Words Matter

This Monday morning opens with the terrible news of the weekend shooting of a U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona, who was hosting an open air town hall gathering with constituents in a Tucson AZ Safeway shopping center. Shot down with a slew of other victims, fourteen people were wounded and six persons died. Representative Gabrielle Gifford clings to life with an uncertain recovery.

There is no way to adequately express the tragedy of this event, and I believe all Americans share with my sadness, anger, and frustration at the senseless violence, futile outrage, and unseemly consequences of this act. And, we know there are many less sincere people who have already begun using this event to spin  their own political liberal and conservative positions, well ahead of a clear explanation of the motivations, methods or madness that was behind this tragic act.

I have my own opinions and this is not the forum to air them – but a hint would be that  senseless backhanded references to violence in our national political theater have contributed to this ugly chapter in  political discourse.   Consider former Senate candidate Sharon Angle’s comments “if we don’t win at the ballot box, we’ll start looking at 2nd amendment solutions…” or potential presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s use of a gun sight crosshairs to ‘target’ opposing Congressional district races.

Instead of following that story, I want to borrow that theme to point to current rumblings about fiscal policy before the U.S. Congress.   The new Republican majority has arrived in the House and with them all the disjointed promises, demagoguery, and mistaken assumptions are on the floor. First issue at hand: a promised $100 billion spending cut.

Words matter.

If this freshman class was as brash to promise such an irresponsible idea, they darn well should have accepted the responsibility to understand exactly what they were promising. Flying into office, posing for all the pictures, figuring out how to navigate  the Capitol, they have stumbled into the inconvenient truth of what a $100 billion spending cut really means. Particularly since their leadership removed defense, social security, and Medicare off the lists of possibilities where such cuts would be made.

If you add up the remainder of the federal budget (like government operations, bank regulators, investor protection, national parks, education, pollution control, drug enforcement, foreign diplomacy, etc.), they will have to cut $100 billion out of roughly 14% of the federal budget, which will equate to about 20% across the board on every program provided for by the federal budget. Oh, and they did cut $35 million out of Congressional operations – chump change.

Nuts.

Republican legislative aides are already backing down, claiming that since the fiscal year is almost half over, the sum must be adjusted to $50 billion, representing an annualized reduction.   And for what good? How will their bold act impact the deficit? Zilch. $50 billion on $1+ trillion is a rounding error. How does it impact the economy? It will reduce employment in virtually every state, and add pressure to 50 state budgets already stressed. Job growth? Fuggetaboutit.

Words matter.  

When you decide to campaign and  roll into a public position full of spit and vinegar about big, bold ideas, it might help to understand what the hell you are talking about.   Don’t get pushed in a corner by political rhetoric that makes a great soundbite, but hurts everybody that hears it.

The most sacred rule of health care delivery is appropriate here: do no harm.

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