In Washington, undoing isn’t much harder than doing. Laws can be modified or repealed, officials defeated or impeached, rules amended or abolished. But how do you change a word? Or, more to the point, four words? Is there a committee? A complaint box? An incantation?
The issue is the dollar. Or, more specifically, how we talk about it. When its value goes up, we call it a “strong dollar.” And a “strong dollar” sounds great! It sounds like a strong America, like Old Glory waving in the breeze, like our soldiers planting the flag at Iwo Jima. As for the “weak dollar,” well, yech. That’s American decline, compact cars, the Vietnam War. We might as well say “awesome dollar” and “America-hater dollar.”
But it’s unwise to apply emotionally loaded words to economically neutral concepts. Now every major economic policymaker in America pledges his or her fealty to a strong dollar with the same glassy-eyed obedience you see in coerced confessions. “I believe deeply that it’s very important to the United States, to the economic health of the United States, that we maintain a strong dollar,” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said upon beginning his term. “The Federal Reserve believes that a strong and stable dollar is both in American interests and in the interests of the global economy,” Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke promised at his first news conference.