Marketplace Scratch Pad

Morning Reading

Scott Jagow Jul 22, 2009

Among this morning’s reads: What’s in a word? A lot when it comes to the health care debate. Maybe one of your ancestors fought in medieval times. Now, you can look them up online. And Britain’s losing dozens of pubs a week!

The Wall Street Journal finds Ben Bernanke’s testimony to Congress and his WSJ op-ed less than reassuring:

In particular, the Fed chief reiterated that it’s too early to start tightening and that the Fed will keep its current policy of near-zero interest rates for “an extended period.” So how long is extended? Mr. Bernanke didn’t say, and we are all supposed to assume that he’ll know the right moment when he sees it.

As readers of these columns know, we’ve been here before–specifically, in late 2003 when Mr. Bernanke was a Governor at Alan Greenspan’s Fed. Despite an expansion that was already well under way, Mr. Bernanke argued at the time that the Fed needed to keep the fed funds rate at 1% for an “extended period” in order to reduce unemployment. Thus began the commodity and credit bubbles that brought us to our current pass. Mr. Bernanke has never acknowledged that blunder, though a couple of his more reflective Fed colleagues have.

NPR has an interesting piece on word choices in the health care debate:

What President Obama refers to as a “public option” that will keep private insurance companies “honest,” for example, Republican Sen. Orrin hatch has called a “government plan…”

“The key there is: a public option that would be in existence along with a private plan,” Newport says. “And when you put it that way, and when you stress that, every bit of polling I’ve looked at shows a majority approve that idea…”

“The word ‘big’ in particular — we just did a fascinating poll about confidence in business, and when you said ‘big,’ confidence was literally at the bottom of the list , the lowest thing we tested,” he says. “If you said ‘small business,’ it was near the top. So any time you talk about big anything, but particularly big business entities, you get a negative reaction from the American public.”

Here’s something pretty cool. The BBC says the detailed service records of 250,000 medieval soldiers (14th and 15th century) have been put online. And look at the reason given for doing the project. Hmmm:

The website is the product of a research project by Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton and Dr Adrian Bell of the University of Reading.

Dr Bell said: “The service records survive because the English exchequer had a very modern obsession with wanting to be sure that the government’s money was being spent as intended.

“Therefore we have the remarkable survival of indentures for service detailing the forces to be raised, muster rolls showing this service and naming every soldier from duke to archer.”

Here’s a link to the actual database.

In modern-day England, … 52 pubs are closing each week. From the Times of London:

Almost 2,400 pubs and bars have vanished from villages and towns in the past 12 months, according to research for the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). Local pubs serving small communities have been the worst hit, the association said…

A preference for drinking more cheaply at home, rather than going out, is thought to have contributed to closures. A BBPA spokesman said: “The biggest impact is the recession. There are fewer people out and fewer people spending money in pubs and bars. Pubs are diversifying but, unfortunately, if you are a community pub you can’t transform yourself into a trendy town centre bar.”

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