Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Columns

July 29, 2011

Political speak on debt crisis requires translation

The problem is that when politicians say them, they don’t mean what you always thought they meant.

I’ve always appreciated translators. On the few occasions I’ve been in foreign countries, I would have been lost without their help.

So, since I can’t pay them back directly and since I have become bilingual in understanding the great divide between political speech and normal speech, I’m offering to show my gratitude to them by translating for you.

And in the frenzy leading up to the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt, the need for translation is urgent. Those speaking in the political tongue are everywhere.

The problem is not that these are unfamiliar words or phrases. The problem is that when politicians say them, they don’t mean what you always thought they meant.

There is not nearly enough room for all of them, but here are a few examples President Obama uses regularly to get you started:

“This is about asking people who have benefited the most over the last decade to share in the sacrifice, and I think these patriotic Americans are willing to pitch in – if they're asked – because they know that middle-class families shouldn't have to pick up the whole tab for closing the deficit."

The first word that is going to trip you up here is“ask.” In politics, it does not refer to a request that can be accepted or declined like, “Would you go out to dinner with me?” This, if it is enacted, will be an order, carrying the force of law. This is like Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger “asking” a bookie for a cut of his profits.

“Benefited”is one of those slippery terms that implies rather than declares. If you are among the “people” the president is talking about, it doesn’t matter if you have worked and sweated 100 hours a week for decades to gain your financial success. It doesn’t matter how many risks you took or how many jobs you created.

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