The political durability of conservative economic doctrine owes a great deal to euphemisms. As the main exponents of that doctrine, Republicans seek to distribute income from the poor to the wealthy by gutting social programs and returning the savings to high-income earners through tax cuts. Euphemisms obscure the brutality of that underlying moral vision. The affluent, in the language of the right, are “job creators,” the poor are “dependents,” the central goal (reducing top marginal tax rates) is a “simplification,” the programs losing funding are being “reformed” or “saved,” and the purpose of this reordering, stripped of ideological valence, is “growth.”
This familiar jargon survived the wreckage of George W Bush’s presidency, and remains bog standard Republican spin when tax cutting season rolls around. It is, to state the obvious, highly tendentious. But it is at least decodable.
It took a swindler of Donald Trump’s shamelessness, and the unexpected consolidation of power in Republican hands, to expose the limits of this spin. The breaking of Trump’s campaign promises, and the substitution of the old Republican agenda in the place of those promises, has forced Republicans to supplement spin with outright lies. Those lies were critical to the passage of the American Health Care Act, and to the advancement of other Republican priorities. This week — through the unveiling of Trump’s budget, and the coming Congressional Budget Office analysis of the AHCA — the lies are encountering reality for the first time.