Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the Inherent Contradiction of the Belt-Tightening Metaphor

I find it interesting that "belt-tightening," a metaphor for austerity, is spoken of favorably when used, and Obama is quite fond of this metaphor. When you pull your belt tighter than normal, you will likely cause yourself some degree of pain, and if it is too tight, you could find it difficult to breathe or could even end up sick.  Tightening your belt does not make you thinner or healthier.  At best, it can provide an illusion of health or form--as a girdle does, a sacrifice of comfort and security for the sake of appearances.  Health is achieved through exercise; tightening a belt is little different from torture. If not a girdle, then the overly tight belt reeks of a medieval torture device.  

The failure of the belt metaphor reminds me of an earlier extended metaphor I drew between political ideology and body image/health.  You get in better shape, not by tightening your belt, but by expending the right amount and eating enough (not too little but not too much).  In other words, you have to raise sufficient tax revenue, and you need to invest it in strong programs.  That's how you get fiscal health.

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