Thomas Sowell

Under ordinary accounting rules and laws, the money promised to people as pensions when they retire has to be counted as part of the debts of a business or other organization. But, since Congress makes the laws, the trillions of dollars owed to people who have paid into Social Security do not have to be counted as part of the federal government's debts.

When you or I owe money, we are in debt -- and face consequences if we don't pay up. But we are not the federal government and cannot write our own accounting laws.

Perhaps the biggest frauds committed by redefining words are the many fraudulent uses of the word "poor."

For most of the history of the human race, there was no problem in defining who were "the poor." They were people without enough to eat, often without adequate clothing to protect them from the elements, and usually people who lived packed in like sardines in living quarters without adequate ventilation in the summer or adequate heat in the winter, and perhaps also lacking in such things as electricity or adequate sewage disposal.

Today, most of the officially defined "poor" have none of these problems, and most today have amenities such as air conditioning, a car or truck, a microwave oven and many other things that once defined a middle class lifestyle. Americans in poverty today have more living space than the average European.

Why are they called "poor" then?

For the same reason that autism, the national debt and many other things are redefined in completely misleading ways -- namely, to justify draining more money from the public in taxes, expanding the government, and allowing politicians to give handouts to people who are expected to vote for their reelection.

If we keep buying it, politicians will keep selling it.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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