The Difference Between a Bailout and a Rescue

If Congress passes a massive financial package to shore up the American economy, it could be due to good old fashioned story telling. Or as it’s known in Washington, spin. Consider the connotations:

Wall Street Bailout – The American public is forced to save those corrupt, yet powerful suits whose greed got us into this mess in the first place. They poked holes in their boat and now we’ve got to save them from drowning or else they’ll drag the rest of us down with them.

Financial Rescue – The American public is a damsel in distress, tied to the railroad tracks. We’ve got to get help quickly before the runaway train Wall Street has set in motion flattens us forevermore!

See why the language has changed?

  • We’re not saving the financial institutions; we’re saving the average American.
    It’s not a taxpayer expense; it’s an investment in the financial security of every American.

According to an AP story last night:

McCain says: “Let’s not call it a bailout. Let’s call it a rescue.”

Obama says: “This is no longer just a Wall Street crisis — it’s an American crisis, and it’s the American economy that needs this rescue plan.”

Pelosi says: “Its not a bailout but a buy in, so that we can turn our economy around.”

Those politicians sure know how to turn a phrase.

Bailout is actually starting to sound better to me. At least it implies some sense of action on the part of the American public. By bailing out the bad guys we’re taking responsibility for our own futures. But others will prefer the paternal tone of rescue. It’s a kinder, gentler term. Someone’s got to take care of us, so it may as well be us.

Have we all just been played? Tell us what we want to hear – all of us – and get this thing passed. Because face it, none of us really know what’s in that bill. 

Or, should I be more optimistic about my own prospects? These people don’t write their own speeches. Will writers rule the world in the future?