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The Secret Language Used on Capitol Hill

Last week we decoded Obama’s budget proposal for you. This week, we’re taking it a step further – we’re going to explain the language politicians on Capitol Hill use every day.

Capitol Hill lives in an alternate reality. Members, staff and even the media up here seldom say what they mean. Instead, they say what they think you want to hear.

Misuse of language is a truly bi-partisan affliction in our government. Even a cursory review of congressional speeches reveals a pattern of language manipulation.

And it creates great animosity toward our leaders. Words are used by members of congress to mislead – call it a blueprint for illusion, obfuscation and distraction.

Indeed, the congressional dictionary has words with unusual meanings. So today, I’m going to help you decipher the words found in the secret Capitol Hill dictionary.

Investment

This is the congressman’s code word for government spending. When he or she says, “We require more investment,” they really mean “We must increase spending on some pet project.

The word “investment” seems reassuring. Typically it connotes a venture that will generate a profit.

On Capitol Hill, nothing could be further from the truth. The returns envisioned are political or personal. A supporter or the member themselves is benefiting by receiving greater influence or aid… but a profit? No way.

Pay a Fair Share

This phrase is used by congressmen seeking the redistribution of wealth.

But what it actually means is that entrepreneurs and other productive business owners aren’t paying adequate taxes. And more of their income ought to be “contributed” to the authorities for redistribution to deserving constituencies.

Congress never offers a criterion as to what is a “fair share.” Naturally, a congressman’s boosters are contributing their “fair share”, regardless of how much they actually pay. Normal Americans, on the other hand…

Revenue

A congress member may frequently talk of the necessity of increasing revenues.  Many times they use this word in conjunction with the phrase “millionaires and billionaires.”

Be aware: This almost always means taxes are headed higher.

Millionaires and billionaires, from the vantage point of Capitol Hill, include most middle class families. Sometimes it means any family making more than $250,000. But as in the case of the fiscal cliff deal sealed this January, millionaires and billionaires meant everyone.

Trust me, math skills are absolutely not a requirement to be in congress. In fact, it’s best if you don’t understand the huge numeric difference between 250,000 and one billion. Understanding math would just introduce far too much logic into the equation.

Spending Reductions

This word has the most bizarre meaning of all.

In the Tax Code, spending reductions have nothing to do with spending at all. Spending reductions just means higher taxes.

So why the confusing language? Well, every congressman likes to assume the mantle of deficit hawk. So they call a tax increase a spending reduction.

Here is one example of how it works.

Take mortgage interest deduction – a tax break for homeowners. If congress repeals this tax break and raises taxes on homeowners, they consider it a spending reduction. In reality, the only thing it’s reducing is a future debt increase (as the extra tax money will surely be spent).

This allows them to fool many unsuspecting people because the word has more or less an opposite meaning from what it sounds like.

Unprecedented

Congress uses this word to describe every crisis requiring a legislative solution.

They feel that whatever is currently on the docket is so extraordinary that everything they do or say must be loved.

Congress members are essentially oblivious to American history. Therefore, when they confront challenges and events, they believe they are entering totally uncharted territory.

Working People

This word is put forward to certify allegiance to ordinary Americans.

What a member actually has in mind is that he supports active and organized voting blocks and organizations over other Americans.

According to a member’s definition, the vast majority of Americans, including small business owners, are not working people at all, regardless of how many thousands of hours they work. In the Capitol Hill dictionary, only unions, organized special interests, and, best of all, political action committees, are considered working people deserving of extraordinary preferences and consideration.

Wrapping it All Up…

To understand the leaders on Capitol Hill, you have to listen very closely. The language of the politician is steeped in subterfuge. So don’t take their words at face value – learn to use the secret Capitol Hill dictionary to decipher the truth.

Until next time, I remain…

Your eyes on the Hill,


Floyd Brown, Chief Political Analyst

Floyd Brown

, Political Expert

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