Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It That Must Not be Named

Some historical perspective and humor from Bruce Yandle of Clemson University. So much for talking up the economy...

Funny thing about the R word ("Recession"). There was a time during the Carter Administration when fear of recession was more than the president could stand. Apparently, he believed a recession could be avoided if none of his officials used the word in testimony or discussion with the press. In a word, they were muzzled.

Bruce MacEwen, creator and host of Adam Smith, esq, (www.bmacewen.com) tells how Mr. Carter’s regulatory czar and head of the Civil Aeronautics Board Alfred Kahn dealt with the muzzle. Not one to be cornered when it came to talking, Fred Kahn was called to the Hill to testify about the economic outlook.

When asked point blank about the prospects for a recession, Fred, somewhat floored, remembered his instructions and noted that he could not speak directly to the question, but that he did expect there might be a “banana.” Banana then became the Washington code word for recession. Bruce MacEwen tells us that when the banana industry complained, Fred Kahn changed the code word to “cumquat.” The cumquat lobby was less effective in avoiding the hit.

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