Watch Your Language

I was reading this article from the New York Times the other day, and reflecting on how much language affects how we interpret what we read.  

The headline talks about “cuts” to the food stamp program.  However as the article notes in the second paragraph, these “cuts” really aren’t cuts at all.  Temporary increases to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – often referred to as food stamps – were approved in 2009 as part of the economic stimulus our government implemented.  They were voted in as temporary, and they were voted in for a particular period of time.  Yet now that this time has arrived, we are told about “cuts” to the program.  Even when describing the actual state of affairs (the expiration of a known temporary measure with specific goals in mind), the expiration of these benefits is called a “lapse”, as though something is fundamentally wrong with the expiration date of the increases being reached.  
Cue the next paragraph and predictable finger-pointing at awful Republicans who want to cut so much more than the Democrats do.  
This is why the budget matters.  This is why spending matters.  This is why the struggle over whether or not we really need to worry about our debt matters.  Once something goes into effect, it is very, very, very, very, very difficult to get rid of it.  Once a spending allocation is created, it becomes a nightmare to realistically talk about getting rid of it.  As though every single piece of spending ever approved is somehow sacrosanct and holy, no longer suitable for discussion, examination, revision, or elimination.  
We need to be careful and mature and intelligent about how we talk, and we need to insist that our lawmakers and our media is as well.  It would be fascinating if legislators were prohibited from talking about “temporary” measures any more, because temporary measures have a nasty habit of sticking around for a really, really, really long time.  

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