House Speaker John Boehner is a master of euphemisms. Since taking back the House, he and his party have spurned every chance to pass a jobs bill but have somehow equated taxes with unemployment by insisting, at every opportunity, that the rich are "job creators" and any burdens on them are "job destroying." There is no evidence of this, but if it's said enough it starts to seem self-evident.
Here is another of the speaker's verbal tics, one that has also infected his colleagues: Boehner inserts the word "family" or "families" into every statement he makes, no matter how unrelated to marriage or children. Look up some transcripts. It's always there. Tax relief is a boon "for working families," the health care bill will hurt "families" and money allocated to FEMA is for "immediate disaster relief to American families who desperately need it."
This trend of inserting the word "families" in sentences where "people" would fit just as well crosses party lines. During last year's tax face-off, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson of Hartford doubted Republicans "were serious about creating jobs and standing on the side of working families." U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy said their effort to dismantle health care reform will harm the "families across Connecticut who can't afford our current system." U.S. Rep. Jim Himes stated that "Hurricane Irene devastated families, businesses, and farms throughout Connecticut."
Families have apparently replaced citizens as the basic unit elected officials want to fight for. Maybe this is just an issue of semantics —- no more serious than the labeling of a movie that would only appeal to 8-year-olds and the developmentally disabled as "fun for the entire family" — but it does imply that single people are a secondary consideration at the time of a mass societal restructuring. Folks in Washington are considering subjects as serious as entitlements, class stratification and the very purpose of government. Anyone who hasn't paired and/or procreated is apparently going to get shafted in this shakeup.
This isn't the first time politicians have made curious use of the word "family." For about 15 years, conservatives have used "family values" as a shield for judgmental politics aimed at gays, women and non-Christians. The current linguistic trick, when used by certain conservatives, serves the same purpose: throwing a fuzzy aura of warmth over inhumane ideas. "[E]very dollar the government takes is another dollar families cannot devote to strengthening their communities or saving for their children's future," Boehner said to a convention of Christian TV and radio producers, while defending a laissez-faire ideology that would increase foreclosures, decrease student aid, limit healthcare access, risk Medicaid and Medicare and otherwise harm people from average families.
The irony is that these middle-class-squeezing policies mean fewer families. Who under 40 can afford a wedding, a home and a couple of brats these days? Young adults of traditional marriage age are drowning in student-loan debt without the life preserver of a decent job. In the most recent Atlantic Monthly, Kate Bolick found that Americans are marrying later and taking a more cynical view of matrimony. "The Census Bureau has reported that in 2010, the proportion of married households in America dropped to a record low of 48 percent," she writes. "Fifty percent of the adult population is single (compared with 33 percent in 1950)." Bolick also notes that the Pew Research Center found "44 percent of Millennials and 43 percent of Gen-Xers think that marriage is becoming obsolete."
The sour economy, which is the direct result of Washington's mismanagement of the financial sector, is turning uncommitted Americans into a new majority, yet the political culture that brought us to this point now speaks only in terms of "families." At the end of the day, though, it seems like the singles have a better deal: Families get the doting of politicians and singles get to have all the meaningless sex with strangers they can find.