California Democrats replace ‘spend’ with ‘invest’

By From page A1 | June 12, 2014

SACRAMENTO — As billions of dollars in unexpected tax revenue pour into California, Democratic lawmakers have proposed all kinds of ways to distribute the windfall after years of recession-era budget cuts.

Just don’t call it spending. In recent weeks, Democrats have been using a more palatable and fiscally responsible term to characterize their individual priorities.

Instead of spending the taxpayer surplus, they want to invest it.

Last week, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, opened up a joint legislative budget committee hearing by saying she hopes the state will make “meaningful and strategic investments in early and higher education, in health care access and closing that opportunity gap.”

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D- Sacramento, has said in recent weeks that he would like to “make sure that there is room left for some investment to meet the needs of the people.”

Shortly after being sworn in as Assembly speaker last month, San Diego Democrat Toni Atkins said she wanted to help craft a budget that “expands opportunity by making smart investments.”

Webster’s dictionary defines investment as “the outlay of money, usually for income or profit.” But Democratic lawmakers are framing their spending proposals for welfare, health care, child care, education and preschool for low-income families as a human investment. They say it will pay off with a more productive workforce and higher future tax revenue for the state.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, described Democrats’ replacing the word “spending” with “investment” as a rhetorical device to make their budget proposals more acceptable.

“Is it smart rhetorically to categorize this as an investment rather than just an expenditure? Absolutely, because it makes it sound like we’re not just spending money,” she said.

Whether Gov. Jerry Brown buys it is another matter. The Democratic governor preaches austerity and wants to funnel most of the state’s surplus into a rainy day fund and paying down the state’s unfunded pension obligations and other debts.

Spending or saving most of the surplus is the main point of contention between Brown and Democrats who control the Legislature as lawmakers face a Sunday deadline to send the governor a balanced budget.

The Brown administration is using a more conservative revenue estimate for the $107.8 billion general fund budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It warns against starting new programs based on increases in tax revenue that will likely be fleeting.

Lawmakers want to use more optimistic figures from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which predicts the state will collect $2.5 billion more.

But the flood of additional cash may be starting to ease. On Tuesday, the state controller’s office reported that revenue fell short of projections for the first time in six months by 5.5 percent, or $389 million. Overall, tax collections are still up $1.8 billion, or 2.1 percent, for the fiscal year.

California’s fiscal turnaround is caused in part by voter passage of Proposition 30 in 2012, which increased the state sales tax for four years and taxes on high-income earners for seven years.

Republican lawmakers generally agree with Brown that the Legislature should not commit to ongoing programs based on the current spike in revenue.

“Call it what they will, the Democrats seek to spend one-time money that is largely the result of the voters approving a $45 billion tax increase that was intended for education and public safety,” said Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare. “Their ‘investments’ will be in law and come with a bill year after year, regardless of having the revenue to pay.”

California Democrats aren’t the only ones to play the semantic game.

“The point is that for the average young person, an investment in college is always going to be a smart investment,” President Barack Obama said Tuesday during his first Tumblr session in discussing student loans. “Making sure you know what it is that you’re investing in is important.”

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, defended the Democrats’ use of the word investment. He said they agreed with Brown that California needs to build a savings account for future downturns and start paying down its pension obligations. But he also said the state’s surplus should be used to restore or expand social, education and college programs that were reduced during the recession.

“There’s no disagreement about that,” Leno said. “But yes, we do believe we need to begin to reinvest in the people of California.”


The Associated Press

The Associated Press


Discussion | 21 comments

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  • Rudy MadronichJune 12, 2014 - 6:06 am

    Call it what you want it is still the tax and spend democrats doing whst they do best spend, spend, spend

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  • rlw895June 12, 2014 - 7:01 am

    Too bad we have to use such rhetorical devices to get people to see the ideas. Personally I'm way more in favor of investing than throwing money at a problem. I figure it just bounces off.

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  • Teach5thJune 12, 2014 - 8:47 am

    You're kidding, right? Did you miss the point of the article? The word " spend" has negative connotations as does " throwing money at a problem" does. So let's use the word " invest" instead. That way the idiots who can't figure out that what we are actually doing is still "throwing money at the problem". The term " invest" will work even better than when we switched the term "tax" to "fee." Never underestimate the ignorance of the American public.

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  • Danny BuntinJune 12, 2014 - 5:17 pm

    Oh please, the right has been the "word smith" geniuses for the last 35 years. Thank you Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

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  • rlw895June 12, 2014 - 5:22 pm

    And don't forget Newtie.

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  • rlw895June 12, 2014 - 5:27 pm

    T5: Yes, I was kidding, but by exaggeration. The Right has spent a lot of time demonizing words like "spend" so that we can't use the to communicate anymore. Don't blame the rest of us for finding new words to use.

