The Corner

Costly Words

I have several pet peeves, and one of them is the idea that when Americans get to keep their own money, it somehow “costs” the government. This notion is on display today in a story about fiscal-cliff negotiations, in the Washington Post:

…the generations-old mortgage-interest deduction — which costs the government roughly $100 billion a year… [emphasis added]

Perhaps it makes sense to get rid of the mortgage-interest deduction, provided that it’s a part of a broad and healthy tax reform. That’s a debate worth having. And I also understand how deductions look on a balance sheet. But that’s not the point. The point is that personal property — mine, yours, and that of reporters at the Post – doesn’t cost the government. We shouldn’t use words and phrases that suggest otherwise.

At Hillsdale College, I teach a couple of writing courses. This is the kind of statement that I’d circle with a red pen and scrawl, “Can you think of a way to rephrase?”

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Pelosi’s House of Pain

Not so long ago — as recently as the cover of the March 2019 Rolling Stone, in fact — they seemed like the best of friends. I'm referring to Nancy Pelosi and the members of "The Squad": Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and (not pictured) Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. They shared some good ... Read More
Education

Gender Dissenter Gets Fired

Allan M. Josephson is a distinguished psychiatrist who, since 2003, has transformed the division of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology at the University of Louisville from a struggling department to a nationally acclaimed program. In the fall of 2017 he appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation ... Read More
Film & TV

How Seinfeld Mastered the Comedy Domain

I can’t say whether Larry Charles, Larry David, Alec Berg, Spike Feresten, and the rest of the brilliant writers of Seinfeld were students of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but they might as well have been. Fitzgerald supplied the best advice for sitcom writers: Start with an individual, and before you know it you find ... Read More