay off workers. But that isn’t even suggested by governors, legislators, mayors and council members. They don’t call for tax cuts either.

After all, they have budgets to balance.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at or at (509) 459-5026.

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