UC Berkeley prof behind invest/spend semantic ploy

UC Berkeley prof behind invest/spend semantic ploy

AP reporter Judy Lin had a fun story Wednesday about how Democrats are playing the semantic spin game:

As billions of dollars in unexpected tax revenue pour into California, Democratic lawmakers have proposed all kinds of ways to distribute the windfall after years of recession-era budget cuts.

“Just don’t call it spending. In recent weeks, Democrats have been using a more palatable and fiscally responsible term to characterize their individual priorities.

“Instead of spending the taxpayer surplus, they want to invest it.

“Last week, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, opened up a joint legislative budget committee hearing by saying she hopes the state will make ‘meaningful and strategic investments in early and higher education, in health care access and closing that opportunity gap.'”

Meet linguistics guru George Lakoff

georgelakoffBut there’s a very specific history to this ploy that AP doesn’t seem to know about. I wrote about it in 2008:

“A few years ago, the theories of George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley linguist, were all the rage. He argued that Democrats were then in the doldrums because they were inept at framing issues.

“One of his main suggestions: Dems should describe government spending as an ‘investment’ and spending decisions as choices on where to ‘invest.’

“This is a joke, of course, a severe and misleading twist on the traditional meaning of invest and investment. Salaries and benefits paid to government employees are not ‘investments.’ Transfer payments to poor people are not ‘investments.’

“Given the fact that experts say there’s no correlation between school spending and student performance, it’s also absurd to call education spending an ‘investment.’ But all’s fair in politics, so it made sense for Dems to use this ‘frame’ to make their case.

“But why would journalists — unless they also had an agenda designed to change the way voters thought about government spending?”

Most enthusiastic user of ‘invest’ euphemism was a journo

What’s funny is what my 2008 research turned up:

Which brings us Los Angeles Times’ Sacramento-bureau reporter Evan Halper. Look at the shameless way he employs Lakoff’s “framing” technique in his ostensibly straight news reporting:

“September 21, 2008: Come winter, emergency cuts will probably be needed. Proposals to invest in — or merely maintain — the state’s roads, schools and healthcare facilities will be put on the shelf again.

“August 16, 2008: Some needs of government are unpredictable, and placing strict formulas on how the state spends its money could ultimately squeeze schools, healthcare services, the prison system and other government programs that polls suggest voters want the state to invest in.

“August 16, 2008: Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chairman Roger Niello … defended the GOP formula, saying it allows for enough spending growth to steadily increase investments in education and healthcare.

“January 11, 2008: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ambitious policy agenda collided with fiscal reality Thursday as he rolled out a proposed budget that threatens to unravel his investment in schools, healthcare and criminal justice programs.”

Six years later, AP’s Sacramento bureau thinks this is a heavy-handed semantic game. Back in 2008, the LAT’s Sacramento bureau chief thought it was an appropriate use in straight news reporting.

Draw your own conclusions.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/06/11/6476065/california-democrats-replace-spend.html#storylink=cpy


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  1. Ricky65
    Ricky65 12 June, 2014, 13:40

    Nothing new here. Dema-Rats know the T-word (or more taxes) is a toxic term and avoid its use in public at all costs.
    Instead they use terms like ‘investments’, ‘enhanced revenues’ or ‘additional resources’ as euphemisms to fool the low information voter.
    I find it humorous to hear a D-Rat refer to their terms of office as ‘public service’or ‘serving the public’.
    Actually you can think of it as pretty much the same fashion as when a bull ‘services’ a cow.

    Reply this comment
  2. Queeg
    Queeg 12 June, 2014, 20:57

    Money is going for the bullet train…….plain an simple…….the best investment Californians could rally behind…….

    Reply this comment
    • Richard Rider
      Richard Rider 12 June, 2014, 21:58

      Let’s put HSR back on the ballot, and see just how many people agree with Queeg. I’m betting 30%.

      IF Queeg and the Dems thought they had the backing of the voters on this, they’d do it. They SHOULD return to the ballot — given that today’s HSR is only a distant descendant of the lie-riddled original ballot measure that passed.

      No way HSR backers will risk putting it back on the ballot — unless Democrats decide that it’s best to let the voters take the “blame” for stopping this train wreck.

      The frisky part of me hopes they go ahead with this HSR disaster. It will be like the Pyramids — a strange rusting structure out in the wilderness serving no discernible purpose — a monument to government stupidity. Without even the tourist draw of the older pyramids.

      Reply this comment
  3. Seanmorhamcpoly
    Seanmorhamcpoly 13 June, 2014, 11:04

    A Berkley stooge, dependent on the state for his income. One of many turds, who could not run a parking lot car wash. What a worthless ass.

    Reply this comment
  4. Bud Led Ted S.
    Bud Led Ted S. 13 June, 2014, 20:31


    And who are you dependent on for income?

    Are you “a turd” sir?

    Reply this comment
  5. Queeg
    Queeg 13 June, 2014, 21:04

    Teddy….is he constipated?

    Reply this comment

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