The Washington Post

Shutdown semantics: ‘That’s a lousy name,’ Obama says of debt ceiling

President Obama (Photo: EPA/Shawn Thew) (Shawn Thew/EPA)

Folks in Washington can’t agree on much these days — and beyond substance, it seems they can’t even come to terms on the terms of the debate.

In a speech today, President Obama today called “raising the debt ceiling” a “lousy name.” Seems he thinks the label makes it sound like the U.S. is taking on more debt, instead of just making it possible to pay down its existing debt.

But he didn’t offer an alternative.

And the president’s vocabulary critique is not the first quibble over shutdown semantics. Recall that the federal government stopped using the terms “essential” and “non-essential” when discussing which workers would toil through a shutdown, since they felt insulting to federal employees. “Excepted” and “non-excepted” are the kinder, gentler monikers.

And Fox News even recently  eschewed the very word “shutdown” in favor of the less-scary-sounding “slimdown.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
What to expect at tonight's debate
Tonight's debate is likely to focus on the concerns of African American and Latino voters. Clinton has focused in recent days on issues like gun control, criminal-sentencing reform, and the issues with drinking water in Flint, Mich. But Sanders has been aggressively moving to appeal to the same voters, combining his core message about economic unfairness with his own calls to reform the criminal-justice system.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as he heads into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
Clinton in New Hampshire: 2008 vs. 2015
Hillary Clinton did about as well in N.H. this year as she did in 2008, percentage-wise. In the state's main counties, Clinton performed on average only about two percentage points worse than she did eight years ago (according to vote totals as of Wednesday morning) -- and in five of the 10 counties, she did as well or better.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.