Two cultural events involving dreadful government decisions happened in a kismet sort of way just days apart. A memo leaked from the Center of Disease Control pointed out words that were declared banned from documentation and discussion. The chosen words were equally arbitrary and bizarre; Diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, transgender, and vulnerable, and science-based.
Maybe not so bizarre, because these words are in the way of the Trump administration’s draconian cuts to studies regarding climate change, the drawing down of regulations concerning mining for non-renewable energy resources, the irrational battle to ban abortions, and the relentless pursuit to destroy the affordable care act and to atrophy funding to social security and medicaid. Of the 7 words, my personal favorites are evidence-based and science-based, which are generally known as proof and facts. Also vulnerable, which is what the majority of the working poor and middle class citizenry of this nation have become with the recent passage of the Oligarch Welfare Law. It looks like the word that would fill the void left behind the banishment of these terms would be “expendable”
Left to my own devices, if there was a word that should truly be forbidden considering this Orwellian blacklist with this bureaucracy under the Dotard it would be “control”.
Fortunately, it turns out that the leaking of this irrational Orwellian list is that it might have been a diversion by embittered long term staffers at the agency so that their programs won’t get defunded. It even got uproarously debunked by Trump’s appointed and soda pop industry conflicted director.
The story of the language rules at CDC has quickly broken free of underlying facts. Despite what you may have heard, the alleged “ban” of seven words does not reveal a secret “War on Science” carried out by thought police in Washington; nor is it some evil plot to “enforce a political and ideological agenda,” as the Washington Post editorial board suggested. A more sober measure of this soggy crumb of news—one that’s, well, evidence-based rather than reflexive—suggests it should be understood as a byproduct of the Trump administration’s much-less-secret war on science funding. It appears that the ban is an attempt by bureaucrats to save their favorite projects from unforgiving budget cuts.
That explanation would be consistent with what’s been reported to this point. According to CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, “There are no banned, prohibited or forbidden words at the CDC—period.” Meanwhile, anonymous sources at the Department of Health and Human Services told the National Review’s Yuval Levin this week that any language changes did not originate with political appointees, but instead came from career CDC officials who were strategizing how best to frame their upcoming budget request to Congress. What we’re seeing, his interviews suggest, is not a top-down effort to stamp out certain public-health initiatives, like those that aim to help the LGTBQ community, but, in fact, the opposite: a bottom-up attempt by lifers in the agency to reframe (and thus preserve) the very work they suspect may be in the greatest danger.
It appears that the ban is an attempt by bureaucrats to save their favorite projects from unforgiving budget cuts. Reports about the seven dirty words at CDC should be understood in light of that budgetary process. Right now, the Trump administration is in the middle of preparing its fiscal 2019 request, to be submitted to Congress this coming February. It’s likely that the staffers at each agency at HHS have already submitted their proposals for how much money they think they need, for which specific projects, along with “budget narratives” explaining why. These, in turn, have probably been passed up to the budget team for the whole department, aggregated and sent on to the Office of Management and Budget in the White House. Now the OMB is trying to combine proposals from across the federal government into one colossal document to be reviewed by lawmakers.