As the economy (read: capitalism) falters, almost no one is surprised by learning that the government has used taxpayers’ dollars unwisely. The level of lack of wisdom can turn such stories into the stuff of farce. Some imagine Washington, D.C. populated by numerous people with Ivy League educations who work for the federal government. Perhaps George Bush’s Yale degree undermined a bit the perception of D.C. as a marshland of mental giants. Readers can doubtless come up with examples from numerous political parties that would demonstrate a deficit of perspicacity in D.C. over the years.
“I was told to shut up,” he told Playboy. “I was saying, ‘This is crazy. This is embarrassing.’. . . I said, ‘Give us the algorithms that allowed you to come up with this stuff.’ They wouldn’t even do that. And I was screaming, ‘You gave these people fucking money?’”
Another example has come to light involving U.S. security measures. The government spent a hefty sum to a man who claimed he was a smarter version of Jack van Impe and Rexella, able to detect hidden messages about terrorist attacks by paying special attention to broadcasts by Al Jazeera. Reading the tale, you can learn a great deal about what works rhetorically in D.C. when someone wishes to extract money from the government for one’s personal gain. One rhetorical maneuver involves fashioning the message that what one is offering for payment is exactly what the other party is seeking, except you cannot offer a layperson’s explanation of what is being offered, because “it’s technical.” This appeal to complexity to turn off an audience’s skepticism can also be used by the victims of the rhetorical maneuver as evidenced by the following quotation from one of the D.C. victims quoted in the article:
“It didn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility,” she said. “We were relying on technical people to tell us whether or not it was feasible. I don’t regret having acted on it.”
The government giveth (even to crackpots), and the credit card companies taketh away. You might be unable to locate people who think well of credit card companies, and you will now have more reasons to understand the scarcity of such people. The credit card companies and their capitalist supporters have justified the high rates, in part, by claiming that the companies take a great credit risk by issuing credit cards to the general population, and especially to those at the lower end of the income spectrum. That rhetorical move by the credit card companies aims to appeal to common sense notions of financing, and moves most audiences away from a picture of credit that would show that the credit card companies choose to charge astronomical credit rates, because they simply want to make more profit, not because they are protecting themselves from the greater risks attached to offering credit to the poor or to those teetering on financial solvency. Just as bank executives and Wall Street companies do not want the government to cap bonuses for their CEOs, credit card companies balk at talk of caps on credit card rates.
If you’re currently paying 29.99% on your credit card, that’s not because it’s the minimum level at which you’re profitable for the bank: rather, it’s because it’s the level at which you’re maximally profitable for the bank. Big difference. There’s a very good chance the bank would make money charging you 16%, too — just not as much money.