Thursday, September 25, 2008


The Non-Economic Analysis of What Just Happened.

The endless story of the primary and secondary models? 59

If you are George Bush, you have presented the primary model which argues that the national economy is going to meltdown any moment. You have also produced a secondary model which should propel the primary model to your desired results. The secondary model was the first dismal failure. Its increasing odor has now drawn the primary model into the swamp with it.

I have watched this unfold with the other politics wonks on my favorite web site. Comments and posts which had previously only infrequently amounted to more than a few paragraphs now present multipage quotations about who did what, when they did it and what the results were. The least interesting but probably the most educational are accounts of past legislation, particularly Senator McCain’s endless penchant for deregulation following his rehabilitation to the neo-cons after the Keating Five problem.

Rest easy, dear visitor. This post is all about models not history. Those energized web posters mentioned above can either establish a compelling argument for the culprit in this mess, or at least, wall paper the entire affair with their too-easily-copied-and-pasted quotations. (If you still have an appetite for more of that stuff, visit my favorite after you finish here.

and on to the forums “Domestic Politics” and “Economics.” It’s all there waiting there for you.)

Now to the models. A quick description might be in order. The primary model of any communication defines the essence of it, the question, the answer etc. The secondary model defines the mechanism of its transmission. In a sense, the primary model is the message; the secondary model is the massage.

Primary models have the foundational quality of being about something. Secondary models, on the other hand, deal entirely with the business of communicating the primary model. Both are critically important aspects of communication’s effectivity as one of the pillars of human affairs.

Concerning the proposition of Mr. Bush’s inflammatory warning about the economy, no one I’ve encountered can confidently say whether or not the threat he describes is real. That state of affairs, for example, decries his track record of secondary models in rather harsh terms. Yes, we know what his initial proposition contains, however, the secondary model he employed to manipulate us into action is, frankly, insulting. As such, it is nothing new.

So, what exactly is this secondary model we are looking at here? That is, of course, the secondary model as we see it, not the “lipstick” version rolling around the House Committee Hearings.

It’s suspiciously intriguing that, like the last one, this one began on 9/11.

The Secondary Model:

The President approaches the nation breathlessly communicating an immense threat. No one has any particular way of knowing any more about the threat than they did the last time he did this Once more, we only seem to know what he and his cabinet appointees are telling us about it. Now come the questions.

Do we trust this man? Has he told us the truth before? Has he always acted sincerely in our interests? Does it turn out that our idea about his judgment could bear the facts that came out later? Like last time?

Did he tell us the truth about the threat? Did he know about it earlier than when he told us about it? Is he telling us everything he knows now? Is he telling us enough so we can make a reasonably good decision about what to do? Or, is it like last time?

The “when” became a rather “pregnant” issue with the last threat he told us about. Did this new threat of his just “pop up out of the blue” without warning? Like last time?

The President has told us that we must act fast, and by “act” he means that we should do what he suggests we do, fast. Like the Patriot Act. Like the Military Force Authorization. Like the pharmaceutical bill. Right away, please! We have to do everything right away or face the dire consequences? Of course. It’s urgent. If we are foolish enough to wait, to think about it, all will be lost!

We can think about it later. This is a lot of our money. We’ll have time to think about it while we are paying it back.

Do we trust this man with even more of our money? Has he done a good job with the money we have given over to him in the past? Has he told us what he bought with it? Who got it? Where it is now?

Then, of course, there are the experts. They are the ones who know all abut this. Why it is urgent. Why it is worth so much. What happens if they don’t get it. Have we had good results with his experts in the past? With Donald Rumsfeld? With Carl Rove? With House Speaker DeLay? Does this President show us his good judgment in picking his experts? Do we think that, somehow, he has started to do better? Did we trust those people? Should we have trusted them? Like last time?

The expert here is Treasury Secretary Paulson. The company that is getting discussed as the next corporate fatality of this mess is called Goldman Sachs. Treasury Secretary Paulson used to be the CEO of Goldman Sachs. He apparently has $630 million dollars worth of Goldman Sachs stock in his personal fortune.

Should we trust him? Has he always done a “good job” in the past? Was he as surprised as the President when this just suddenly happened? Would he have come up with the same plan if Goldman Sachs weren’t tanking with the other investment banks?

All of this is the secondary model. These unfortunate men have started this sales effort with utterly derelict credibility. The taxpayers they are trying to convince are already exhausted, injured and, deservedly, suspicious. They are afraid. The first issue of this secondary model was to frighten them further. Like last time?

Does anybody else worry that this might not be what it is presented to be? I guess we are pretty much done with George Bush’s judgment. That leaves us stranded in an unpleasant place where we have been before, stranded with only our judgment -- our intuition. Since we have no facts, we can only try to do better than we did last time.


  1. Chad, interesting blog. It was fun shootin the shit with you at Winnings.

  2. Ben,

    This comment vector is as close as I can get. My address is

    Drop me a note, I'll return the PDF attached to an email response.

    3:15PM, Tuesday, Oct 28. After coffee with Ben and Danyelle.

    Best Chad