What Annoys Jeff this Week? The

1. Water and ice. I had to pull the refrigerator out for the first time since I moved in to Fortress Jeff. It’s a nice enough refrigerator and it came with the house, but I’ve always been a little annoyed that it didn’t have an ice maker – or better yet, water and ice through the door. After almost three years of living here I’ve now officially discovered that the place is actually plumbed for a refrigerator that could make all the cold water and ice I could ever want. And now I’m even more annoyed by the people who made the conscious decision not to buy a fridge that takes advantage of it. Seriously. Who does that?

2. Republicans. I remember when one of the central planks of the Republican Party was controlling the deficit and reducing the national debt. The “budget bill” now before Congress is something that would make any decent Reagan-era Republican choke. I miss real Republicans.

3. Democrats. I remember when one of the central planks of the Democratic Party platform was building up social programs that benefited America’s most needy citizens. Based on the fight being put up in the House of Representatives, the Democratic Party now seems more concerned with securing rights for foreign nationals who are in the country illegally than they are taking care of business for actual United States citizens. I miss real Democrats.

The dumbing of America…

Every few years whoever happens to be president at the time signs an updated version of the Plain Writing Act, an act designed to “enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing that Government documents issued to the public must be written clearly, and for other purposes.” If anyone’s interested, that’s language from Public Law 111-274. As far as I can tell from my quick look at the act, it’s mostly one big complaint that bureaucrats use big words and that John Q. Dipstick, Citizen, can’t quite wrap his head around what they mean.

I’m not so sure that’s a failure of writing style as it is a failure of the average citizen to read and comprehend documents that by nature tend to be lengthy and sometimes technical in nature. The reason that there are 15 cabinet departments and half a gazillion other executive agencies and offices is that each deals with a more or less specialized activities and functions. Trying to write every document in every one of those departments, agencies, and offices so the average 8th grader could read and understand them pretty much defines futility. Most of these documents are written by nominal experts in their respective fields for other professionals in that same field.

I may not be an expert in the roles and functions of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, but you can bet that if I really get a hankering to know the details of Open Market Operations, I can go to a Wiki or other page somewhere that his it dumbed down sufficiently that even a history major can understand it. To expect an “average” citizen to pick up a policy document and be able to completely understand how the Fed works in one reading boarders on the preposterous. Everyone understands the concept of “money,” but the entire system that underlays why we all accept that the dollar is money is insanely complex. The government doesn’t do itself or its citizens any justice by trying to make it seem simple. I’d suspect most efforts to dumb down the explanation to the satisfaction of the cranks who care about such things as the Plain Writing Act would be to effectively say that the Fed operates by magic because its activities are sufficiently advanced enough for the two to be indistinguishable by the “average” observer.

Hey, I’m all for an informed citizenry. That’s the only real bulwark we have against the unlimited growth of government power. Still, I don’t think that means government needs to do its business as if every citizen is too stupid to comprehend three syllable words. Sure, make the forms and paper work so easy a caveman could fill them out, but please, let’s not spend a lot of time getting carried away by the idea that everything written needs to be understood by all 300 million of us all the time. Maybe since 10% of the population speaks Spanish as its primary language, we should go ahead and start translating all our policies, forms, and legal documents into Spanish while we’re at it. Maybe you don’t see it, but to me it’s just two sides of the same argument.