I got into some trouble some years back when someone asked me what my political allegiance was. I wrote in a column that I’m politically agnostic — I believe there may be a perfect political affiliation out there somewhere, but I’m not sure we can ever know what it is.
I also answered that when I was a guest on a local radio talk show and a woman called up and said, if I remember correctly, “Why don’t you believe in Jesus?”
The conversation sort of went downhill from there as she dug in and consulted her Bible and her dictionary, while the only reference book I could find in the whole studio was a Jeff Foxworthy “You Might Be a Redneck” book, which, unfortunately, shed little light on subjects other than the entertainment value of bug-zappers, tattoo financing and and the use of a belt buckle as an acceptable form of ID.
Looking back, I could’ve handled it much better. “Sorry, looks like we have a caller on line two,” is how I should have explained it.
But I was thinking the other day — with it being election season and all, maybe we need to look at some of the terminology we’re sure to run into and try to make some sense of the new and improved interpretations for these combative times. Campaign finance seems to be on a lot of minds, so let’s start there.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAW: A candidate is allowed to secretly divert campaign contributions to pay off an extramarital lover and to hide a child born from that affair (U.S. vs. John Edwards), but can’t secretly spend campaign funds to cover plumbers’ fees (U.S. vs. Richard Nixon).
REGRESSIVE TAX: Any tax you have to pay.
PROGRESSIVE TAX: Any tax someone else has to pay but you don’t.
RIGHT-WINGER: Watches Fox News because they tell it like it is.
LEFT-WINGER: Watches MSNBC news because they tell it like it is.
MIDDLE-WINGER: Quickly turns the channel when realization hits that he or she accidentally turned to a Fox News or MSNBC program. Often followed by the sprinkling of holy water on the old flatscreen to ward off any evil spirits that might manifest, a move that could have saved the Freeling family a lot of grief in that “Poltergeist” movie.
REVENUE ENHANCEMENT: A tax that is laboriously referred to as anything but a tax. (Sometimes these things are cleared up in Supreme Court opinions written by Chief Justice John Roberts.)
DEFICIT SPENDING: The sort of activity that gets you arrested for writing bad checks — unless you’re the government.
SPIN: What high-priced P.R. hacks and party drones do to convince you, the potential voter, that the politician and/or party in question did not do what the politician and/or party most assuredly did do. Also, what your head does when you listen to reality being twisted by these people in ways that make that whole Higgs Boson concept seem relatively simple by comparison.
SUBSIDY: What China does for 40 percent of the U.S. government’s spending.
ENTITLEMENT: Government checks that go to someone besides you.
HARD MONEY: The kind that “jingles” loudly so that the FEC knows a candidate or party has it. Frowned upon by politcos because it’s too noticeable.
SOFT MONEY: The quiet, folding kind that is preferred because it is much more easily hidden from snoopy FEC officials.
SUPER PAC: A mild-mannered PAC that — when an unruly election breaks out — suddenly dons red, white and blue tights, writes checks faster than a speeding bullet and leaps tall mountains of logic with a single catch phrase, all the while maintaining its secret identity. “... Never-ending fight for truth, justice and the American way” isn’t part of the motto.
FREE SPEECH: An absolute constitutional guarantee for those who completely agree with you.
HATE SPEECH: Anything said by anybody who you disagree with.
FILIBUSTER: A cowboy who only tames female horses. Also, some Senate rule or another that involves a great deal of pointless chatter, which is devilishly hard to separate from what politicians do all the time.
NATIONAL DEFICITS: Morals, personal responsibility and ethics. Oh, and money.
GRIDLOCK: This is when elected officials from political parties are so busy fighting each other that they don’t have time to pick your pocket. Also known as “Government Utopia.”
JOBS BILL: Gridlock, like any other lock, can be neatly picked when the picker is properly motivated ... in this case, to win another term in office. Getting re-elected crosses all party and ideological lines. which brings us to ...
BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION: A rare occurrence these days, but it usually happens at least once in even-numbered years when there is a Transit of Venus. Congress, faced with a major problem, passes extensive legislation based on the assumption that a new bad law rushed into place is better than no new law at all. The new law, by congressional rule, must include a myriad of special spending projects that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day. This lets lawmakers meet special ends, such as bridges with only one useful end, studies to determine which end of a cow produces the most methane emissions (it’s the belching end, by the way) and a half-million dollar documentary on how rock ‘n’ roll helped end the Soviet Union.
If signed by the constitutionally designated co-conspirator in the Oval Office, the legislation goes into effect and, if successfully implemented through extensive spending and the creation of adequate additional bureaucracy that increase dependence of Chinese investment in our government, promptly creates an entirely new, more complex problem that no one expected. Particularly well-written laws, in fact, contain sufficient murky language to create numerous new problems, which is the only real example we have of efficiency in government.
Meanwhile, politicians, bureaucrats, special interest groups, PACs, Super PACs, university and private sector experts, and party bosses painstakingly examine and dissect the new problems conveniently created by the law and, depending on how their respective ideology matches up with those who pushed it, argue vehemently that (A) the law should be immediately amended or repealed or (B) that the law simply does not go far enough and more spending, borrowing and bureaucracy are desperately needed to properly fund and implement these vital programs.
This, in turn, fuels the economy as each side pleads for money from unsuspecting Americans on the basis that failing to donate will result in a constitutional crisis of biblical proportions.
A failure you say? Far from it. The lawmakers’ solution works exactly as intended. Those who clamored for a solution to the original problem, faced with a slew of new issues that irritate and befuddle them even more, promptly forget about that first problem, which then ceases, for all practical purposes, to be a problem anymore.
POLITICAL AGNOSTICISM: I’ve already explained that, but feel free to call if you must. Just don’t be surprised if an urgent call comes in on line two.
Email Editor Jim Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.