For months, pundits and politicians have been saying that Americans have a math problem. They have a point, for Mr. Obama routinely champions the idea that running annual deficits in excess of $1 trillion dollars can be continued, simply by requiring Americans to pay $200 billion in taxes more each year. Anyone with a 3rd grade grasp of math has long ago come to the conclusion that even if Mr. Obama gets his way, huge annual deficits will remain, and the nation cannot sustain the current level of profligate spending indefinitely. Somehow, contrary to all known mathematics principles, and contrary to all common sense, in the mind of our president, the math works.
Now, even our language is under assault. Americans are no longer arguing about increasingly misleading and dodgy ways to represent the budget numbers, but are now battling over the meaning of the words being used by both sides in these arguments.
Consider Mr. Obama’s primary contention that the millionaires and billionaires (defined, without any sense of irony, as those making $250,000 a year) need to pay “just a little bit more” in taxes. The president contends that raising taxes to 39% on the top 2% will generate $1.6 trillion dollars over 10 years with no adverse effects to job growth.
• Barack Obama, has said "We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more."
• Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, has said: "people making all this money have to contribute a little bit more,"
• Dick Durbin, Senate Majority Whip, has said; "let the tax rates go up to 39 percent", that's it's okay for the wealthy to pay "just a bit more".
• According to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), "At a time when middle class families continue to struggle, it’s only fair to call on the wealthiest Americans to pay just a bit more toward their fair share,” Murray said after the vote".
• Peter Orszag (former head of OMB) claims: calling for the wealthy to pay "just a bit more" in order to achieve needed compromise on taxes and debt, is a reasonable and moderate approach.
However, in the Democrat's lexicon, what constitutes "just a bit more" changes dramatically when referring to calls for cuts of $400 billion in entitlement reform. Suddenly, much smaller calls for cuts of $400 billion are defined as imprudent "hacking away", "a gusher" and "hemorrhaging.", Yet, the president's plan to raise $1.6 trillion (or about 4 times that amount) in new taxes are described as “just a little bit.”
Remember the Paul Ryan Budget that called for $1.4 trillion in cuts to Medicaid? That plan was quickly called a "draconian", effort to punish the poor and elderly. If $1.6 trillion is defined by Mr. Obama as “just a little bit”, how then can a smaller number be defined as a draconian slash designed to punish? But, all of this, Mr. Obama tells us, is in the pursuit of a “balanced approach”.
Words do matter, and according to Socrates' Law of Identity, A=A. Or, as John Stuart Mill explains: "Whatever is true in one form of words, is true in every other form of words, which conveys the same meaning". So, if 1.6 trillion dollars is "gouging" and "draconian" when talking about entitlement spending cuts, then $1.6 trillion dollars is "gouging" and "draconian" when talking about tax increases.
We seem to have reached a sad impasse: even before members of Congress can agree on a course of action to avert the fiscal cliff, they need to agree on what words they use.
During the last election, Democrats proved their ability to inflame and to misdirect attention away from the president's failed policies, while obfuscating the very real financial crisis our country is facing. Inciting class warfare and racial tensions with the careful use of loaded words has become a Democrat stock in trade whenever there are difficult policy decisions to be made. The question is: how can Republicans negotiate with Democrats when the two parties clearly speak different languages?
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