“We should avoid a semantic battle” said Janet Yellen yesterday. “A what?” In short it seems what the Treasury Secretary means is that we should not use the word “recession.”
That is a shame, because people, including Yellen’s boss, used to like to use the word a lot. In October 2020, when he was running for office, Joe Biden said “President Obama and I left Donald Trump a booming economy – and he caused a recession. He squandered it just like he has everything else he’s inherited in his life.” He said the same thing in September 2020, claiming that American was in a “recession created by Donald Trump’s negligence.”
Fast forward a couple of years and The White House is now reframing the meaning of the word and warning us all not to use it. It is true that until yesterday it was generally agreed that two straight quarters of negative GDP growth was the common definition of a recession. But yesterday President Biden said, “That doesn’t sound like a recession to me.” This fact should surprise no one.
Because re-naming things is one of the left’s favorite pastimes. If you cannot change the facts then you can at least change the language around the facts. By doing so you can massage the facts, make them less concerning and in the process wish reality away. For a time, at least.
Remember the redefinition of another word: the “T” word. “Transitory” was the word Biden used after the third stimulus package in an attempt to claim that inflation was a fleeting issue. Back then he was dismissing inflation as a nothing-burger – all to do with supply chains that were being fixed anyhow. But many months later and the inflation is still with us. It turns out that things that are “Transitory” can stay around a lot longer than we thought.
At least we should be relieved that it didn’t have anything to do with “Trans.” Because we all know the way in which the left has tried to use that minority of a minority to redefine the dictionary in recent years. Especially anything to do with women. There was a time when somebody who couldn’t say what a woman was would have been failed in a middle school exam. Today they’re nominated for the Supreme Court. Because of a tiny number of people who identify as trans, all the language around women and womanhood have been altered. Because it turns out that if you can’t change or adapt reality then you can at least change the language.
Just this week The New York Times ran a piece giving guidance on “chest feeding.” I know that might look like a typo. But it isn’t. Saying “breast feeding” is apparently not inclusive enough. It risks upsetting women who’ve transitioned to become men but who are still capable of breast-feeding and giving birth to babies. So as a sop to this tiny number of people the Times and other papers have decided to change the language. In the process they are pretending that any and all guys can lactate from their chests and feed a baby. Which, if it was true, would come as welcome news for mothers across America — giving them all a break. But for the time being, of course, whatever the language, the chestfeeding will all be getting done by people whose chests happen to be breasts.
It doesn’t matter what policy area you look at, the left always plays this game. This administration may have been less successful than any previous one in securing the southern border. They may be perfectly content with allowing millions of illegal migrants to flood through into the country every year, cheating the system and making fools of everyone who has followed the legal path to citizenship. But if there is one area of the migration issue that the left has truly mastered, it’s the language around the subject. For years they have laced the debate with terms like “Dreamers” that are intended to soften up the hard realities of law-breaking at the border.
And now they are doing the same trick on all people who come into the United States illegally. The left may not be able to secure the border but they’ve certainly been able to secure the language. So now you don’t have millions of “illegal migrants” entering the US every year, you just have an annual increase in “undocumented” Americans. As though millions more Americans every year simply dropped their papers somewhere, and can’t happen to find them today.
Homelessness has undergone a similar shift. As I have said here before, homelessness in the United States is an issue that should shame any first world (sorry – “developed”) country. You see sights in every Democrat-run city in this country that would shame the third (sorry – “developing”) world.
And what is the answer to the spread of homeless encampments across the United States? If you cannot stop the problem you can at least “destigmatize” it. And you can change the language. So it is that the left in recent years has given us the new term “underhoused.” If a city is covered in tents and homeless encampments it need not any longer be called a slum. You can simply say that it is “underhoused” and the problem goes away.
On issue after issue it is the same. When the left dislike the prison or detention system they say that people who are detained are made to live in “cages.” That way we are made to feel sorry for the poor criminals. The same with social issues. In recent years the pro-abortion side of the argument has decided that this position doesn’t sound too nice. So they cover over the tricky bit by reframing themselves as “pro-choice.”
It is a neat trick, because from economics to social issues you can cover over reality for a time. You can rename it, repackage it and much more. The one thing you can’t do is wish it away. It’s a stubborn old thing, reality.