Economic Code Words

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The Republican Party has put forward an "economic" platform consisting of the fantasies of Market Fundamentalism and Supply-Side Economics, also known as Voodoo Economics. Since none of the language used by Republicans means what it says in any dictionary, it is necessary to provide a glossary of the terms, and explanations of the fundamental concepts of genuine economics.

Basic Concepts

The most fundamental idea in economics is that both buyer and seller must profit in any uncoerced free exchange. The profit is not always in money, but in the usefulness of what is received. What they get and give up has the same price, but buyer and seller have better uses for what they get than what they give. One cannot eat money, which is therefore worth less than enough food. One equally cannot eat very much surplus food, which is thus worth less at that moment for that person than the money needed to buy other things. It is easy to be confused by the fact that people will exchange items that have the same price, but different uses. The exchange of a dollar bill for a dollar's worth of coins is a clear example, for anybody faced with an old-style vending machine that does not take bills or credit/debit cards.

The principles of Supply and Demand and the resulting Market Equilibrium follow directly from this first principle, with the addition of a few straightforward conditions. Basically, these conditions define what we mean by freedom or lack of coercion. They are collectively known under the technical term Perfect Competition. Competition does not in fact have to be perfect to be useful, just as balls used in sports and other games, or ball bearings in mechanical devices, do not have to be perfect spheres.

The requirements of Perfect Competition define the role of government and the public in regulating economic affairs. They include participation in markets on an equal footing by all, with complete access to economic and financial information, and the inability of any participant to game the economy or coercively set prices.

The above is the essence of economic theory. The rest of economics is an attempt to extend the mathematics of these simple cases to others, and apply this theory to cases that do not meet the requirements all that well. In that sense, it is like geometry, with a short list of definitions and axioms (common notions and postulates in the case of Euclid), and a great body of theorems that result. Both are like Newtonian mechanics, with three Laws, and the Newtonian System of the World, which added one Law of Gravity to deduce all of the known motions of the planets successfully for two and a half centuries.

The field of economics, like many others, has pretensions to be a science, or even a branch of mathematics. But it deals not only with money and goods in the abstract. Its subject matter is just as much human behavior (psychology) and the rules for a society of humans (politics), as reflected in the older name Political Economy.

Glossary

The purpose of this glossary is not to tell you what these words and phrases really mean, but what Republicans mean to convey to some portion of their base when they say them. For most of the terms given here, the audience is the rich, including owners of corporate stocks, bonds, and real estate, and executives of corporations, especially Wall Street financial institutions. In a few cases, Republicans say these things explicitly, but most is in code. You can find the real meanings in the account above, and in the pages it links to. In every case, the idea of using this code is Plausible Deniability for what they really mean. Cross references to other translations on this page are in bold.

American Enterprise Institute
Groupthink tank
Bubble
The last time the markets rose under a Democrat, or Bubble? What bubble?—Market Fundamentalists
Business cycle
Making tons of money in a rising market and shedding liabilities to the government in a falling market. See also Too big to fail.
Communism
State ownership of all companies; the opposite of Capitalism, which is long-term corporate rental of the state. (It's cheaper than buying the legislature.)
Competition
for subsidies and government preferences, not better and less expensive products for consumers; Socialism for the rich, Social Darwinism for the poor
Corporate responsibility
Profit—Milton Friedman
Credit Default Swaps
I'm sorry, that's too complicated to explain. You can't understand it. (It's actually just insurance from a company that will not be able to pay claims.)
Day trader
We've got a live one!; If you don't know who the chump at the table is, it's you.
Deficit hawk
No, no, you should be buying good corporate debt, not evil government debt.
Derivative
Bill of goods
Economist
Corporate shill
Economic Theory
Have I got a bridge for you!
Energy policy
Subsidies to big oil, coal, and gas
Evolution
The process leading from the apes to the highest form of humanity—the corporation
Falling market
The inevitable consequence of a rising market
Federal Reserve
Goldman-Sachs Policy Committee; Keeping a lid on inflation
Financial analyst
Another useless idiot. If he was really so smart, he would be another Warren Buffett.
Fiscal responsibility
Trillions for corporate welfare, but not one penny for social programs
Free Market
Laissez-Faire; Free for corporations, but not for you
Foreign aid
Corporate aid; Kleptocrat aid; Instrument of economic torture for the poor.
Free Speech
Money talks
Free Trade
Monopoly pricing
Government Health Care
Unfair competition with insurance companies
Global Warming
Never heard of it
Globalization
Corporate Imperialism
Human rights
According to the US Supreme Court, corporate rights
Inflation
Diminished value of savings and increase cost of operations to business through wage increases—Ayn Rand Objectivist Alan Greenspan
Intellectual property regime
Corporate/government conspiracy to grant monopolies, perpetual if possible—Mickey Mouse
Investment
Speculation
Investment Adviser
A Post-Modern gangster who makes you an offer you can't understand
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts—Supply-Side economic terrorists
Junk science
Science
Keynes, John Maynard
Author of the discredited theory that governments should borrow and spend more during recessions to stimulate the economy, whereas any fool knows that only tax cuts can stimulate the economy.
Living, A
A killing--U. Utah Phillips
Market efficiency
At extracting profit
Market regulation
The work of the Devil; Communism; Fascism; the tyranny of the poor over the rich
Mortgage-backed security
Bill of goods
Nation building
Crusade for defense contractor profits
Oversight
We pretend to tell you what we have been doing, and you pretend to understand.
Policy
Selfishness
Principles
Greed, racism, and intolerance
Public Interest, The
Corporate interests
Public Option, Health Care
Unfair competition
Reaganomics
Voodoo politics
Republic
The arena in which corporate profits and managerial compensation are to be maximized
Rising market
Bubble
Road to Serfdom, The
In the tradition of the book of that name by F. A. Hayek, anything proposed by Social Liberals or Progressives, even if Republicans proposed it first, as with Cap and Trade
Running government like a business
Enron
SEC
Goldman-Sachs Finance Committee
Single Payer Health Care
Theft of legitimate corporate profits
Socialism
Any concern for actual people
Special interests
The public interest
Supply-Side Economics
Concern for the interests of producers, especially large corporations, not consumers
Taxation
Tyranny of the poor over the rich
Tax and Spend Liberal
Edmund Burke, once the Father of Conservatism
Too big to fail
Big enough to demand favors from the government and be sure of getting them; bigger than Lehman Brothers
Treasury Department
Goldman-Sachs Executive Committee
Trickle-down
In Voodoo Economics, gusher up for the rich, pie in the sky for the middle class, forget it for the pee-ons
Unfair competition
Competition
Union
Tyranny that we must protect our workers from at any cost
Wall Street Journal editorial board
The Usual Gang of Idiots
Washington Consensus
Agreement among the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the US Treasury Department that other countries should let in multinational corporations and financial speculators to plunder their economies—Joseph Stiglitz
Waste, fraud, and abuse
Any government program that helps anybody other than corporations and the rich

See Also

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