A few links, including a great, old, timely Pat Moynihan speech

December 30th, 2017 at 11:46 am

Over at WaPo:

–I weigh in on the “will-the-tax-plan-help-or-hurt-the-R’s” debate. Lots of unknowables that will be known soon enough, but I suspect the plan’s largely negative first impression will persist.

–Please, let’s avoid obfuscation. When politicians want to cut a program, do not let them get away with their favorite euphemisms, like “reform,” “fix,” “overhaul,” and so on.

I share this aversion with the great LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, who sent this 1985 speech from the great statesman, Sen. Pat Moynihan. Along with tapping his great, historical perspective, Moynihan touches on all the issues we’re still arguing about, including fiscal rectitude, eliminating the SALT deduction, federalism, and, as per my anti-obfuscation campaign, “semantic infiltration.” “If the other fellow can get you to use his words, he wins.”

If that makes me, anti-semantic, so be it!

I certainly didn’t agree with everything Sen. Moynihan put forth, but, man. Imagine if the current debate took place at one-tenth this level of depth.

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6 comments in reply to "A few links, including a great, old, timely Pat Moynihan speech"

  1. Smith says:

    Let’s save us all some time, this is a repeated comment about the argument over word usage with last sentences omitted.

    This is mostly a hypocritical argument since liberals and conservatives both use the word ‘reform’ as often as the opposition.
    Prime example is the Democratic “Immigration Reform” which was really the “Immigration Expansion and Amnesty Bill”. Even that doesn’t adequately describe a bill that would end the Diversity Lottery, effectively eliminating any diversity, expand exploited labor instead of just expanding immigration, and continue to subject certain sectors of the economy to downward wage pressure (specifically STEM or IT), ignoring the cumulative ripple effect on every sector’s wage.
    Next, one man’s tax expenditure is another man’s double taxation. Moynihan makes the argument against using the idea of not taxing an amount of income as something equivalent to an expenditure. This argument is made as one separate from the double taxation argument, and federal system argument. Yet liberals, including this blog, are very much willing to use the concept when it suits their purposes.
    It might dawn on the opponents of Trump that too often their arguments seem to apply only to the opposition, and observers will note the inconsistency. Perhaps when liberals were in power and had greater ability to influence the press, they might have considered reforming themselves and their use of language. It’s hard to condition public and the press to objectivity when it’s only applied so subjectively.

  2. Jill Shaffer Hammond says:

    “their favorite euphemisms” … My favorite [NOT]: Block Grants. In some states that money doesn’t even go to targeted program. It goes straight into general fund.

  3. Person says:

    “If the other fellow can get you to use his words, he wins.”

    It’s an interesting quote. I’m not similarly anti-semantic necessarily in modern contexts, because I think this is a statement that depends upon the journalistic capabilities contemporaneous with Moynihan’s congress.

    This quote doesn’t say anything about belief. Perhaps it’s a statement of 2 things: semantic infiltration yes, but also marking one’s beliefs to some external context (or the lack thereof). In other words, I think it was harder for Senators and all of those serving to mark their beliefs to external contexts, and that a properly functioning Internet should be able to help.

    In other words, I’d like to see this become more a statement of error of procedure rather than a statement of propaganda’s power. With time…

  4. Robert Salzberg says:

    Senator Moynihan misses the important point that only around 30% of Americans itemize their deductions so the elimination of the SALT deduction doesn’t affect the taxes of 70% of Americans.

    Because of the raising of the standard deduction and other changes like the reduction of the SALT deduction only around 5% of filers will itemize deductions under the new Republican tax plan, (7 million filers estimated in linked Tax Policy Center report, page 7, in analysis of previous House version).

    The silver lining is that beginning this week, the entire complicated system of itemized deductions will only benefit 5% of tax filers which should make it much easier to eliminate them entirely in the future, (to be replaced with much better targeted spending programs in my parallel rational Congress delusion), since 95% of Americans won’t benefit from itemized deductions.


  5. Smith says:

    Odd coincidence to see Moynihan cited on this blog, and the just today (Sunday Jan 7, 2018) depicted as a racist in a prominently featured piece in the Sunday New York Times.

    “Professor Wu found that just months before the release of the 1965 Moynihan Report, the widely influential policy paper that attributed black poverty to a degenerate black culture, its author, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, spoke at a gathering of intellectuals and policymakers about how Japanese- and Chinese-Americans, considered “colored” just 25 years earlier, were “rather astonishing.” “Am I wrong that they have ceased to be colored?” he asked.”

    Moynihan is not around to defend himself. The piece was on the front page of the Sunday Review. Of 495 comments online, only 2 mentioned Moynihan and disputed the characterization of what he wrote.