Just when you thought you had mastered all those euphemisms and acronyms and other jargon used by politicians to distract from or obscure the real issues, along comes a new batch.
Having avoided the “fiscal cliff,” due in some measure to “quantitive easing,” Washington now alarms us with “sequestration.” It used to mean hotel rooms and free dinners for juries as they deliberated. Now it’s a fancy term for paralysis in the nation’s capital.
And here in New York, the Cuomo folks are gifting us with this beautiful thing they’re calling “smoothing,” along with that sweet sounding acronym “SAFE” Act, plus the “Women’s Equality Act,” useful examples of political shorthand all. I mean, who does not want to be smooth and safe while standing for fair treatment for women?
Tony Bennett, now he’s smooth. But the euphemism “smoothing,” as used by the Cuomo administration, concerns a clever device to help localities that are being bankrupted by public pension payments by voluntarily “smoothing” those payments over 25 years. Smooth!
But a funny thing has happened along the way to approval of the governor’s budget and that “smoothing” thing. His own handpicked co-chair of the state Democratic Party, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, has committed the unthinkable, challenging the governor’s plan with some very blunt language. “Fiscal recklessness,” she fumed in her New York Times op-ed. Miner infuriated the Cuomo people by claiming the governor had ignored money problems faced by upstate cities, even as the state Democratic Committee is running TV ads calling for on-time passage of the budget.
“Smoothing,” says Miner, is nothing but an “accounting gimmick.” Had she thought of it, she might have used that old euphemism “kicking the can down the road.”
But can you imagine that — the kind of criticism you might have expected from Republicans before they became enthralled/fearful of Cuomo now delivered by this top Democrat? Of course, you can’t really expect lawmakers, Republican or Democrat, to criticize some scheme that might ease the pain in their home districts from pension payments they themselves largely created. Not to mention the state-owned cars and leaderships and other perks that would be in peril.
Then there is that acronym, New York “SAFE” Act, for the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, the hyper-controversial response from Cuomo and the Legislature to the taking of 26 lives at Newtown. Some of the lawmakers still had their hands on the Bible from swearings-in when the governor convinced/cajoled/cowered them into his quickly conceived gun control measure. Not since 40-plus years ago, not since the charged debate over New York’s groundbreaking abortion law, has there been such anger, emotion, vitriole on either side of an issue at the Capitol.
And what, you don’t expect a huge to-do over what the governor so innocently labeled in the State of the State the “Womens Equality Act?” Opponents already have come up with their own euphemism: The “Abortion Expansion Act.” The battle even now stirs as Roman Catholic hierarchy and other abortion foes join in opposition to the most controversial of the 10 planks in the governor’s “Equality Act” — the guarantee that women in New York will have access to late-term abortions even if federal judges scale back Roe v. Wade.
Yeah, we know the governor has no plans for 2016, but doesn’t all this stuff have all the makings of a presidential ad campaign? Something like: While Washington and the rest of the nation dawdled, here was Andrew Cuomo taking decisive action on guns and abortion — very nice for the Democratic primaries, no?
All these euphemisms and political-speak are handy, of course, because they are so often employed, especially by TV news, without qualification or explanation.
But there is one more euphemism the governor seems to not yet have devised the answer for: It’s that “fracking” thing.
John McLoughlin is a freelance columnist and a veteran Capital Region journalist now at NewsChannel13. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at JMcLoughlin@WNYT.com.