Scott Brown and the Blob
Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race will not endure, writes Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal, “unless Republicans clearly understand the meaning of ‘the machine’ that he ran against and defeated.”
“Yes,” writes Henninger, “it is about a general revulsion at government spending, what is sometimes called ‘the blob.’ But blobs are shapeless things, and in the days ahead we will see the Obama White House work hard to reshape the blob into a deficit hawk. Unless the facade is ripped away, the machine will survive.”
Wait a second, did he just say “the blob”?
Yup, the very same.
This highly evocative and not exactly flattering moniker is a fairly popular way for those opposed to government spending to denigrate it with four measly letters that drip with scorn as they instantly trigger precisely the intended image: an out-of-control, oozing creature that can’t stop devouring everything around it.
Or, as a tag line for the original version of the movie put it: “Indescribable… indestructible… insatiable.”
Perhaps it is the inherent shapelessness of Blob the kitschy monster that lends a certain ambiguity to blob the economic metaphor. Though those who make the comparison are referring to aspects of the same general phenomenon, they do not always use it to mean precisely the same thing.
While Henninger used “blob” to refer to government spending, a reader of Louisiana newspaper The Town Talk compared the sci-fi creature to President Barack Obama.
In a letter to the editor published on the paper’s Web site, Tom Hough of Natchitoches, Louisiana, says the “ever-consuming, ever-growing Blob” is the “movie character that best fits Obama,” who, he says, doesn’t appear “as if he ever plans to reduce spending.”
Over at the financial news and opinion Web site Wall Street Pit, William L. Anderson uses the term as a synonym for the economy, as viewed by advocates of government spending.
Anderson, an assistant professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, cites an Associated Press article stating that the “federal spending surge of more than $20 billion for roads and bridges in President Barack Obama’s first stimulus has had no effect on local unemployment rates, raising questions about his argument for billions more to address an ‘urgent need to accelerate job growth.’”
”Why has this spending not had the desired effect?” he asks. “To answer that, one has to understand that an economy is not an amorphous blob into which one pours money in order to make the recipe complete.”
Anderson uses the blob metaphor in pretty much the same way on the blog of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which calls itself the “the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics” – in other words, not the biggest fan of blob-like spending, or as Anderson describes it in his Mises Economics Blog post, of blob economics.
Anderson gets a wee bit peevish, scattering scare quotes rather immoderately. ”You see, at the Hallowed Halls of MIT and Princeton (and the other ‘elite’ institutions of ‘higher’ learning), an economy is nothing more than a ‘blob’ of goods and spending, a perpetual motion machine that must continue to be greased by more spending,” he writes. “For all of the supposed sophisticated math that dominates the ‘elite’ or ‘A’ journals of economics, it pretty much comes down to ‘blob’ economics. Economists create extremely crude models of an economy, and then have the chutzpah to tell the rest of us that they have the ability to replace the workings of an economy and its billions of prices and transactions with their Own Infinite Wisdom.”
As with the other references to the 1958 horror flick, the blob as understood by Christopher Markowski, an anti-establishment financial consultant and radio host and author of the Watchdog on Wall Street blog, entails condemnation of government spending – but he doesn’t view the blob as a mistaken model of the economy or a way of describing spending practices themselves.
Instead, he writes, “The new and improved modern-day Blob is none other than our federal government. Instead of engulfing humans, this version swallows up money, our money, our tax dollars.”
But others are loath to grant the federal government an exclusive hold on bloated blobbishness.
NewJerseyNewsroom.com reports that the creature that voters fear may engulf Gov. Chris Christie is the state government, which it calls the “Trenton blob.”
For reasons that may be better left unexplored, blobs seem to be a big issue in the Garden State, as can be seen in a recent editorial in The Trentonian called “Christie goes up against The Blob,” which the paper defines as “the public sector.”
“All across America, from sea to shining sea, the public sector goes on spreading like some proliferating menace in a sci-fi movie,” the editorial states. “Out in California, it has reduced even The Terminator to a whimpering girlie-man. On the opposite end of the continent, here in New Jersey, can Gov. Chris Christie perform feats of strength that not even Arnold Swarzenegger could manage?”
Just as the movie Blob “engulfed everything in its path,” the paper says, “the public sector likewise seeks to eliminate obstacles to its inexorable expansion. (For example, uncooperative politicians.) And meanwhile with a single-minded purpose it seeks out sustenance. (For example, cooperative politicians bankrolled by public sector unions.)”
So, does “the blob” (or, for more frightening effect, “The Blob”) refer to government spending, a pro-spending view of the economy, the federal government, the state government or Obama himself? There is no one answer, it seems, but if nothing else, you can be pretty sure that if you spot the word “blob” in a piece about the economy, you’re probably not reading a proposal for another stimulus package.
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