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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Deficit Reduction Supercommittee

As the Supercommittee nears its deadline for an agreement among its 12 members, it is a good time to prepare for the misleading language that will be used by all sides to characterize an agreement or lack thereof. How many in the media will tell their viewers/listeners/readers that the language used by many members of Congress is not the same English language used by America's families and those working in the private sector?

(1) The most frequently abused term will be "spending cuts". Of course, regardless of what agreement is or is not reached, federal spending will not be cut - it will increase every year. If a family or company decides it must cut spending, it cuts from current spending levels so that future spending actually declines from current spending. Not so in Washington. Future spending, even after so-called "spending cuts", will not decline - it will only increase - because the "spending cuts" are made against future, higher budgeted spending levels.

(2) The second most frequently abused term will be "debt reduction". Some members
of Congress will actually claim their agreement or perhaps their own proposal
will or would have "reduced the national debt". But let's remember - this is
the Deficit "Reduction" Supercommittee, not the "Surplus" Generation
Supercommittee. Only annual surpluses generate the surplus cash to pay down the
national debt. The Deficit Reduction Supercommittee was established to craft
lower deficits. Readers of the book know that lower deficits lead to only one
thing: a higher national debt balance. So if these "debt-reducing" members of
Congress were cornered by a reporter into defending their debt-reducing
language, what possibly could they say to defend themselves? They would say
either or both of the following: (a) "Because the deficits will be lower, the
national debt balance will be lower than it would have been if we had not
agreed to lower the future deficits and/or (b) because we have lowered the
future deficits, the national debt as a percentage of GDP will be lower than it
would have been if we had not agreed to lower the future deficits." Are you

(3) How do we make some progress here? If you have any suggestions, please
share your ideas by posting a Comment. I suggested in the book that each
candidate for Congress and the White House be asked to pledge not to use
the kind of Washington Deficit Doubletalk in (1) and (2) above. What about
asking each of the candidates for president to sign a pledge to talk about America's fiscal crisis without using Washington Doubletalk? If one of the "moderators" in a televised debate were to ask each candidate to take the pledge, what would happen? Would each candidate agree? Please keep in mind: we're not asking each candidate to agree or disagree on the solutions to the fiscal crisis. We're only asking each of them to speak about federal spending, the deficits and the national debt in the same language all of us use in our daily lives. Is that asking too much?

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