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David Sirota
David Sirota
25 Sep 2015
Should Companies Have to Pay Taxes?

Reading companies' annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission is a reliable cure for insomnia. … Read More.

18 Sep 2015
A Fight Over One of America's Most Important Waterways

Environmental groups and Democratic legislators are pressuring New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to say that General … Read More.

11 Sep 2015
Prosecution of White Collar Crime Hits 20-Year Low

Just a few years after the financial crisis, a new report tells an important story: Federal prosecution of white-… Read More.

Commemorating Our Soon-to-Be Lost Vernacular


By far, the laziest, most vapid articles annually published during this post-holiday season are lists of the past year's top 10 words and aphorisms. Admittedly, the sloth of such an endeavor tempts me. But as a new dad obsessed with my 1-year-old son's future, I think I've got a more worthy list to add to the pile — one of current words and phrases that my kid may never know because they might end up as relics of a lost vernacular.

Here are those harrowing 10. I hope I'm wrong but fear I'm not.

10. "Civil liberties"
My son will surely read the U.S. Constitution in civics class, and he'll see stuff about rights to jury trials, due process and protection from unreasonable searches. But these freedoms have been extinguished by presidents successively claiming powers of indefinite detention, warrantless surveillance and assassination of American citizens without charge. Assuming there's still an ACLU that sends me mail and assuming my son sees the mail, he might ask, "What are civil liberties, Dad?" My response: "Good question."

9. "Public school"
With for-profit forces successfully pushing to privatize public education, I pray there's a decent public school left for my son to attend -- at least then there's a chance he'll know what one is.

8. "Budget surplus"
This term will be in the Bill Clinton footnote of my son's history textbook. But with our refusal to cut bloated defense budgets, embrace single-payer health care and preserve Clinton's tax rates, he'll probably have no idea what the term means.

7. "Potable water"
No doubt in the shadow of ubiquitous oil and gas rigs, I'll tell my son of the halcyon days when drinkable H2O was widely available. I'll also tell him that when he was a toddler, lawmakers ignored warnings that oil and gas drilling threatened to contaminate groundwater. Granted, I'll sound like the Lorax. Unfortunately, my story won't be a Dr.

Seuss tale — it will be real.

6. "Union"
Even as states limit collective bargaining rights and corporations bust organizing drives, my son will somehow still know this word. The problem is that he'll insist it's a Civil War-era synonym for "north" — and that's all.

5. "Peace"
The Afghanistan War presses on unabated. Meanwhile, Wired magazine notes that a permanent presence of private security contractors means our "military efforts in Iraq aren't coming to an end," and covert operations continue in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. My son might encounter "peace" when he reads Orwell and sees the phrase "War is peace," but he'll probably take that phrase literally in what the Pentagon now deems "the era of persistent conflict."

4. "Democracy"
"How can a presidential candidate win without the most votes?" my son will ask as he approaches voting age. "How can 40 Senators filibuster everything? Why are corporations allowed to buy politicians? What's 'democracy,' dad?" Dead silence will follow.

3. "We're all in this together."
I'll try to teach my boy the values inherent in that slogan of solidarity. But in this Gilded Age of avarice, I fear I'll hear in return that American motto: "Greed is good, daddy."

2. "Newspapers"
University of Southern California researchers predict that within five years, "only four major daily newspapers will continue in print." Tragically, that suggests that when I explain my career and I show my kid a newspaper, I'll be pointing at a museum's glass case.

1. "Journalism"
At that museum, if I found the very newspaper in which you're reading this column, I'd show my son the surrounding articles reporting on real issues in local communities. I'll tell him that he's looking at the lost art of journalism — and I can only hope he doesn't respond by asking me if it was "fair and balanced."

David Sirota is best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. Email him at, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at



1 Comments | Post Comment
10. Civil liberties
Not to worry, David. If you're still able to whine about them 10 years from now, you'll still have 'em.

9. Public Schools
Again, not to worry. But you said "decent," didn't you?
That will largely depend upon local funding levels and parental involvement.
Classroom/teacher ratios, union edicts and federal dollars per student?
Not so much.

8. Budget Surplus
See "selected states, only."

7. "Potable Water"
Perhaps the new oil.
But technology gives us a fair chance of supply keeping up.

6. Union(s)
Back stronger than ever, but coupled with double-digit unemployment as the new normal.
Tell your boy "Unions are needed when and where workers are abused. But the abuse can cut both ways.
It's a matter of balance."

5. Peace
An answer to your Isaac:
"It may or may not be mankind's nature to be at war.
But it is in our nature to compete.
Be at peace with that.
Peace begins within each of us."

4. Democracy
We'll still have the Electoral College, David.
When your son asks, tell him Democracy is more than 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

3. "We're All in it Together"
Tell your boy, "Class Envy went Global, so now we're part of the 1%."

2. Newspapers
Rarities to be sure, but there will be a few old fogies like me who enjoy rustling a paper over morning coffee.
So tell your kid not to badger me about how many trees I'm killing, ok?

1. Journalism
You mean objective, non-partisan reporting by professionals without activist or revisionist agendas?
David, that was gone before YOU were 10, I barely remember it myself.
Comment: #1
Posted by: oddsox
Sat Jan 7, 2012 1:38 PM
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