What’s in a Catch Phrase?
Kiersten Marek offers a rare opportunity to highlight — in productive, conversational terms — what liberals and conservatives see differently in one of the topics over which they wrangle:
I know some at Anchorrising.com and the head of the Rhode Island Republican party, Giovanni Cicione, complain of the strong poverty advocacy lobby in the state, but when I read statistics like those above, it seems to me that our poverty advocacy lobby is not strong enough.
The statistics to which she refers are the various room and board payments to foster households in the Southern New England states, among which Rhode Island’s are substantially lower than the others. I’m not inclined to argue against increasing in-the-field payments; rather, the phrase that draws my attention is “strong poverty advocacy lobby.”
Like many who share my general ideology, I’m suspicious of these catch phrases not only because they’re grammatically vulgar (as if somebody’s advocating poverty), but also because the linguistic contortions just give the impression that they’re disguising emphases. I don’t think, for example, that many people on my side of the aisle are opposed to strong advocacy on behalf of those in need. (Otherwise, I’d find my church a much less hospitable place.) The complaint is that having a “strong poverty advocacy lobby” doesn’t mean that the worthy cause is being advocated with particular strength or effectiveness; it means that the lobby wields strength on its own behalf.
If advocacy on behalf of the poor were strong, it wouldn’t rely so heavily on those who stand to benefit financially from increasing budgets, but would treat service providers as another group that must be lobbied for the benefit of those who receive services. As Marc, especially, has been pointing out, lately, the funds are there, and I’d suggest to Kiersten that the goal of lobbying shouldn’t be a bottomless pit of taxpayer resources, but accountability and effectiveness of the entire system, from the tax collector through to low-rung state employees.