dental laser

Lately, politicians all want to assure us they are "laser-focused" on creating jobs.

Given the depth of the Great Recession, it's no longer enough for politicians to say they are working to improve the economy.

No, these desperate times require a "laser focus" on job creation.

And nobody is tossing around the term "laser focus" more than Gov. Scott Walker.

During his recent radio address, Walker vowed that he will remain "laser-focused on moving our state forward, getting people back to work."

A week earlier, Walker blamed Washington for contributing to Wisconsin's woes and said he wants the Legislature to be "focused like a laser beam on jobs."

Indeed, given that Wisconsin's unemployment rate has risen from 7.4 percent to 7.9 percent during Walker's first nine months in office, the Republican-controlled Legislature had better focus on jobs.

But to prove the Democrats are even more serious about jobs, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca recently pulled out the "laser focus" phrase while rapping his GOP colleagues for wasting time on issues like trespassing or tort reform.

"These non-jobs bills cloud our ability to focus like a laser on putting people back to work," said Barca, D-Kenosha.

But the "laser focus" of politicians these days goes well beyond Wisconsin.

President Obama has been "laser focused" on jobs since 2009, when he used the phrase repeatedly in speeches about the economy.

In fact, his repeated use of the term has coined another word: Obamalaser.

According to the online Urban Dictionary, Obamalaser is "a metaphor used by certain politicians to describe the depth and degree of focus and concentration upon a singular issue to the exclusion of all other issues."

The dictionary notes that the laser metaphor is commonly used to show that a candidate has not overlooked an important topic -- when in fact they have.

"The mere use of such a metaphor operates as a tacit admission by the politician that he/she has indeed ignored the issue," it says.

Perhaps the slickest politician of our lifetime, Bill Clinton, wasn't afraid to use the laser focus term. Throughout the 1992 campaign, he promised to "focus like a laser beam" on the failing economy, leading to his victory over incumbent George H.W. Bush, who famously asked voters to "read his lips" about "no new taxes" before he, in fact, raised them.

On the other hand, a Google search for "Ronald Reagan and laser focus" only turns up references to his "Star Wars" defense system, where laser beams were intended to pinpoint and destroy incoming Soviet missiles.

Whether a stream of light could indeed blast a nuke out of space remains something for sci-fi novelists to ponder.

But lasers are indeed a product of the Space Age. Developed during the 1950s, laser stands for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation." In layman's terms, that means concentrating light to increase its energy output.

Lasers are widely used today in everything from CD players to high-speed metal cutting machines. They're also used in tattoo removal, hair replacements and corrective eye surgery.

"You've probably got a dozen devices in your home using some kind of laser technology," says UW-Madison physics professor Thad Walker.

While not a political junkie, Walker says he's been amused by the growing use of the term "laser focus" by public officials

"I've definitely noticed," he says.

So who actually coined the phrase?

Professor Walker isn't sure but says the term goes back decades. He notes the trade magazine "Laser Focus World" dates to the 1980s.

Though scientists often cringe over the misuse of a technical phrase, Walker says he's OK with "laser focus" finding its way into the mainstream.

"A lot of times you'll roll your eyes when you hear something but in this case they're using it pretty accurately," he says.

Of course, "focusing like a laser" on jobs doesn't mean they will magically appear.

In fact, Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, doubts whether he or any other politician can really do much to create jobs.

"It's like a rooster taking credit for the dawn," says Hulsey. "They may crow but that doesn't mean they made the sun come up."

Still, there might actually be a connection between "laser" and "jobs." A search of the Web shows a high demand for experienced laser welders.

To that end, the UW-Madison offers two programs in laser welding certification.

There's one fall-back option for Walker or Obama if they find themselves out of work in a year or so.

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