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Bullshit is just a word, but it has many meanings in the nation's capitol. (Photo: file)

What They Say vs. What They Mean: An Inside-the-Beltway Glossary

A hopefully helpful guide for those trying to understand the complex linguistic nuances of elected officials

John Atcheson

REPUBLICANS – Entries appear in the order with which they are used

Tax Reform: Cut taxes for the rich, toss the middle class a few bones, while taking away their benefits and starving government so they can cut popular programs like social security “out of necessity.”

Health Care: Wealth care – as in give rich folks and corporations a trillion-dollar gift while stripping away coverage for some 30 million Americans, eliminating overhead caps for the insurance industry, raising premiums for the rest, and reinstating the dreaded “pre-existing condition” screw job for insurers.

Fiscal Responsibility: 1) The most important consideration in American politics when Democrats are in power; 2) An irrelevant issue that magically disappears when Republicans are in power.  (See deficit and debt)

Growing Our Economy: Used to explain any fiscal proposal or budget that explodes the deficit, adds to the debt, or otherwise pushes us to the brink of bankruptcy, usually involving tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-rich, or obscene and unneeded increases in the Defense Department’s budget.  Often used interchangeably with “trickle down.”

Trickle Down:  Policies which give more money to the ultra-rich and corporations which hoard it, often parking it overseas in tax shelters or given it to the 1 percent in the form of grotesquely large bonuses. Used to convince the 99 percent who are getting screwed that these policies are in their interest. Often used interchangeably with “fairy dust,” by serious economists and empiricists. Note: the term is going out of favor, as the evidence overwhelming stacks up against it.

Supply Side:  Policies which give more money to Corporations, Wall Street, Big Banks and the ultra-rich who hoard it in tax shelters purchased with campaign funds.  Most often used with “trickle down” and “growing our economy.”

Deficit: Horrible, detestable, immoral when Democrats are in power; no big deal when Republicans are. Examples: Bush’s trillion-dollar give-away to the Pharmaceutical industry vs Democrats’ fully funded Affordable Care Act; or the $3.5 trillion deficit created by Trump’s “tax reform.”

Debt: A deplorable state to be avoided at all costs – unless your name is Reagan or Bush, who contributed more to the National Debt than all previous presidents combined.Also, magically disappears as an issue when Republicans are in power.

Middle Class Miracle: Used to explain obscene tax cuts for corporation, the ultra-rich and Wall Street.  Perhaps it is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to the gullibility of the middle class.

Climate change: An imaginary issue concocted by 98% of the world’s climate scientist operating in collusion for some as yet unspecified reason.  And pay no attention to that thermometer, or those thousand year storms occurring every decade or so …

Fake News:  Anything that contradicts Republican dogma.

Truth: Lies.

Up: Down.

Constitution: Something to misquote, misinterpret, and ignore. See “Christian Nation.”

Bill of Rights: List of wrongs.  Except the Second amendment.

Science: A clever bit of sophistry used by the left to create fake news.

Reality: A malleable concept that is defined by what the right wing says; as opposed to the way things actually are.  Example:  Banning the use of the words “climate change” in reports about climate change.

Job Creators: Used to justify tax benefits and other policies favoring the ultra-rich, corporations and Wall Street. Note: Term is rapidly going out of favor as evidence shows no correlation between tax cuts for the rich and job creation.

DEMOCRATS – Terms appear in random order – like everything Democrats address

Better Deal: Cynical bait and switch PR stunt designed to make people believe the neoliberals who run the Party still adhere to the New Deal.

Progressive:  A word that is used primarily around election time, when the Party veers to the left for a few months, before re-embracing corporate benefactors and the interests of the uber-wealthy.

Climate Change:  A real threat that ranks about even with loss of campaign contributions from large corporations; something to address in deadly half-measures.

Courage: Preemptive capitulation to the right, while mumbling half-truths about being the Party of the People.

Health Care: A program to assure that the for-profit insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies can continue to reap profits at the expense of our health.

Medicare for All: 1)Run. Duck.  Hide. Yikes.  2) Unrealistic dream (note: used by neoliberal pundits and politicians who either benefit from the status quo, or are part of the status quo); 3) The most affordable, humane way to address a basic human right (used by real progressives – a distinct minority in the party).

Science:  1) A way of perceiving reality based on data, empiricism, and reproducible experiments that test hypotheses and ultimately develop theories.  2) Something to be ignored or finessed when it threatens campaign contributions.


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John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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