When I first entered academia, and was inaugurated into the arcane process of scholarly publishing, a colleague thoughtfully provided me with a “cheat sheet”–a list of terms/criticisms used by “peer reviewers” and their real meanings. So, for example, a reviewer’s complaint “I cannot understand how the author could write an entire paper on X without referencing the seminal work of Dr. Y” should be understood as “I’m Dr. Y.”
In that spirit, let me suggest the actual meanings of otherwise respectable terms being thrown around by our lawmakers these days.
The phrase: redistribution. As in very bad. Conservative lawmakers insist it is not the government’s job to take from one taxpayer to benefit others. The meaning: public programs to help poor people. Tax breaks and huge subsidies for businesses like corporate farms and oil companies aren’t redistribution.
The phrase: pro-life. Reverence for life, which is seen as God-given. The meaning: reverence for the human fetus. Is not inconsistent with support for war, the death penalty, indifference to the well-being of ‘after-born’ children or threats to the lives or well-being of the female breeding environment.
The phrase: socialism. See “redistribution.” The meaning: Anything supported by the Obama Administration, including programs first proposed by Republicans and conservative think-tanks.
The phrase: sucking at the public teat. Description of undeserving people who receive any sort of government benefits. The meaning: programs that help other people.
The phrase: national defense. Keeping America safe. The meaning: Any weapon the military wants–and even weapons systems the military says it doesn’t need. Not at all inconsistent with invading countries that pose no threat to the United States. Evidence that supporters have really big weenies.
The phrase: job creation. Government policies to spur economic growth.The meaning: tax breaks for rich people. Does not include anything else, and certainly not public works projects to repair America’s decaying infrastructure. Is not inconsistent with wholesale layoffs of public school teachers, police and firefighters and other public employees. See “sucking at the public teat.”
The phrase: environmental protection. Measures to address the threat of climate change. The meaning: trusting God to care for His creation. Does not include efforts to reduce carbon emissions and is not inconsistent with gutting clean energy programs. Requires the continuation of massive subsidies to the richest oil companies.
See how much fun this is? I bet you can come up with literally hundreds more.
Of course, these terms all mean something very different to rational people, and therein lies the problem. Policymakers are speaking different languages.