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The Republican Dictionary, IV | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

The Republican Dictionary, IV

In Bush's State of the Union address, he mentioned personal accounts seven times but private accounts zero times, which is interesting because only a few months ago he was using both terms interchangeably. But fear not, this was no mistake. The Republicans tested the phrase private accounts and found public support was much lower than when the same, exact, identical concept was called personal accounts. (Personally, I like caring accounts, but they didn't ask me.)

So the White House and its paid spin doctors, many of whom play journalists on TV, have taken to the airwaves to push the phrase personal accounts and chastise anyone in the media who employs the banished words to characterize ther Administration's Social Security agenda. Proof, if more was needed, that language is power and debates are won or lost based on definitions.

But here is the really funny thing about the personal/private accounts debate. Not only are they not personal accounts, they're not private accounts either. They are in fact US government loans. (Bear with me now, because this will only hurt for a moment.) You see, your payroll taxes will still be used to cover the benefits of current retirees, but under Bush's scheme the government will place a certain "diverted" amount into an account in your name. It sounds like a personal retirement account, but it's not. It's a loan. Because if your account does really well (above 3 percent), when you retire the government will deduct the money it lent you (plus 3 percent interest) from your monthly Social Security check leaving you with almost the same amount you would have received under the current system. If your account does really poorly (below 3 percent), you are out of luck. According to Congressional Budget Office, the expected average return will be 3.3 percent, so the net gain will be zero.

But wait, it gets better. These personal accounts aren't exactly US government loans either, because our government under the fiscal stewardship of George W. Bush no longer is running a surplus and therefore does not have the $4 trillion or so needed to cover the transition costs, and Bush refuses to raise taxes on his base (BUSH'S BASE, n. the wealthy).

So our government will have to borrow that cash. And if the last three years are any guide, our largest single loan officer will likely be the Central Bank of China. And who runs China's Central Bank, China, and the Chinese people with an iron fist? Why, it's our old friends, the democracy-loving, freedom-marching Chinese Communist Party. So Bush's personal retirement accounts=private retirement accounts=US government loans=US government borrowing=Chinese government lending=Chinese Communist Party loans.

Or as we like to say in Republican Dictionary land:

PERSONAL RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS, n. Chinese Communist Party loans.

We've had a grassroots groundswell of submissions from our readers after soliciting ideas for the Republican Dictionary project, which first debuted in this space last November.

Bush's "ownership society" was a big hit, "God" made a return, and Justin Rezzonico delivered the best definition of "Fox News" yet. I've included a sampling of the latest batch below. Please keep them coming in. (Click here to submit your ideas.) We are going to be collecting our favorites and publishing them as a book in the next few months.

ACCOUNTABILITY, n. Buck? What buck? (Martin Richard, Belgrade, MT)

BIPARTISANSHIP, adj. When Democrats compromise. (Justin Rezzonico, Keene, NH)

CHECKS & BALANCES, pl. n. An antiquated concept of the Founding Fathers that impedes autocratic efficiency; see also REFORM. (Robert B. Fuld, Unionville, CT)

FOX NEWS, n. Faux news. (Justin Rezzonico, Keena, NH)

GOD, n. Senior presidential advisor. (Martin Richard, Belgrade, MT)

NONPARTISAN JUDICIAL NOMINEE, n. An active member of the Federalist Society. (Mark Hatch-Miller, Brooklyn, NY)

OWNERSHIP SOCIETY, n. 1) A society where you're on your own. (John Read, Ownings Mills, MD); 2) A society where one-half of society owns the other half. (Anne Galvan Klousia, Corvallis, OR); 3) The euphemism used by robber barons and their political lackeys to promote or justify the extreme concentration of wealth into the hands of a powerful few. Synonyms: PLUTOCRACY, CORPORATE FEUDALISM. (Ken Stump, Seattle, WA)

SOCIAL SECURITY, n. Broker security. (Bruce Clendenin, Dallas, TX)

SPREADING PEACE, v. Preemptive war. (Bruce Hawkins, Silver Springs, MD)

STAY THE COURSE, v. To relentlessly pursue a disastrous policy regardless of how far conditions deteriorate. Antonym: "To cut and run." (Aja Starke, New York, NY)

TORTURER, n. 1) White House Counsel. 2) Attorney General. (Martin Richard, Belgrade, MT)

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