The long term keeps getting shorter

The language to describe long-term and short-term budgets in the US is confusing

Michael Bonfigli / Staff / File
Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew is shown at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC, on Feb. 17, 2011. Mr. Lew is working on a long-term budget plan with Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff William Daley.

How long is the long term?

When discussing the U.S. budget, it’s usually something between 5 years and 75 years. At least it used to be.

But the ongoing battle over this year’s funding has begun to warp the language. See, for example, this quote from a recent UPI story about efforts to strike a deal to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year:

WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden vowed Thursday the “conversation will continue” after meeting with congressional leaders on a long-term budget deal.

President Barack Obama sent Biden, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and White House Chief of Staff William Daley to Capitol Hill Thursday to work out a deal for a long-term budget plan, 154 days after the government began operating without one, CNN reported.

Things are now so bad that funding the government through the end of September counts as long-term budgeting. Egads.

I suppose that’s true if your benchmark is this week’s deal funding the government for just two weeks. But calling that deal ”short-term” and a deal through September “long-term” seems an insult to the language.

So, readers, any better naming ideas? “Two-week” and “Six-month”? “Really short-term” and “Short-term”?

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