Our story begins last month inside a busy Washington, D.C. subway station plastered with posters of giant dollar bills. One of them says: "Tell Congress to stop wasting time trying to eliminate the dollar bill." Another asks: "Do you heart the dollar?"
Political fights in the nation's capital normally involve billions or even trillions, not single dollars. What's going on here?
I'm an English professor, and I spent the first 15 years of my career trying to write like one. You might be surprised by what that's like. We don't emulate the fiction writers we most admire. We too rarely practice what we preach to our composition students — namely that good writing is simple and direct. In fact, we're notorious for maze-y sentences and ugly jargon. The point seems less to attract readers with clear prose than to smack them over the head with a sign that says, "Aren't I smart?"
At the same time gasoline prices are soaring, the cost of electricity is falling. The reason? Cheap and plentiful natural gas. A utility in Massachusetts has just sliced rates by 34 percent. Coming out of a recession, the lower electricity prices are quietly boosting the economy and providing some welcome savings to businesses and families.