Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, May 2-10, 2017


rhetorical claim: Our comeuppance lies in a less and less distant future. But today from the media we get only the horror of any proposed budget cut. We get told about the intolerability of any entitlement reform—and will continue to get such reporting right up to the day when it all unravels. Any cut in the nominal tax rate for affluent taxpayers is an attack on the poor even if this claim has no relation to the logic of how our tax system actually works.

Entitlements won’t entitle: Medicare will pay for an operation only at a price no doctor will accept. Programmed into law already is a 29% across-the-board cut to Social Security when its trust fund runs out in 12 years.

Then, in the other great twitch of American journalism, will come the blame-laying. The finger will be pointed at everybody but the press itself for wringing out of our politicians any inclination they might have mustered to meet our challenges head-on.

rhetorical effect: the threat of a coming economic catastrophe unless the social safety net is eviscerated is designed to justify inhumane cuts to almost all non-defense sectors of the federal budget. The closest we’ve actually come to an economic meltdown was, of course, under a Republican regime.



rhetorical claim: eliminating the capital gains tax and deregulating the economy will create an unprecedented surge in US economic prosperity. Thus everyone wins–all boats rise on a rising tide.

rhetorical effect: more corporate power gleaned from deregulation will actually create even more of a winner-take-all economy. “Win-win” talk is just a euphemism for social and economic Darwinism.


abrupt and expensive changes

rhetorical claim: so-called “climate change” is either a hoax or a cyclical natural phenomenon being blamed on man-made causes. In either case, the prudent response is either to do nothing or else go things very gradually. We need to avoid abrupt and expensive fixes to a problem that probably will go away on is own.

rhetorical effect: the effects of do-nothingism or gradualism are ever more obvious as the planet warms, oceans rise, droughts and storms get more extreme, plant and animal species migrate, etc. Calling any proposed changes “abrupt” is to postpone them indefinitely. Climate change doesn’t go on recess, but Congress does.


eliminate tax breaks for special interests

rhetorical claim: Trumpian tax reform will help pay for itself by eliminating tax breaks for special interests.

rhetorical effect: this vague and simple elixir-like chant conceals multitudinous lies and helps justify tax cuts for the wealthy without addressing how they might affect the deficit. The lies include calling it tax “reform” when it is only a tax cut; the idea that anything can or will “pay for itself” without consequences and long-lasting side-effects, and that some nefarious, especially greedy group of “special interests” is driving up the federal deficit through “tax breaks.” Of course, the process of identifying which groups and which interests will be highly politicized, and whatever tax breaks the wealthy and corporations give up will be more than offset by their tax cuts.


health care policy

rhetorical claim: health care will only get more efficient and affordable if Obamacare is repealed and the government gets out of the health care business. A market approach will bring a new era of patient-directed health care.

rhetorical effect: turns health care into a product, not a right, and patients into consumers. Calla a massive tax cut a “policy,” when it’s actually just a tax cut.


Trump will be Trump

rhetorical claim: Trump is just going to do what he says he’d do and what he wants to do. This resoluteness and independence is why people voted for him in the first place.

rhetorical effect: forces the GOP into either Congressional stalemate or tortuous comprise–such as the proposed American Health Care Act. Could also make Trump irrelevant, since what he wants to do simply can’t be done–there can’t be any instant Middle East peace or an overnight crushing of ISIS or a Muslim ban or a wall across the entire US-Mexican border. He can’t pull us out of NATO or start a trade war with China or end press freedom or make theories of climate change  hoaxes.. Being Trump, oblivious to every nuance except how to advance his brand, inevitably means bumping into reality. The Dems’ greatest hope if that Trump remains Trump.


give the people what they want

rhetorical claim: the House health insurance bill gives the states flexibility to offer innovative solutions to health care expenses. The bill simply gives the people what they want–freedom to buy the insurance they want and keep their doctors.

rhetorical effect: justifies a tax break for the rich in the name of populism. “What the people really want” is affordable health care that mandates the essential services covered under the HCA and guarantees that no one with a preexisting condition can ever be denied insurance or charged an unaffordable rate. In other words, what “the people really want” is community rating. If the GOP, as claimed, also wants this, why are they even providing an escape hatch via a state waiver? Is there anyone out there who wants an insurance policy that doesn’t cover most essential services and excludes preexisting conditions?


political opponents

rhetorical claim: Sally Yates’ testimony about Flynn should be dismissed because she is a political opponent of Trump and so can’t be trusted. If anything, Yates and Susan Rice should be put on trial for “unmasking” Flynn.

rhetorical effect: makes opposing Trump a dishonorable act. By calling his opponents liars, by definition Trump becomes the only source of truth–obviously a key turning point in the establishment of a dictatorship.


lynch journalism

rhetorical claim: mainstream media journalists have a pack mentality that is always on full attack mode when it comes to Trump. They in effect are a permanent lynch party, always on patrol.

rhetorical effect: equates dissent with treason; uses reverse racism to accuse the media of the racism the right wing is steeped in.

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