In defense of "bailout"

No, don’t get the wrong idea from the headline. We haven’t suddenly swooned to the siren song of intervention. Rather it’s the word itself that has come under attack, and today I rise to its defense.

At the end of every year, Lake Superior State University in Michigan issues a list of cliches it would just as soon see banished from the English language. Every year it gets a bit of media coverage; it’s an OK “water-cooler” story at a time the news cycle runs in low gear. The cliche that seemed to be mentioned the most in this year’s stories was “bailout.”

When I first heard this on the radio, I scratched my head: Yes, it’s hard to avoid running into the word these days. But what makes it overused, or trite, or any of the other standards of your garden-variety cliche? Well, let’s examine the rationale of the folks who submitted the word for consideration:

“Use of emergency funds to remove toxic assets from banks’ balance sheets is not a bailout. When your cousin calls you from jail in the middle of the night, he wants a bailout.” Ben Green, State College, Penn.

And in its stead you would propose… what exactly?

“Is it a loan? Is it a purchase of assets by the government? Is it a gift made by the taxpayers?” Dave Gill, Traverse City, Mich.

I suppose it can be any one of those things. It’s convenient shorthand for any grant of taxpayer money to private entities.

“Now it seems as though every sector of the economy wants a bailout. Unfortunately, ordinary workers can’t qualify.” Tony, McLeansville, NC.

“Don’t we love how Capitol Hill will bailout Wall Street, but not Main Street”? Derrick Chamberlain, Midland, Mich.

Valid observations, both, but what makes it a cliche worthy of banishment from common usage?

In short, every argument the university presents on its website falls flat, or is irrelevant.

There’s an additional beauty about “bailout.” Establishment media have adopted it wholesale despite the preference of the money-shuffling class for the more benign-sounding “rescue.”

As G. Edward Griffin titled one of his chapters in The Creature from Jekyll Island, “The name of the game is bailout.”

It’s a good word. Let’s not retire it in the interest of a university’s annual publicity stunt, no matter how worthwhile it might be in the main.