Doublethink is a concept coined by Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The last few days have me noticing it more than I wish to.
Of course, you all know of Doublespeak, which is NOT a creation of Orwell, but is likely a combination of Doublethink and Newspeak (which ARE Orwellian). More interestingly than the notion that we attribute Doublespeak to Orwell instead of the words he DID use is the fact that my word processing dictionary does not recognize either of Orwell’s terms, but DOES recognize Doublespeak. Linguist shifts abound.
Here I’m thinking of three political instances in particular, two inextricably linked, the third only somewhat.
1. The Debt Ceiling: The debt ceiling is a quirk enacted by Congress to limit spending by Congress for things Congress has already voted to pay for.
Did you follow that? Don’t worry if you didn’t. I’m certain that you’re not supposed to be able to. Back in WWI, Congress passed the debt ceiling limit bill to give the U.S. Treasury more flexibility. In a word, the Treasury would not have to ask Congress (the only entity allowed by the Constitution to control spending) to allow more debt.
Now, lets think this one through. Congress (being House and Senate) gave the Treasury some leeway Sounds good. And it probably is. Anything that oils the economy grows the economy.
But who decides how much money to spend in the first place? Congress. Who decides how income (taxes) are levied how much income (taxes) are taken in? Congress. Why then does Congress also need to OK a debt ceiling increase every so often? Conspiracies of manufacturing problems, it’s doublethink at work here.
As leaders in both Houses write and pass bills sending pork and other goodies to their home states, they look good, they get reelected, and everyone wins in the short term. Then, the bill (by bill, I mean the bill you and I get when your credit card company wants you to start paying up) comes due a year later. Low and behold, there’s not enough borrowing power. So Congress is asked to raise the debt limit. Senators and Representatives can now fight about why the debt is so high and how it’s the other team’s fault. This gives politicians in both Houses the ability to send wheelbarrows full of cash to their home state with one side of their mouth while complaining that government is spending too much with the other side.
You might argue that the debt was raised by “previous Senators and Representatives.” Since the House has a reelection rate of roughly 90% give or take based on what year you look at and the Senate has a reelection rate of about 80% give or take based on year, you can hardly suggest that “it was the other guy that voted for these ridiculous spending habits.”
2. A not-too-strange bedfellow of the debt ceiling limit doublethink is the hot button issue: the fiscal cliff.
Hopefully, this one is a bit clearer to my readers. The two main parties could not figure out how to deal with the debt ceiling this past fiscal year. So, what did they do, they created a “fiscal cliff” nobody wanted to see happen set to explode on January 1, 2013 allowing Congress to kick the can down the road a few more months.
What happened? It was no longer the debt limit that became the discussion. Instead, we watched our representatives bicker (or debate if you prefer such smoothing over) over which party WANTED to go over the cliff. Of course representatives talked debt and spending, but talking points revolved around cliffs and which party hated America more.
What’s better is that by having representatives discuss in terms of debt and spending (behind closed doors mostly), nobody (such as myself) can argue that the true discussion revolved around cliffs and anything BUT spending. The ultimate doublethink. If it happened behind the scenes, or happened but the press “decided” to focus on the talking points given it of “cliffs” and the spiraling of the economy, then it’s only conspiracy or lunacy to suggest the latter happened on purpose.
3. President Obama recently signed NDAA bill barring federal funds from being spent on transferring U.S. prisoners in Guantanamo to the U.S. (for trial) or to third party states. This one is the Doublethink that got me thinking in the first place.
Only 4 years ago President Obama said he would shut down Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Today, he barred the spending of federal monies on doing just that. Well, not entirely. He could have all 180+ prisoners executed and shut down the place, or ask for private donations to ship prisoners elsewhere, or better yet, close up shop and walk away. After all, as the Ancient Greeks believed, if you die of hunger in a cave, the State did not kill you…you just died.
Atop this obvious and jarring doublethink, President Obama said, while signing the bill, that the bill steps beyond it’s legal rights to supersede the President, that he disagreed with the bill, and that, though he was signing it, it could override the parts he disapproved of.
Why was NOBODY listening!?!? Sometimes I truly feel I’m smashing my head against a brick wall waiting for the sanity to join the human race. For this I have no answers. Like any writer, I only have a magnifying glass to point out the problem and a microphone with which to share my findings. I only pose more questions, rarely do I have any answers.