June 24, 2009
The Dual Arts of Saving and CreatingBy Miguel A. Guanipa
A joke is told about a man who walked about constantly blowing a whistle, claiming that the annoying ringing sound kept the saber tooth tigers away. When confronted about the spuriousness of his preventative measures he responds: well, it must be working; you don't see any saber tooth tigers around, do you?
An equally inscrutable brand of logic runs through Obama's triumphant declaration that, though the country's unemployment rate has swiftly reached the 10% mark, he has actually "saved" 150,000 jobs. I suppose the number is really immaterial; he might just as well have said that he saved 5 million jobs. The question is how anybody, including Obama himself, can possibly measure this non-falsifiable, purely speculative claim.
I can almost imagine the conversation which must've transpired in the Oval Office between Obama and his uncommonly shrewd advisors.
O: How do you expect people to take me seriously when I say that I have actually saved jobs while we are facing the highest unemployment rate since 1985?
A: Mr. President, just say it. See if it flies. After all, it has never been tried before.
And fly it did; apparently. Not too many people asked for an explanation of what it actually means to have "saved" jobs; and fewer people wondered what it actually meant, as opposed to having "created" them.
If I may venture a guess, I suppose that what our well intentioned President was trying to do is arrive at a categorical equivalent of jobs that have not yet been lost. Every job that was "saved" means another employee who still has the job he had before Obama took office. Good for him or her and for Obama. Incidentally, the act of guessing would be a rather charitable comparison to the kind of verbal gymnastics Obama seems to be engaged in at this juncture.
The problem is, you could use the same specious kind of logic to support, say, the continual harbingers of world destruction via Anthropogenic Global Warming's most insufferable purveyor of fuzzy math: Al Gore. For example, you could say that, thanks to Mr. Gore, the policies that should be enforced to forestall the catastrophic effects of Global Warming will prevent at least 800 hurricanes in the next hurricane season, thus saving an estimate of 14.5 million people worldwide. Wait long enough and you should see that in the headlines.
Lets say you are a weatherman; you could use it to give a full assessment of the raindrops that did not fall in the last storm, thus preventing massive flooding of a specific wetlands region.
You could use it to estimate the previous year's alcohol consumption, and demonstrate that 8 million gallons of beer were not consumed last year, leading to the prevention of 65,000 accidents that did not happen. As an additional consequence, 30,000 people did not engage in promiscuous sex, leading to a roughly equivalent number of young adults who did not contract a venereal disease, and roughly 12,000 abortions that were not performed because, well, no babies were conceived. Imagine the possibilities. As Obama himself has declared, this is only the beginning.
While we're at it, why not cut the previous administration some slack, and use this highly esoteric, quantifying method to announce how many thousands of American soldiers were "saved" by the surge; or how many thousands of terrorists forsook a life of wanton destruction for the same reason.
Imagine; we can now find out how many turkeys did not make it to the chopping block last Thanksgiving; or how many trees were not hit by lightning; Better yet, how many ink cartridges were spared in the printing of the latest mammoth stimulus bill. I think you get the picture.
You could call it the Obama Redemption Story. Though presently Obama can not simultaneously do the saving and creating; Only God can. But just give Obama enough time.
But the sad truth is that it is far easier to claim one's initiatives have mitigated further calamity than to achieve measurable progress. It's the "we're not doing so good now, but look at the catastrophe we probably avoided" mentality. In the end it amounts to nothing more than useless nformation, and engenders a false sense of accomplishment by using utterly unquantifiable data, which is really just as good as no data at all. But who will dare step forward and decry the emperor's nakedness?
Such for whom Obama's admiration has crossed over into idolatry view this as a plenary apologetic for pending success. Until then, he may continue expounding imaginary figures to his cohorts in this rather peculiar way of measuring it.
Personally, a number that I would certainly like to know -- and one in which Obama is probably very interested -- is how many future votes were saved or created given his current performance in the domestic and global front. I suppose I could also garner some imaginary comfort from an equally abstruse, quantitative settlement of the yet unveiled poor excuses for failure that never actually made it out of the Obama think tank brainstorms.
One still has to wonder, when this cryptic formula for quantifying results runs out of steam, what Obama's next ploy for measuring the immeasurable will be; I will wager my projected lottery winnings that it may be something along the lines of: It's the thought that counts.