George Will
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Never mind Webb's careless and absurd assertion that the nation's incessantly discussed wealth gap is ``the least debated'' issue in American politics.

And never mind his use of the word ``literally,'' although even with private schools and a large share of the nation's wealth, the ``top tier'' -- whatever cohort he intends to denote by that phrase; he is suddenly too inflamed by social injustice to tarry over the task of defining his terms -- does not ``literally'' live in another country.

And never mind the cavalier historical judgments -- although is he sure that America is less egalitarian today than it was, say, 50 years ago, when only about 7 percent of American adults had college degrees? (Twenty-eight percent do today.) Or 80 years ago, when more than 80 percent of American adults did not have high school diplomas (85 percent have them today), and only about 46 percent owned their own homes, compared with 69 percent today?

But notice, in the second sentence of Webb's column, the word ``literally'' appears, the word ``infinitely.'' Earth to Webb: Words have meanings that not even senators can alter. And he has been elected to be a senator, not Humpty Dumpty in ``Through the Looking Glass.'' (``When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'') America's national economic statistics are excellent; Webb could actually tell us how much richer the ``top tier'' has become, relative to other cohorts, over a particular span. But that would require him to actually say who he is talking about, and that takes time and effort, and senators -- Webb is a natural -- often are too busy for accuracy.

Based on Webb's behavior before being sworn in, one shudders to think what he will be like after that. He already has become what Washington did not need another of, a subtraction from the city's civility and clear speaking.

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George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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