The Special-Needs Economy


From James Taranto:

“Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats have dropped the word ‘stimulus’ from their vocabulary,” the Hill reports. The news comes on the eve of President Obama’s history-making speech before a joint session of Congress, in which, as Bloomberg’s Al Hunt reports, the president is expected to propose a $300 billion “jobs plan” that “follows the contours of his $830 billion 2009 economic [CENSORED] package.”

The Hill report adds that “the House minority leader and her caucus are still pushing an economic [CENSORED] agenda,” but because the 2009 whatchamacallit was a ruinously expensive failure, “they’ve radically changed their rhetoric.” Do the Nolabelists know about this?

“Democrats are now being careful to frame their job-creation agenda in language excluding references to any [CENSORED], even though their favored policies for ending the deepest recession since the Great Depression are largely the same,” the Hill adds:

The Democrats’ signature “Make it in America” platform aims to create jobs by increasing infrastructure spending, providing financial help to struggling states and expanding tax credits for businesses, all of which were key elements of their 2009 economic [CENSORED] bill.

Recognizing the unpopularity of the 2009 package, however, Democratic leaders have revised their message with less loaded language–“job creation” instead of “[CENSORED]” and “Make it in America” in lieu of “Recovery Act”–in hopes of tackling the jobs crisis.

Pelosi is working out on the “euphemism treadmill.” Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker described this metaphorical fitness machine in a 1994 Baltimore Sun op-ed: “People invent new ‘polite’ words to refer to emotionally laden or distasteful things, but the euphemism becomes tainted by association and the new one that must be found acquires its own negative connotations. ‘Water closet’ becomes ‘toilet’ (originally a term for any body care, as in ‘toilet kit’), which becomes ‘bathroom,’ which becomes ‘rest room,’ which becomes ‘lavatory.’ ”

Another example: “Idiot,” “imbecile” and “moron” are now insults, but they originated as clinical terms referring to various degrees of low intelligence. “Retarded” became the euphemism of choice until it too took on an insulting connotation. Now there’s actually a website, R-word.org, whose goal is “to eliminate the demeaning use of the R-word.” Meanwhile, the people to whom the R-word referred when it was a euphemism are said to have “special needs.”

Maybe Pelosi and Obama could take a cue from the R-worders and start a site called S-word.org to eliminate that hurtful $830 billion word. For that matter, why doesn’t Obama explain that the purpose of the $300 billion he’s going to ask Congress to blow is to help the economy with its special needs? The Republicans probably wouldn’t have a response to that!

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