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So to actually “cut what we can’t afford,” the White House would have to deliver a balanced budget, or at least a deficit of less than 3 percent of gross domestic product, neither of which it does.

Conversely, the new spending is not for things “we cannot do without.” In fact, we have done without these spending programs for the entire 235 years of our existence as a country.

Perhaps because of my attention to correct word usage, I can be accused of verbal prissiness. But if we can’t gain sufficient precision in our words, we are unlikely to gain sufficient precision in our deficit reductions. And that is the alleged object of both branches of our government this season.

Tony Blankley is the author of “American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century” (Regnery, 2009) and vice president of the Edelman public relations firm in Washington.