Politics & Policy

How Democrats Corrupt English to Create Hysteria

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill in 2017 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
The demagoguery and falsehood are getting worse.

Whenever passable Republican legislation materializes — a rarity these days — Democrats quickly warn that thousands, or perhaps even millions, of lives are at stake. Tax reform? Health care? Bogus international treaties? Internet regulations that were instituted only last year? It really doesn’t matter. Longstanding conservative ideas are not only wrong; they portend the end of America as we know it.

Why are liberals so apocalyptic and bellicose about tax reform (a rare cut that is, according to the sometimes-reliable Washington Post fact-checkers, only the eighth largest in history)? Well, everyone in politics tends to dramatize the consequences of policy for effect. A modern Democratic party drifting toward Bernie-ism, though, is far more likely to legitimately perceive any cuts in taxation as a limiting of state control, and thus an attack on all decency and morality. Taxation, after all, is the finest tool of redistribution. So it’s understandable.

But that’s not all of it. With failure comes frustration, and with frustration there is a need to ratchet 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! Good political activists must now corrupt language and ideas to imbue their ham-fisted arguments with some kind of basic plausibility. Many liberal columnists, for example, will earnestly argue that Republicans — who at this moment control the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House, thanks to our free and fair elections — are acting undemocratically when passing bills. As you know, democracy means raising taxes on the minority. What else could it mean?

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 taking. This distortion is so embedded in contemporary political rhetoric that I’m not sure most of the progressive foot soldiers even think it’s odd to say anymore.

“You really shouldn’t lower everyone’s taxes, because it creates deficits and makes it harder to expand important programs like Medicaid” doesn’t have quite the same jolt as “You’re killing the poor!” And yet, whatever you make of the separate tax bills in the House and Senate, the authors are not taking one penny from anyone (unless you consider debt a tax on future generations, which doesn’t seem to be the case for either party). In fact, no spending is being cut (unfortunately). Not one welfare program is being given a block grant. Not one person is losing a subsidy. It’s just a traditional wide-ranging tax cut without any concurrent spending cuts.

To believe that taxing at a moderately lower rate is the same as “taking” from the poor, you must believe the following: Some arbitrary rates concocted by politicians many years ago for corporations, child credits, or deductions are now baselines that all future generations must hold sacred and/or 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. Because it’s perfectly legitimate and comprehensible to stake a position that argues that government has a duty to create a fairer nation by redistributing money from the well-off to the less fortunate.

Our progressive federal tax code already places most of the tax burden on the wealthy, but perhaps you believe they should pay more. I get it; you’re worried about income inequality. On the other hand, it is preposterous to claim — as many journalists have — that lowering rates across the board is a state-sponsored “transfer” of wealth. And no amount of pseudoscientific explainer charts will alter reality.

These perversions of basic language aren’t new, but they are becoming more prevalent.

For that matter, overturning the Obamacare mandate to purchase health insurance — a market coercion masquerading, for purely legal purposes, as a tax — does not mean that any Americans will have lost “access” to health-care insurance, as the vast majority of liberal pundits claim. That the Left deliberately confuses consumer choice with a lack of availability says something about its growing authoritarian inclinations. These perversions of basic language aren’t new, but they are becoming more prevalent. Democrats routinely refer to legal actions they disapprove of as “loopholes” and claim that conservatives are trying to “ban” contraception because they don’t want buying it to be a collective responsibility. These aren’t typical political euphemisms; these are a corrosion of language that we shouldn’t allow to be normalized.

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David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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