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Why “Cut, Cap and Balance”?


 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?


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