Show, don’t tell: two powerful communications lessons to remember

When teaching writing and communications, you always stress a basic lesson: show, don’t tell. In the spirit of showing, not telling, what I mean by show, don’t tell, I offer the following two examples.

First, from TPM:

And this bit of genius from the Times.

Consider yourself shown.


  • That’s a very powerful image from the Speaker of the House (using Bureau of Labor Statistics data). I expect that it’ll get worse again, though, both for political and practical reasons.

    Inventories are being built up again, albeit to a lower level than pre-recession, and that’s part of the reason that the economy has recovered to the point it has. But the other part is government stimulus spending, and that’s going to go away prematurely (just like it did in 1937, and for the same reasons – GOP complaints about the deficits and Democrats not sticking to their guns) and cause a double-dip recession.

    One of the things that bugs me about this is that the Democrats can point to the 1937 dip as proof that they need to keep government spending up – but they’re not doing it, hoping that this time the voters won’t hand them their heads even though they provide no reason that the voters shouldn’t.

    And the GOP is sticking to their free market/low taxes/small government ideology instead of bowing to the historical precedent that showed that cutting the federal deficit killed a recovery in 1937. You’d think that the GOP, financial economic mavens that they’re supposed to be, would understand that the economy didn’t work that way back then, and so there’s a really good chance it won’t this time either. But you’d be wrong.

    If I recall, one definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while hoping for a different outcome this time, and both parties are guilty, albeit in different ways. It’s maddening.

    This ain’t over yet, not by a long shot.

  • @ Brian. Good point, though things were different then. We didn’t have lenders like China back then; breathing down our necks and telling us to stop printing cash. We also weren’t supporting a multi-trillion dollar empire via two wars and hundreds of foreign bases back in 1937.

    With all of this government stimulus and universal health care talk, I can’t help but wonder if the administration is trying to force the nation to give up its empire by making it financially untenable. Maybe that’s the real objective here.

  • @fikshun, that’d be cool if it were the case, but given that Obama has said that Defense and “Homeland Security” are not on the chopping block…and that he’s been increasing those budgets while talking about cutting everything else…i don’t think that’s the case. He’s following the neoliberal playbook perfectly. Besides, the only economic stimulus that can pass Congress with ease is military spending, even though it’s an ineffective and inefficient stimulus. The baseline DoD budget has more than doubled since 2001.

    Unless Obama’s got his 13th dimensional chess hat on and is purposefully planning on bankrupting the country in order that the empire must be liquidated.

    It is a nifty graph, but being based on government numbers i’m not willing to trust its veracity. They game them all to make unemployment and inflation go away. In fact (though i don’t have the link handy), one of those reports from the Obama side was debunked as not so subtle gaming of the statistics almost immediately after being presented. The USG will not start talking about the real unemployment numbers…

    If they did, we’d not be talking about double dip recessions but rather the second leg of depressions.

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