Adjustments

ADJUSTMENTS…. One of the hallmarks of the Bush era was the Orwellian word games conservatives would play, changing the plain meaning of words to suit their political agenda.

Some find the habit hard to break. Take Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), for example, who helped lead the negotiations to cut key funding from the stimulus package. From MSNBC earlier today:

Q: Do you agree, or how do you respond to Paul Krugman in the New York Times who said that centrists have done their best to “make the plan weaker and worse?”

NELSON: Well, first of all, they’re not cuts. Let’s just get that up front. These are adjustments downward from numbers that were offered by the House in their version and by the Senate in its version.

I see. The Senate had a bill that would invested a certain amount in various parts of the economy. Nelson worked to make that investment smaller. We’re not supposed to think, however, that this is a “cut.” It’s an “adjustment downward.”

This is a rhetorical game with all kinds of fun applications. Bush’s presidency wasn’t a failure; it was a “success departure.” Congressional Republicans aren’t ignorant about basic economic policy; they’re just not “fact-oriented.” Ben Nelson’s rhetoric isn’t ridiculous; he’s just an “exaggeration facilitator.”

Indeed, Nelson should talk to some of the people, states, and agencies who would have gotten more aid. I’m sure they’ll feel better knowing he didn’t “cut” their funding, so much as simply “adjusted” their funding.

Matt Yglesias added, “[W]hatever you call them, the point remains that Nelson and Susan Collins (R-Maine) took a look at a huge bill, and zeroed-in with laser-like efficiency on one of its least-controversial and most highly-stimulative provisions, deciding that that was a good place for ‘adjustments downward.’ And while doing this, Nelson and Collins left in place the least-stimulative elements of the House package and added new non-stimulative stuff like an AMT patch extension and a tax break for people who buy homes. Consequently, as CAP’s Will Straw explains, the Senate ‘centrists’ managed to come up with a bill that creates fewer jobs while increasing the deficit by a greater amount.”

Straw is, however, mistaken. The “centrists” didn’t make a change that increases the deficit; they just preferred an approach that adjusts the budget shortfall upward.

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