Every Word They Say is a Lie, Including "And" and "The"

Here's a recent quote from Senator Obama on Social Security:

"We will not privatize Social Security, we will not raise the retirement age, and we will save Social Security for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."
Emphasis added. Where have we heard that before?

Well, that's why we have the Google. Remember John Edwards? Nice hair, ran for President? Here's what he said last August in Hanover, NH:

The tax code provides breaks for hedge fund managers — amazingly, even Democrats backed down from asking them to pay their fair share when Wall Street lobbyists put the pressure on.
A press release from someone named "Hillary", not quite down the memory hole yet:
As President, Hillary will restore fairness to our tax code by lowering taxes for middle-class families while asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.
Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed in this excerpt from their 2006 book The Plan: Big Ideas for America:
Yet when Democrats set out to restore progressivity and close those loopholes, Republicans block any action by pretending that asking the wealthy to pay their share is a tax increase on the middle class.
And here's President Bill Clinton, over 15 years ago:
But unlike the 1980's, when the rich paid less and the middle class paid more, we're asking the wealthy to pay their fair share to give the middle class a fair shake.
It's not just at the national level. Here's Minnesota ex-Senator Mark Dayton, in a Minneapolis Star-Tribune op-ed from March, opposing the Republican Governor's tax proposal:
Here's a novel alternative. For the first time in decades, let's ask the richest people in Minnesota to pay their fair share of taxes.
As Elvis said: I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused. But when I hear this phraseology, I go right back to "disgusted" again. Finding each one of these instances kicked my blood pressure up a couple of mmHg, and I don't have as much headroom in that area as I used to. It's as if there's a Democrat-brand computer keyboard that comes with that standard boilerplate bound to a hotkey, no extra charge. It must have once played very well to a focus group.

While it's short, it contains an unusual amount of rhetorical mendacity. First, there's:

  1. Rich and/or wealthy — Singling them out is pure demagogic populism, of course. Hey, this is a democracy! Why shouldn't 90% of us vote to raise taxes on the other 10%? Or 80-20? Or 51-49? The idea is that when most people hear "wealthy", they are supposed to unconciously add the subtext "not me." And hear the free-lunch implication: more goodies for me from the government that someone else will be forced to pay for.

But it gets worse:
  1. Fair share — spoken as if some unholy hybrid being, half-economist and half-ethicist, was able to derive a precise mathematical formula determining, for anyone's given situation, what a "fair" amount of taxation would be. Harvard Econ prof Greg Mankiw had the definitive take on this notion in the New York Times last year. After looking at the actual tax burden at various income levels, he debunked any effort to paint things as "fair":
    Fairness is not an economic concept. If you want to talk fairness, you have to leave the department of economics and head over to philosophy.
    The whole notion of "progressive" taxation turns any objective measure of fairness into a lame joke. This is not a new and original insight. In The Constitution of Liberty, Friedrich Hayek quoted J. R. McCullough from 1833:
    The moment you abandon the cardinal principle of exacting from all individuals the same proportion of their income or of their property, you are at sea without rudder or compass, and there is no amount of folly or injustice you may not commit.
    Hayek himself makes a similar point a few pages later:
    Progression provides no criterion whatever of what is and what is not to be regarded as just. It indicates no halting point for its application, and the "good judgment" of the people on which its defenders are usually driven to rely as the only safeguard is nothing more than the current state of opinion shaped by past policy.
But even worse than "fair share" is:
  1. Ask — No. No. No. The government does not "ask" you to pay taxes, any more than it "asks" you to not hold up convenience stores. They'll put you in jail if you don't do what they "ask". To euphemize otherwise is weasel-worded dishonesty.

I'd dearly love to see any politician advocating "asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes" mercilessly ridiculed until they were forced to translate to an accurate version: "compel an ill-defined but successful minority to pay more taxes, because we can get away with it in our democracy."

But I bet that won't happen soon. I'll contact my physician about upping my blood pressure meds.

Last Modified 2017-12-05 6:16 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • The University Diarist pens a limerick in honor of North Carolina State University's 'executive-in-residence/senior lecturer' Mary Easly. Whose husband happens to be the Governor of North Carolina. A key paragraph from the quoted news story:
    Her raise gives her a salary nearly $35,000 more than her husband’s, who makes $135,854 as the state’s top elected official.
    You can also play "spot the party affiliation" in the story if you want.

  • I'm still jazzed about WALL·E. Some of its Easter Eggs are revealed here (also some plot points, so if you haven't seen it yet, beware. Also: what the Hell do you mean you haven't seen it yet? Go, already.)

    I missed the Pizza Planet truck. I need to go again.

  • There are 30,000 stories in the Lilac City, and a good number of them are imaginatively chronicled in the latest Rochester, NH Police Log. A small sample of the sheer genius:
    Wednesday, June 18

    4:36 p.m. — There are several reports of "an elderly female that has broken down in front of the Gafney Home." Actually, it seems to be her car that has broken down.

    Thursday, June 19

    12:14 a.m. — There is venison on Old Dover Road.

    4:04 p.m. — A young man comes to the station, asking an officer to show him how to use hand signals when riding a bike. There are three important ones. Turn left. Turn right. And, hey, you cut me off.

    Tuesday, June 24

    8:03 a.m. — A dog runs loose at Skyhaven [Airport] and may become a hazard to air traffic. It is not a Sopwith Pup, but some type of husky mix.

    4:44 p.m. — There is a fight on Salmon Falls Road near Whitehall. It mostly involves two people but others seem to join in on a whim.

    Many more at the link. (In case you didn't get the Sopwith Pup reference: here.)

Last Modified 2008-07-06 7:45 AM EDT