Language Politics

By Nicholas Fleisher

Tense and aspect not enjoined

From today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel coverage of proposed budget cuts to the Milwaukee Public School system:

The district also doesn’t benefit from savings provided in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, which curtailed collective bargaining and imposed cost-sharing with public employees for health insurance and pension benefits. MPS already had ratified a contract with its teachers union through 2013 that doesn’t include the same level of concessions.

As is well known, due to a restraining order, the law in question has not been enacted. The use of the passive participle provided in the excerpt above, however, strongly suggests otherwise. Alongside the present tense expressed by doesn’t benefit and the past tense expressed by curtailed and imposed in the following sentence, the language above presupposes that the law is in force and that school districts and other public institutions can now make use of its provisions, contrary to fact. A liberal sprinkling of hypothetical/modal woulds in the first sentence above would bring the text into closer alignment with reality.

For details on the deeply euphemistic sense of cost-sharing intended above, see here.


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