Top 10 D.C. Buzzwords of 2010

By The Editors of | December 29, 2010 | 3:50 PM EST

A hearse labeled ‘Obamacare’ joins the Tea Party march on Washington on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009. ( Starr)

( - The year's top buzzword, as determined by the editors of, is a phrase: "Repeal Obamacare."

(The term “buzzword” is not necessarily pejorative. Applied to Washington and Congress, it simply means the terms of discussion, words that may arise in a particular context -- most frequently in the halls of Congress, or emanating from network TV studios --  but which gain popular currency as the terms of the day.)

Here are the Top 10 buzzwords from Washington, D.C., for 2010:

1. “Repeal Obamacare” – A buzzword that gained traction in 2009, Obamacare became even more pervasive in 2010. “We must repeal Obamacare” became the mantra heard in race after race in the mid-term elections. asked members of Congress if they would pledge to repeal the president’s health-care reform law, reporting on their answers.

Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Republicans, meanwhile, issued a “Pledge to America” that repealing the health-care reform law would be a top priority for the new Congress.

2. “Trillion” – Once, the concept of a trillion – a thousand billion -- was hard to wrap one’s brain around. For example, the entire GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the United States, the total of all goods and services produced in the nation, did not reach $1 trillion until 1970.

All of that has changed. The term trillion is now thrown around like it was chump change. The 111th Congress passed nearly a trillion dollars worth of new spending in a single bill. The total unfunded liability of Social Security and Medicare – i.e., what taxpayers will have to pay in the future, but for which we do not have the money -- is $53 trillion. The budget deficit in Fiscal Year 2010 totaled $1.3 trillion, down from $1.4 trillion in FY ’09.

The late Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-Ill.) and his famous tongue-in-cheek dictum, comes to mind: “A few billion here and a few billion there, and pretty soon it starts adding up to real money.” Today, he would have to insert “trillion” in place of “billion.”

Dirksen, by the way, was the same conservative Republican senator who warned that, with respect to authorization bills, “I do not want the Congress or the country to commit fiscal suicide on the installment plan.”

3. “Tea-baggers” – Although Newsweek's Jonathan Alter reported that  President Obama used the offensive term to refer to members of the Tea Party movement, his spokesman Robert Gibbs would not confirm it. But liberal media mavens, such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, used the term repeatedly with a sneer (or a snicker) to refer to those who wanted to stop the spread of liberalism and bring back responsible government. The liberals did so with full knowledge that the term has a sexual connotation – it is a slang term for those who engage in a particular form of oral sex.

4. “Illegal aliens/undocumented immigrants” The U.S.-Mexico border is ungovernable and Pinal County (Ariz.) Sherriff Paul Babeu may have said it best -- "our own government has become our enemy" -- in that  the U.S. government has become the enemy of anyone trying to protect the border by weighing in on the side of illegals.

Arizona, where members of Mexican drug cartels regularly cross the border and sometimes kill U.S. citizens, took action to stem the tide of illegal aliens by passing S.B. 1070, a measure that gives Arizona police the ability to do what the U.S. Border Patrol has always been able to do:  check the immigration status of suspects or detainees.

San Francisco boycotted Arizona and the Obama administration took the state to court. But Arizonans have fought back. Gov. Jan Brewer, flouting critics, spoke openly in defense of the law, pointing out that it only does on the state level what federal law already allows national law enforcement to do.

Part of the “battle for the border” centers on terminology. The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic  advocacy group, says the term “illegal alien” is a pejorative term that “dehumanizes” and “demonizes” individuals. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, who have long pushed for “a pathway to citizenship” for “undocumented immigrants,” managed to push for the DREAM Act, which would have given the children of illegal aliens the right to education and benefits.

But the author of  S.B.1070, Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, speaking for millions who want a border that is secure, continues to use the term “illegal” to describe those who come into the United States illegally.

“Illegal is not a race, it is a crime,” Pearce said.

5. “Pelosi” – In 2010, the then-speaker of the House became more than a household name, she became the visible symbol of Democratic politics and policy in Congress. It was Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the liberal congresswoman from San Francisco, who pushed through the economic stimulus in 2009, and the health-care reform just before Christmas ’09. But in 2010, her name became associated with the backlash of voters in the congressional mid-terms that led to Democrats losing the House, and some House Democrats distanced themselves from her.

6. “Ground Zero Mosque” – Plans by a Muslim group to place an Islamic cultural center just a few blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan led to a movement to fight what was perceived as an insult to the victims of 9/11: those who died in the collapse of the Twin Towers and to the wider “Islamization” of the United States. The views of the imam who is behind the mosque have also become a source of controversy.

7. “Global warming”/“global climate change”/“climate disruption” – The term “global warming” is extinct.  But "global climate change" and “global climate disruption” live on. At the Environmental Protection Agency's 40th celebration of the Clean Air Act this year, White House science adviser John Holdren called for replacing mention of global warming with the term “global climate disruption.”

Holdren said using the term global warming, which has already been replaced with the term “global climate change” in many places, had damaged the environmental movement’s case for global warming. Hence, “climate disruption” should become the buzzterm.

Now, anytime there is nasty weather, we should call it “climate disruption," not global warming. Keep that in mind the next time the East Coast is hit by a massive blizzard.

8. “Earmarks” – Some conservative members of Congress, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), want to end the practice of “earmarking” funds for special projects, what used to be called “pork” or “pork-barrel projects.” DeMint was a prime mover on a proposed ban that the Senate voted on in December.

But, as reported, not all conservatives oppose all earmarks. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) argued that eliminating 100 percent of earmarks in fiscal 2010 would have cut the federal budget by less than one-half of one percent, but would hamper the ability of Congress to use its legitimate constitutional authority to restrain and direct the Executive Branch.

9. “Tax Cuts” – Only in America, or in George Orwell’s novel “1984," could keeping tax rates the same as they have been for the last 10 years be referred to as “a tax cut for the wealthy.” But that is how the “tax deal” reached in mid-December was characterized. Congressional Democrats referred to “extending the Bush Era Tax Cuts for the wealthy.”

Republicans argued that what President Obama and most of the Democrats in Congress wanted to do was to raise taxes, including a hefty re-introduction of the death tax , arguing that extending all of the “Bush Era Tax Cuts” would simply leave tax rates as they had been for the last several years and would not lead to anyone’s taxes being cut.

10. “WikiLeaks” – This fall, major newspapers around the world published classified U.S. government cables -- more than 250,000 documents spanning nearly 50 years – all made public on WikiLeaks, a Web site founded by Australian Julian Assange.

Many of the U.S. documents were allegedly stolen by an Army specialist.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said the release of the secret documents was more than embarrassing: It put American lives at risk and House Republicans have promised to investigate the matter in the 112th Congress, starting next year.

Bonus: "Socialist" - As a postscript, the word  “socialist” was among the top buzzwords of 2009, particularly as it was applied to President Obama’s political agenda. Newsweek magazine even made it the subject of a cover story that proclaimed, “We Are All Socialists Now.”