Whenever the rare threat of a passable Republican bill emerges, we learn from Democrats that thousands, or perhaps millions, of lives are at stake. Once it passes, we learn that America is over. Taxes? Health care? Bogus international treaties? Internet regulations that were only instituted last year? It really doesn’t matter. These days, the rhetoric is always apocalyptic and always bellicose.
How did so many liberals convince themselves that tax reform (a rare cut that is, according to sometime-reliable Washington Post factcheckers, only the eighth largest in history) signals the implosion of American life? Everyone tends to dramatize the consequences of policy for effect, of course, but a Democratic Party drifting towards Bernie-ism is far more likely to perceive cuts in taxation as limiting state control and thus an attack on all decency and morality. Taxation is the finest tool of redistribution, so it’s understandable.
There is a parallel explanation for the hysterics. With failure comes frustration, and frustration ratchets up the panic-stricken rhetoric. It’s no longer enough to hang nefarious personal motivations on your political opponents — although it certainly can’t hurt! — you have to corrupt language and ideas to imbue your ham-fisted arguments with some kind of basic plausibility.
Liberal columnists, for example, will earnestly argue that Republicans, who at this moment control the Senate, the House of Representatives, and White House thanks to our free and fair elections, are acting undemocratically when passing bills. As you know, democracy means raising taxes on the rich. Just ask all the folks who told us democracy died over the weekend.
But the most obvious and ubiquitous of the Left’s contorted contentions about the tax bill deliberately muddles the concept of giving and the concept of not taking enough. This distortion is so embedded in contemporary rhetoric that I’m not sure most of the foot soldiers even think it’s odd to say anymore.
“You really shouldn’t lower everyone’s taxes because it creates deficits and makes harder to expand important programs like Medicaid” doesn’t have quite the same kick as “You’re killing the poor!” Whatever you make of the separate tax bills the House and Senate have passed, though, the authors do not take one penny from anyone. In fact, no spending is being cut (unfortunately). Not one welfare program is being block-granted. Not one person is losing a subsidy. It’s just a wide-ranging tax cut without any concurrent spending cuts.
The US will soon face the consequences of a #TaxBill that takes money from the poor to give to the rich. Those who voted for it will face consequences later, when they are judged. Do you think Jesus’s words about being judged on how we care for the poor don’t apply? Think again.
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) December 2, 2017
Now, I stay clear of theological debates, but I do wonder what Jesus would have to say about a public figure offering blatant falsehoods to thousands of Twitter followers in His name. To believe that taxing at a moderately lower rate is the same as “taking” from the poor, you must believe that 1) arbitrary rates politicians concocted many years ago regarding child credits and deductions are now a sacred baseline and/or 2) the state has a natural right to your property, and whatever you keep is stolen from the collective. Or, of course, you might just be extraordinarily dishonest.
It’s perfectly legitimate and comprehendible to stake a position that argues the state should make the country a fairer place and redistribute money from the well-off to the less-fortunate. Our progressive federal tax code already places most of the tax burden on the wealthy. I get it, you’re worried about income inequality. On the other hand, it is preposterous to claim — as this New Yorker writer and countless others did this weekend — that lowering rates across the board is a state-sponsored “transfer” of wealth. And no amount of pseudo-scientific explainer charts will alter reality.
Nor, by the way, does, as the vast majority of liberal pundits claim, overturning Obamacare’s mandate to purchase health insurance — a market-coercion masquerading as a tax for purely legal purposes — mean that any Americans will have lost “access” to health-care insurance. It says something about the Left’s growing authoritarian inclinations that they confuse consumer choice with a lack of access.
These kind of perversions of basic language aren’t new, but they are becoming more prevalent. Last year we witnessed Democrats constantly refer to legal actions they disapproved of as “loopholes” and claim that conservatives wanted to “ban” contraception because they didn’t believe paying for it was a collective responsibility. These aren’t typical euphemisms, these are a corrosion of language that we shouldn’t allow to be normalized.