February 12, 2013

Decoding the SOTU's Economic Jargon

Matthew D. Mitchell

Senior Research Fellow
Summary

Economic jargon can be difficult to parse. Political speech—often by design—can be just as impenetrable. So, it stands to reason that when politicians are talking economics, it's easy to get lost. As a guide to this year's State of the Union and the Republican response, below are some translations of statements each might make.

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Economic jargon can be difficult to parse. Political speech—often by design—can be just as impenetrable. So, it stands to reason that when politicians are talking economics, it's easy to get lost. As a guide to this year's State of the Union and the Republican response, below are some translations of statements each might make:

President Obama: "We need an economy in which everyone plays by the same set of rules; one that works for everybody."

Translation: "We need to eliminate the privileges that I don't like but maintain the ones I do like. For example, let's get rid of oil and gas subsidies, but let's keep the loan guarantees for alternative energy.

Let's also keep tariffs of up to 250 percent on Chinese solar panel makers, even though my administration's position is that we are suffering from global warming, not regional warming, and even though these tariffs clearly discriminate against the world's lowest-cost producers of alternative energy.

And let's continue providing tax breaks for manufacturers because we should favor firms that make stuff you can actually touch over firms that provide valuable services."

Obama: "We must stop pandering to the fat cats on Wall Street that got us into this mess."

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