Let’s begin with a multiple choice test. The United States of America is:

a) a for-profit corporation;
b) a family, like the typical American family in a 1960’s sitcom;
c) a nation — with a national economy and nation-sized problems.

If you answered “c,” there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you answered the question correctly. The bad news is that you probably have no future as a pundit, where recycling bad metaphors is an essential job skill. (On second thought, that’s probably good news too. You undoubtedly have better things to do with your time.)

Two metaphors keep reappearing in our national debate like comets on a too-tight orbit. One says that the government’s finances are like a family budget, and the other says that the country needs to be run more “like a corporation.” Both are routinely used as “nonpartisan” illustrations of the need to cut spending.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard these misleading analogies, I’d have enough money to buy Alan Simpson a cow.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The United States Isn’t a Company and It Isn’t a Family — It’s a Country..

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