USA Today: My Devil’s Dictionary

USA TODAY    April 13, 2015

Tax-time devil’s dictionary of DC lingo

by James Bovard

Having trouble with the ‘Washingtonese’ around April 15? Look no further for a translation.

April 15 is the day each year when Americans are most likely to slander Washington. Unfortunately, the city’s nebulous nomenclature deters citizens from recognizing exactly how well their elected leaders serve them.

To bridge the gap between the nation’s capital and the American people, here is Washingtonese translated into the vernacular:

Principled — profitably pliable with pious pretenses

Historic — different than last week

Unprecedented — different than last month

Emergency — the gift that keeps giving

Transparency — a pledge ritually made in lieu of full disclosure

Inspector general — honorary figureheads placed over federal agencies to foster the illusion that nothing can go amiss

Laissez-faire — any economic relationship not yet under complete federal control

Truth — whatever people will swallow

Majestic — whatever people bow to

Legacy — any political boast that survives more than three 24-hour news cycles

Idealism — an incantation that expunges all past warnings about political power

Kleptocracy — thieving foreign politicians (not valid domestically)

Precedent — a perfidy entitlement

State of the Union address — annual fact-flogging keystone of the Pundit Relief Program

Sovereignty — legal synonym for impunity

Czar — a political tool whose appointment and grandiose title can temporarily deflect criticism of a bureaucratic quagmire

Due process — any government process that gives troublemakers what they deserve

Gross Domestic Product — a long-running statistical burlesque invoked to justify perpetuating calamitous policies

Taxation — preemptive protection from pecuniary temptation

Handout — a government benefit received primarily by the supporters of the other party

Misgovernment — an imaginary occurrence which only imbeciles and rubes believe exists

Ethics — a Swiss-cheese set of rules that almost always pre-absolves political business-as-usual

Non-partisan — fervently prejudiced against everything except Republicans and Democrats

Mandate — whatever a winning politician can get away with

Honorable — any public figure who has not yet been indicted

Bill of Rights — (archaic) political invocation popular in 1790s

Fair play — any process in which politicians or bureaucrats pick winners and losers

Extremist — anyone who disagrees with or undermines official policy

Rule of Law — the latest edicts from a deputy assistant Labor Secretary or deputy assistant HUD Secretary

Patriotic — any appeal that keeps people paying and obeying

Waste — federal spending that fails to generate laudatory headlines, votes or campaign contributions

Corruption — any offense that can be profitably prosecuted to restore faith in “good governance”

Voting rights — any electoral arrangement which satisfies editorial writers without imperiling the dominance of Republicans or Democrats

Proof — allegations backed by campaign contributions

Pragmatic — any monumental bipartisan accord which keeps the gravy train flowing inside the Beltway for at least another 90 days

Constitutional — any White House action that fails to spur simultaneous armed uprisings in the majority of Red States

Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited

Humility — any politician who does not swear that both God and Jesus pre-ordained his reelection

Scofflaw — someone whose missteps can miraculously transform a prosecutor into a congressman

Hero — anyone who can boost Americans’ trust in government by 2% or more

Respectable — anyone who vociferously venerates the Status Quo

Election — when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties

Good faith — any pronouncement a government spokesman publicly recites without guffawing

Law — Any hodgepodge of commands and special interest windfalls heaved together under a misleading title which is rubberstamped by Congress and fails to make five Supreme Court justices visibly retch

Cynic — anyone who expresses doubt about the latest bipartisan agreement to gradually eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next 117 years

Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%

Injustice — any purported private abuse that provides a sufficient pretext to enact new legislation promising to rid the nation of evil

Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs

Liberate — Appending new criminal penalties to the statute book to rid citizens of the latest vice identified by Beltway visionaries

Legitimacy — whatever

James Bovard is the author of Public Policy Hooligan.
On Twitter @jimbovard

A special hat tip here to Ambrose Bierce and his wonderful Devil’s Dictionary

devils dictionary book cover 11


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to USA Today: My Devil’s Dictionary

  1. Tom Blanton April 13, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    “Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%”

    I think this number has now been revised. For Republicans the 3.63% figure is now 2%. For Democrats, anyone advocating any spending increase of less than 2% is an anarchist.

    C-SPAN would do well by having these definitions on constant scroll at the bottom of the screen whenever politicians or their minions appear with their lips moving.

  2. Jim April 13, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    Tom, I appreciate your updating on the anarchist definitions – you nailed it well.

    I don’t have any pull directly with C-SPAN, but I will mention your idea to Harry Reid the next time we do lunch.