Let’s stop warping words

(’76 Contributor) Rhetoric often manipulates our understanding through bias-laden misuse of language. We all have encountered this. “Progressive, ” for example, suggests innovative, visionary and benevolent. But most “progressive” policies merely regurgitate antiquated notions that were disproved decades ago. A principal contemporary example of outdated “progressive” policy would be the flurry of big-spending, big-government legislation being touted by this Administration, merely repeating the failed economic policies that worsened and prolonged the Great Depression.

Conversely, “conservative” has come to signify stingy and contrary. Actually, there are two distinct forms of conservatism: fiscal and social. Fiscal conservatives believe that spending should be restrained, not over-taxing the public, especially during this economic downturn. Conservative fiscal restraint limits government spending just as people must limit their home budgets. Social conservatives believe in traditional interpersonal values, such as integrity and responsibility.

“Benefits” implies improvement. Properly used, the word denotes the favorable outcome for which we must commit some expenditure of time and resources. When used by the government, though, some people expect the proverbial “free lunch” free for them, paid by someone else.

“Government-funded” has no meaning whatsoever. At any level, no government has any money except ours. Taxes and debt are the only sources of government funding. That is, WE pay for “government-funded” projects. If a politician promises to deliver yet more benefits (see above) at no additional cost, that money must then be taken from some already-funded program.

Impassioned rhetoric should instantly signal the need for wariness, carefully assaying the logic and validity of the speaker’s or writer’s words. Bias-laden buzz-words especially trigger our alarm bells, protecting us from their misleading damage.

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