For those who have seen the conservative Heritage Foundation’s assessment of proposed immigration reforms: Don’t let it alarm you. They aren’t running the Republican Party anymore. Even Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is hitting back at Heritage, and he’s not exactly what you’d call an enemy of the taxpayer. (In theory.) The prevailing message is that the majority of people reacting to this understand that a complete cost-benefit analysis of these reforms cannot leave out economic growth potential.
For those who have seen the libertarian Cato Institute’s response, written by one Alex Nowrasteh: Don’t let that alarm you, either, because others are able to say, essentially, “Hey, asshole, you forgot about the jobs” without throwing around terms like “static fiscal scoring” and “production possibilities frontier.” Such terms are the domain of policy analysts, which do not make up the majority of the Internet-surfing population, not even its politically engaged sector.
I can’t fault Nowrasteh for writing his response to Heritage the way he did. This is vocabulary in which he is immersed every day; at some point, he’s probably come to consider it obvious. That, of course, is a tragic flaw anyone can suffer if they’re knowledgeable enough about a topic. However, if you’re writing a blog – not the kind I write, which is a vanity project, but one’s employer’s official blog – you can’t write just for yourself and your co-workers.
If Nowrasteh was desperate to distinguish between static and dynamic fiscal scoring, he could have used the blog as a gateway to Cato’s comprehensive analysis of the Gang of Eight’s reforms, on which people who automatically understand this stuff are more likely to click. Or he could try a regular “wonk word” feature; wonk words can be helpful to people reading up on economic issues. But he didn’t have to do this:
The key flaw in Heritage’s 2007 study is its use of static fiscal scoring, rather than dynamic fiscal scoring, to evaluate that year’s immigration reform bill.
He did not have to put it in those terms. Short-term costs dumb; long-term growth smart. That’s it. It reminds one of a child screaming “Lookit what I can do!”
I work with a fair number of think-tankers and other academics as part of my job, and most suffer from this problem to a point. If they’re not rhyming off wonk words as if trying to impress a donor, they’re going to the opposite extreme and writing this:
They need to tell their elected representatives they are important.
Yeah, that sentence happened (also as the ending). My point: It is not only possible, but necessary, for people with graduate degrees to be understood by people who haven’t gotten past high school. Find the medium. It’s better for your publicity.