Semantic inflation

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to warn against “semantic infiltration” – employing less-than-accurate words in an effort to shape the debate.

The case in point for Hufbauer at the Washington Times is the attempt to create a rationalization for ‘they all do it’ in the energy debate.

CAP shrewdly – but inaccurately – conflates two completely different terms in public finance: subsidy and deduction. A subsidy is a payment made by the government, usually to promote the prospects of a specific technology or action – be it solar energy, ethanol or something else. Subsidies are often equated with handouts – a derisory term for sure.

A business deduction, on the other hand, is designed to ensure that a firm is taxed only on its net income. Deductions allow businesses to write off legitimate expenses from gross revenue to calculate net income. Deductions are widely regarded as proper in a system that taxes income, not revenue.

A similar phenomena can be seen in the tax cut debate whether it is about the Bush tax cuts and the rich or the current pending expiration of a FICA reduction that was made to stimulate the economy.

the debate should use honest terms in which up is up, down is down, and deductions and subsidies aren’t the same.

It is a critical part of a debate based on intellectual integrity.

Comments are closed.