Please don’t say “overhaul” when you mean “cut.”

March 2nd, 2017 at 8:34 am

I love my morning Budget Tracker update from Congressional Quarterly almost as much as I love my morning coffee. It provides that quick, efficient dive into the daily budget weeds that wonks like me crave (sorry, it’s behind a paywall).

So I was disheartened to see them fall into this trap that I’ve been pretty keyed up about of late (my bold):

Republican lawmakers made clear Wednesday that any efforts to overhaul entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are now on the legislative back burner.

Readers are somehow required to know that “overhaul” means “cut.” This being the Budget Tracker, most readers probably know the translation, but this is not the time for squishy, ambiguous language.

I’m not sure when that time will come, but until then, people writing about these issues need to call it like it is.


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5 comments in reply to "Please don’t say “overhaul” when you mean “cut.”"

  1. dwb says:

    Yeah, I would take this with a grain of salt. Legislative progress is strongly non-linear: Things can go from the back burner to the front, to getting passed, literally overnight. This could mean it’s on the back burner, or it could mean that they want to do it quietly with no fanfare.

    The one area I see Trump breaking promises is entitlement reform. He said he did not want to cut Social Security. I foresee the GOP congress and Trump doing an excellent good-cop bad-cop routine: Where Trump “reluctantly” goes along with a GOP plan, blasts all the GOP establishment who were against him from the beginning, then distracts everyone with his Twitter account, leaving the Democrat to campaign in red states on expanding entitlements in 2018. The Democrats are against everything these days, so their opposition to the budget cuts will get drowned out by whatever distraction like Russia that the Democrats have fallen for. The problem with being against everything is that they stand for nothing at all.

  2. Zenion says:

    In a similar vein, I find R talk of “tax reform” to be a pleasant-sounding euphemism for something that (as best as I can tell from the shadows cast by the hand-waving that I can see) is actually rather sinister. What *I* would mean by “tax reform” is a simplification of the tax code (fewer obscure deductions usable only by the already well-off) and a return to a rate structure more reminiscent of the Eisenhower era than the GW Bush era.

  3. Stuart says:

    I’ll add that Republicans also often use the word “reform” to mean cut…to them “tax reform” means “REDUCE the rates and broaden the base”. I understand that this is part desire of their cellular structure, so utterly part of their vision of the world that you just confuse them when you mean anything else by the phrase—but I have to say my definition is a lot more like Zenion’s.

  4. Howard P. Forman says:

    First, they take $400billion OUT of Medicare via their ACA repeal effort and THEN they will complain trust fund is inadequate, therefore requiring “overhaul.”