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Why “Cut, Cap and Balance”?

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 Cross posted at Daily Kos

One of the keys to the political victories Republicans consistently rack up, despite all they’ve done to destroy the country, is their brilliant, very deliberate use of language to frame issues in ways that make it hard for them to lose arguments. 

Who could be for a “death tax”?  Who could ever want to send their money — “the people’s money, not the government’s money” to be squandered by “faceless bureaucrats”? Who, except an enemy of the country, could be against a “Patriot Act”?

Repubs know that he who frames the argument wins the argument. 

I’ve written before about how Repubs have been very successful in stopping climate change legislation, partly through their brilliance in always referrring to such legislation by the bloodless, mechanistic term “cap and trade”.   In such a term, you don’t see the folks who lost their homes in North Dakota because of flooding, or the victims of the monster tornadoes in Alabama and elsewhere, or the Somali famine survivors or the polar bears disappearing from the face of the Earth. 

No, the term makes me think of a bunch of bureaucrats sitting in a vast room continually pushing and pulling on some enormous Rube Goldberg contraption. But here’s the funny part — the Repubs are now pulling the same trick for opposite purposes in calling their budget balancing bill “cut, cap and balance”. 

Why are they using the bloodless, bureaucratic term here? Simple: because they don’t want you to visualize the consequences of actually reducing the federal budget to Eisenhower-era levels. 

They don’t want you to think about Granny begging in the street because her Social Security and Medicare have been slashed.  They don’t want you to imagine factories going back to belching out toxic smoke and dumping poisonous effluent in streams because EPA has been cut to the bone.  They don’t want you to visualize thousands of Americans sick to their stomachs because FDA has to lay off so many inspectors. And they sure don’t want you to think about the return of catastrophic plane crashes because FAA can’t update America’s air traffic control system. 

The Tea Party has gotten as far as it has because most people sadly lack the imagination to envision where their policies will actually lead — and Democrats and the media have done an absolutely horrendous job of filling in those blanks.  Too often, Dems and the media simply follow and repeat the Repubs’ framing without giving it a second thought — as when they too talk about “cap and trade” rather than about the Climate Crisis or Climate Emergency. 

So don’t swallow the Repub bait and talk about “Cut, Cap and Balance”.  Let’s choose our very own name for this ugly, Depression-inducing bill, in concert with our messaging, not theirs.  “Slash, Starve and Suffer” perhaps?

  • Hugo Estrada

    A total failure for government. Proposition 13 destroyed public education in California, and made the state ungovernable.

    It also guarantees that the GOP will have influence even when it becomes a minority party due to demographics. It gives them an effective majority as long as they hang onto 33% of congress.

    Have this idea never been tried, one could claim that they just didn’t know about the consequences. But we see the results that it has brought to California. The GOP is just so reckless in their desire to destroy the nation.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    In my opinion, the Republicans have been far more successful in how they present their programs – or lack of programs – because they know the power of marketing. After all, using manipulation of human psychology to sell stuff is the “business” of business. Meanwhile, we Democrats spend far too much effort trying to convince people of the logic of our positions and programs.

    Add that to the fact that the corporate media is just that…corporate…and that’s where we are.

  • KathyinBlacksburg

    “Cut, Cap and Balance” might sound good to the ill-informed (except for the fact that those proposing it have no consciences). But if you think about how it would work, it is just another way to force  sudden and dramatic collapse of of the lives of the hundreds of millions of Middle Class and the poor in America.

    Just as Mark Warner tried to jam into his operationalizing of the Bowles-Simpson plan  back-door balanced budget amendment (without going the through the Constitutional process, so too does “Cut, Cap and Balance.”  Now the ruthless GOP is labeling the “C-C-&B “plan” to unravel America as “the compromise plan.” What bull.

    They just don’t stop with new and more obnoxious ways to harm Americans.  And now we have the House caucus’s word that that is precisely what they are trying to do to us.