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  • Mr. SmithJune 12, 2014 - 5:43 pm

    Rlw and Danny know full well that they are blowing smoke here. Control of language and terminology to mask a political intent has long been a staple of progressives and subversive socialistic movements. I believe it is also described in CD's favorite book, 'Rules for Radicals.' It is a means of mind control--no more, no less. It is not an invention of the right wing conservative movement.

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  • Danny BuntinJune 12, 2014 - 7:55 pm

    @Mr Smith: You obviously are not well schooled in the facts of history. Lets see, Death Tax - Estate Tax, Pro Life - Anti abortion, Welfare Queen/Urban, No child left behind, Job Creators, Support the troops, Contract with America, Obama Care, Death Panels, Tax and Spend, They hate us for our freedom, Limousine liberal, grass roots, God bless America.

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  • Mr. SmithJune 12, 2014 - 8:19 pm

    Well, Danny--What we have here is a failure to communicate. Sorry I bothered to try and educate you. And "God Bless America" is a conservative manipulation of the language? Whoa! Try again, young man. I believe in giving second chances.

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  • rlw895June 12, 2014 - 11:36 pm

    Danny: And don't forget cut-and-run, flip-flopper, resolute.

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  • rlw895June 12, 2014 - 8:52 pm

    Mr.S: No, it's not the invention of the Right, but the most recent examples I can think of in the U.S. were from the Right. Danny has provided a good sampling. Can you think of any from the Left in the contemporary U.S.? OK, invest vs. spend, which the Democrats in California are using to persuade a governor from their own party. I'm quaking in my boots over that one. Got any more?

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  • Mr. SmithJune 12, 2014 - 9:36 pm

    Good grief, rlw! Put a cork in the cooking sherry. And after that, try Google (or Goggle, if you frequent this forum over time) for liberal euphemisms. And why do you liberals shy away from ownership of language manipulation as a modern political tool? You invented it, or at least re-invented it in Rules for Radicals. Why did you completely ignore the content of my post in your response? Own it. Like you own "climate change," "choice," "progressive", "revenue" etc. Let me know if you want an explanation of those terms with their mainstream counterparts. Or you could Goggle it;>)

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  • Danny BuntinJune 12, 2014 - 10:09 pm

    @Mr Smith: "climate change," "choice," "progressive", "revenue". I'm speechless, this is what you have got? I might be inclined to give you "choice", lets say tie goes to the runner type of deal. But the other three words are not a play on words, like the ones I mentioned. I am just stunned you come to the table with this bologna.

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  • Danny BuntinJune 12, 2014 - 10:12 pm

    @Mr Smith: Maybe you could sign up for some lessons with Mr Luntz. He was on Fox the whole election cycle, when he was not contracting out his wordsmith skills to any rightwing group willing to pay.

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  • rlw895June 13, 2014 - 7:14 am

    Danny: I wouldn't concede on "choice." It's a far better word to describe the sides on abortion. The self-described "pro-life" people would LOVE the other side to accept "anti-life" or "pro-death," but even they know that would be ridiculous. Their next best option is to brand the other side as "pro-abortion." Anyone with half a brain though knows NO ONE is "pro-abortion." "Pro-choice" is an honest and accurate description of that side's position. You can't say the same for "pro-life." IT'S a political euphemism for "anti-choice."

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  • Mr. SmithJune 13, 2014 - 7:37 am

    Danny: You "progressives"(aka: liberals) came up with "climate change" (aka: global warming) so as to get more "revenue" (aka: taxes). All three terms were changed to mask what had become words with negative connotations. Now do you get how the game is played? Bologna, anyone? Rlw?

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  • rlw895June 13, 2014 - 8:07 am

    Mr.S: Both "climate change" and "revenues" are better descriptors. And why use passive voice? We know who made it impossible to use the previous descriptors to communicate. It's been the conservatives who prefer Pavlovian emotional responses to words rather than communication. What's wrong with the word "liberal" other than that?

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  • rlw895June 12, 2014 - 11:33 pm

    Mr.S: You live in a world of false equivalence, and I was wondering what you would find--falsely--equivalent. What are those euphemisms for?

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  • CD BrooksJune 13, 2014 - 8:10 am

    Good morning Mr. Smith! Thanks for the "radicals" plug but you omitted "hero." I'm sure it was a mild oversight. Have a nice day!

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  • Invest in usJune 12, 2014 - 1:04 pm

    How about "investing" the money back to residents and taxpayers? At least a lot of the money would be put back into the economy fairly quickly. But we all know that will never happen, as those in Sacramento know how to spend our money better than us.

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  • rlw895June 12, 2014 - 5:30 pm

    None of it really matters. The governor is going to get to decide no matter what it's called, and he's not likely to care what it's called.

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