President Obama gave an important speech yesterday outlining his deficit-reduction plan. I won’t comment here on the specifics of his proposals, partly because there weren’t any specifics, but also because I want to focus on a single line in his speech. The president said: “My plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code.”
“Spending reductions in the tax code.” It has sort of a nice ring to it, until you realize that what he really means is “higher taxes.”
So, the president wants to raise some taxes. This isn’t at all surprising, it’s perfectly defensible, and absolutely no one was fooled by his doublespeak. So why didn’t he just say it in plain English? Unfortunately I cannot answer that question; I’m not a credentialed psychologist. But it’s certainly not the first time this administration has purposefully used opaque words and phrases in explaining its policies. A few examples:
- The Global War on Terror became the Overseas Contingency Operation. Poor choice. Global means everywhere on the planet, while overseas implies outside of the Americas. But terrorists sometimes operate in the Americas. And contingency is simply too broad a term.
- Terrorist attacks became man-caused disasters. Again, too broad. Lots of things could be considered man-caused disasters. The Carter presidency, for example. The Chevrolet Volt comes to mind as well.
- Bombing the hell out of an oil-rich Arab Muslim country that didn’t attack us became kinetic military action. Prior to the Obama administration, this sort of thing was called a war. In fact, prior to January 20, 2009, this type of activity was often given much more colorful names, such as “illegal war” and “dumb war.”
The above is not at all an exhaustive list, but you get the picture. Now, it’s a fair point to say that previous administrations have manipulated the language to their perceived benefit as well (“mistakes were made” comes to mind). But the Nixon gang look like pikers compared to the current regime.
So now I offer my Top Five list of the most likely upcoming addendums to the English language from the Obama lexicon:
5. “Lingering unemployment” will become “improvement-resistant economic upturn for work-lacking families.”
4. “Inevitable fiscal collapse” will become “President Obama’s long-term strategy for winning the future.”
3. “Vice President Joe Biden” will become “expendable.”
2. “Person who believes Obama was born in Hawaii but just doesn’t understand why he won’t release the damn long-form birth certificate and why he’s spent so much money in order to avoid having to do so” will become “SHUT UP, BIRTHER!” [Oh, wait. That one is already in use].
And the top new addition to the English language from the Obama lexicon:
1. “Republican candidate wins 2012 election” will become “racism.”