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Beltwayspeak: A Larceny Of Language


We don’t recall when wordsmithing was used so liberally (by both parties) to confuse or mislead the public. George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” pales next to the complete abandon with which President Obama eloquently manipulates language and information to influence public opinion.

Bush’s” Mission Accomplished” was just dumb wrong and “Bring ‘Em On” was just plain, well, never mind. Bush, at least, meant what he said regardless of how wrong he may have been.

Obama, on the other hand, often, really doesn’t mean what he says. Instead he frequently uses carefully crafted language to convey a message that distorts reality, but which he, or his speechwriters, believes will appeal to voters. We look at this as a larceny of language. Let us hasten to add that many politicians on the right do the same thing. Obama isn’t the Socialist those on the right often claim him to be. We don’t believe President Obama wants the government to own American business, and he certainly doesn’t want to manage American business. We think he knows he would be a lousy manager. He does, however, want to set the economic agenda and control, through regulation, how American business operates. Growing government, at the expense of taxpaying businesses and individuals may be disastrous policy, but it isn’t Socialism. It is, simply, a tried and true path to economic failure.

Saying he wants millionaires and billionaires and private jet owners to pay their “fair share” of taxes isn’t really what his tax agenda is about. Not by a long shot. He really wants to ensnare the nearly four million taxpayers who earn at the $200,000 level and above ($250,000 for families) by vilifying the less-than-ten-percent of tax filers earning over $200,000 who actually report over a million dollars a year in income.

The same is true of his once-touted “deficit-neutral” healthcare plan. The plan that was sold because it was “not going to add one dime to the deficit” is now acknowledged by most every analyst, including those at the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to have a price tag hundreds of billions more than promised, and that doesn’t include the penalty to be imposed on those who choose not to participate (read, buy mandated insurance). The reader will recall that after denying that the penalty was a tax, the Administration later defended it in court as a tax, which the government is free to impose under the taxing powers accorded to the federal government by the constitution.

And how did the Administration sell its nearly trillion-dollar stimulus program? It was sold in order to fund the multitude of “shovel-ready” projects that were planned, engineered and ready to go and just waiting for this new infusion of federal dollars. This is an issue about which we wrote extensively, first, nearly two years ago, to propose what we felt was a better alternative for stimulating the economy and, second, to seriously question how there could possibly be such a multitude of so-called shovel-ready projects. Of course, there were precious few such projects, or as the President said with a smile at a recent press conference, “They weren’t as shovel ready as we thought.”

The “liberal” label has morphed into “progressive” which is as much a larceny of language as was its liberal predecessor. Under the banner of progressivism an ever-growing series of downright regressive policies are being pursued. It boggles the mind.

It is, perhaps, in the area of tax policy where so-called progressives most play free and loose with language to confuse the public. Propose any across-the-board tax relief to stimulate the economy, even that which provides higher reductions in tax rates to the lower income groups in our society, and an avalanche of progressive protest will erupt as politicians on the left cry foul because of “tax breaks for the wealthy.”

The National Labor Relations Board files a “fair labor compliance” complaint against Boeing demanding that a newly completed multi-billion dollar Dreamliner plant that will employee thousands of workers in South Carolina be abandoned in deference to the Seattle-based Boeing union that wants those jobs.

The Federal Reserve decides to add hundreds of billions of dollars to its balance sheet by printing money to buy US Treasury notes (to keep the cost of government borrowing artificially low while forcing individuals to make riskier investments in order to get any return at all on their savings) and new federaleeze called “Quantitative Easing” is born (QE 1 and QE 2 for short). The esoteric “Quantitative Easing” sounds sophisticated and reassuring. “Devaluing the currency” …not so reassuring.

In a foreign policy speech considered by many to have been designed to shake up the Israel-American strategic partnership by predicating a two state solution based on the 1967 borders (actually the demarcation lines following the 1948 war), President Obama refers to the US-Israel relationship as “unshakable.” Few Israelis seemed unshaken by the President’s linguistic assurance of the unshakeable nature of the alliance.

Language can either inform or misinform. When it is used to misinform it “steals” meaning. It becomes a larceny of language. Sadly, such larceny remains rampant in our nation’s capital.

By Hal Gershowitz and Stephen Porter


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