Bill Huey
Bill Huey

There's a new buzzword in Washington: "framework. "As in, "we don't have talks; we have a framework for talks."

Senator Charles Schumer announced a "framework" for human infrastructure (another buzzword) tax-hike talks on Thursday—which means it is still on the table, though about as likely to happen as my becoming a Russian astronaut aboard the International Space Station by Christmas.

Trotting out this new buzzword is another way of saying, "We got nothing. But this allows us to screw around for at least a couple of years, until after the midterm elections."

I am surprised that Henry Kissinger didn't coin "framework" during the Paris Peace talks in the Seventies, as he could have used it again and again to dodge fundamental questions about the lack of progress over four years. The word suits his style perfectly.

Of course, Washington runs on buzzwords, acronyms, and code words that only select members of the tribe are in on, but the nation is all the poorer for it. It was once said of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that he got the Treasury job because he was the only one who could remember what all the acronyms such as "TARP" stood for during the massive government bailouts in 2008-2009.

But in this age of transparency (another buzzword), buzzwords only contribute to the noise. It probably can't be put to an end at the lower ranks of government, but there should exist a mandarin class of government officials who filter out buzzwords and penalize offending agencies with harsh sanctions, such as no more government cars or trips on government aircraft. Hit 'em where it hurts and they will stop.

There should also be a kind of Devil's Dictionary of government-speak, ridiculing the ludicrous lengths that technocrats, venal politicians, flacks, political consultants, hacks and hangers-on will go in order to sound smart.

Heck, I might publish one myself. I'll let you know when I have a framework for it.


Bill Huey is president of Strategic Communications and the author of Carbon Man (Kindle, 2010).