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The News Hole

No Brain, No Gain?

Here’s a short history of the Gov’s brain-optional priorities, as defined by the term that won’t die.

www.govpics.maryland.gov

Posted 2/1/2006

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich unveiled his $29 billion-plus state budget proposal Jan. 17 and took questions afterward. During the event, he dubbed two separate policy initiatives “no-brainers.”

But what, exactly, does that term mean? ClichéSite.com defines the term “no-brainer” as 1) no question; 2) a very easy decision. Dictionary.com says it’s “Something so simple or easy as to require no thought.”

In other words, those who have brains need not use them to concur with the proposition at hand; those without brains, presumably, automatically agree.

Or do they?

The following chart examines the most recent times the governor was quoted calling something a no-brainer, as compiled by LexisNexis, and points out the respective fates of each matter. As six of those incidents involve slots, we abridged them into a single entry.

  Quote What Where Who else says? Real No-Brainer? Score
Social Security Reform He's big on school reform, tort reform, Social Security reform ("a no-brainer"). --National Review, March 28, 2005 Right-wing/financial industry effort to turn Social Security into a giant 401(k) program. United States The president, the financial-services industry, right-wing think tanks.

Actually, a multifaceted policy debate in which all sides make valid points.

Dead, for now.
Slots

"It should be a no-brainer. For some reason, it hasn't been. The people demand it." --Maryland Gazette (Glen Burnie), Jan. 26, 2005 (see also Jan. 8, April 7, May 1, and Sept. 5, 2003; plus Sept. 27, 2002)

Big-money battle in which various gambling interests, legal and otherwise, jockey for advantage against moral absolutists and social scientists familiar with addiction patterns and their costs. Maryland (and everywhere else, where it usually passes). Horse-racing industry people, gamblers, slot-machine makers, some homeowners.

To the degree that term means "easy consensus," um, no.

Loser. But hope springs eternal.

Ecotourism; "Chesapeake National Water Trail" "We believe in ecotourism. Particularly in Maryland, it's a no-brainer." --The Capital (Annapolis), Dec. 17, 2004 "Ecotourism" is the name the tourism industry had given to five-star-priced vacation packages built around no-star hotel accommodations; "Chesapeake National Water Trail" would be a sort of "Appalachian Trail, but on the water," according to The Capital. Maryland, Virginia. No one, but apparently few others have heard of it.

Arguably, but then if you have to argue . . .

Winner! In August, President Bush signed bill to fund a "feasibility study" for the trail.

Chickadee Checkoff

"The Chickadee Checkoff is a no-brainer. It's one of the easiest ways imaginable to help protect the bay." --Maryland Gazette, March 15, 2003

Begun in Maine in the early 1980s, the "chickadee checkoff" (also known as the "non-game checkoff") is a box on the state income-tax form allowing people to donate to the state's wildlife conservation fund.

32 states have it. No one, but environmental types seem to like it.

Qualifies as a no-brainer to anyone who doesn't think state income taxes themselves are unconstitutional.

Winner! Maryland has had it since 1988.

Hiring Chip DiPaula as state budget secretary Giving the job to DiPaula, a guy who knew nothing about the budget, was a no-brainer, he says. --The Sun, Jan. 26, 2003 Ehrlich named his campaign manager Chip DiPaula budget chief in 2003 even though DiPaula had little budgetary experience. DiPaula stepped aside in June 2005 to become Ehrlich's chief of staff.

The governor's inner circle.

No one needs to.

Who would tell the boss otherwise?

Winner! Budget picture improved, and DiPaula did not disgrace himself.

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