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Sun., Jan. 1, 2012, midnight

Smart Bombs: Avoid political Twinkies

Skip the political junk food. Exercise the mind. Tighten up that thinking.

New Year’s resolutions or a political pledge? Doesn’t matter; just sign on the dotted line. Here are some memes, themes and schemes that are merely empty calories. Resist them to become a better you.

Obama and the Teleprompters. This one symbolizes a tactic that’s become strangely popular. Take something that’s common and pretend it’s exclusive to a hated politician. Conservatives love to chortle about Barack Obama’s use of a speech device all presidents have employed since it was invented.

The idea, I suppose, is that he really isn’t intelligent and articulate, and that all of his degrees and accomplishments were handed to him. And if we could just get a peek at his college transcripts and all other personal records, the façade would all come crashing down. So it has a tinge of birtherism, too.

A close cousin to this meme is the charge that he didn’t write his autobiography. If you go to the websites with the “true facts” and cartoon fonts, you’ll “discover” that it was written by that firebombing college radical William Ayers. Because, come on, it just isn’t believable that a man who reads off a teleprompter could write a book, even if he was a member of the Harvard Law Review.

Don’t be surprised if a new line of attack opens this year: Obama lives in government housing and flies free!

Save the Good Parts. Americans wanted health care reform, but did they want this solution? About half say no, but some aspects of it are popular. That’s all a politician needs to know before pouncing.

Save the good parts and toss the bad parts, they proclaim. As always in politics, “good” means popular, not workable.

People generally like the health care reform provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plans. They’re happy they won’t be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. They’re intrigued by the exchanges that would be available for those who can’t purchase coverage through employers.

So, pandering politicians say keep all that, and dump the mandate to purchase insurance. (This includes presidential candidates who supported mandates when Republicans proposed them.) Then, when they take power, they can pretend to be stunned when insurers say this will drive them out of business.

If healthy people aren’t mandated to buy insurance, then insurers can’t cover the inevitable losses that would arise from the mandate (ahem!) that forced them to sell policies to sick people without delving into health histories and pricing premiums accordingly.

That no-questions-asked format worked wonderfully when banks and brokers sold mortgages willy-nilly, so it can work with health insurance, right?

Wrong. And the panderers know it.

The reason “Obamacare” isn’t more popular is it attempts to get people to pay for insurance before they need it, which is what makes insurance, well, insurance. Meanwhile, Medicare Part D (prescription drugs for seniors) has no funding mechanism, and nobody is suggesting it be repealed. It’s deficit-financing, pure and simple, and that’s why it’s popular … for now.

I find this exasperating, since government debt and personal responsibility are such hot topics these days, especially among seniors.

The Deficit Dodge. It works like this. Listen to an idea on cutting the deficit, and then change the subject to the economy. And vice versa.

“We need to raise revenue and/or cut spending to tame the deficit.”

“That will kill the economy.”

“We need to cut taxes and/or increase spending to stimulate the economy.”

“That will expand the deficit.”

Guess what? There is no easy solution that stimulates the economy while lowering the deficit. The panderers know this, so they keep changing the subject.

The beauty of this switcheroo lies in its simplicity. No teleprompter needed.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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