With the beginning of the campaign season invariably comes a restructuring of the English language – usually at the behest of liberals who routinely change labels to avoid the common understanding of words. We have seen “liberals” become “progressives”, “illegal aliens” become “undocumented workers” and “terrorists” become “insurgents.” Most of this is relatively transparent and few voters are fooled – much to the chagrin of those who would corrupt our common sense.
However, these same politicians have brought this type of definitional dyslexia to the concepts of taxation and spending and we need to be constantly vigilant to prevent the big spenders from playing hide the ball with taxes and budgets.
The first of these linguistic perversions is the term “tax expenditures.” You are beginning to routinely hear liberals, public employee union leaders and entitlement advocates (you know, Democrats) talk about the need to control “tax expenditures” and that “tax expenditures” are the single largest “budgetary expenditure” annually. They whine that if we could just reduce “tax expenditures” we could balance the budget and reduce the pressure to raise taxes. Boy, at first blush, most of us would buy into that big time. But wait, all is not as it appears.
This is truly one of the great oxymorons of our time. To begin with, a tax is a revenue source for government and an expenditure is just that, an expenditure of our tax dollars. So how can a revenue be an expenditure? Well, here’s the perverted thinking of these big government acolytes. First you begin with the idea that your income is the property of the government – or at least a fixed percentage of your income. If you accept that concept the rest is easy. Thus, any deduction or credit utilized to reduce your taxable income is money the government “spends” on you and, therefore, an “expenditure.” The deductions that you take for your mortgage, for child care, for medical care, for federal taxes paid (limited as it may be), and for property taxes are, in the eyes of these revisionists, government “expenditures.”
So, when you hear the Democrats talk about reducing “tax expenditures” what they are talking about is reducing your tax deductions and INCREASING your taxes. While these folks might be terminally confused about taxes, most of us know that, regardless of how you parse the terms, when the amount we pay in taxes increases, it’s a tax increase.
Newly converted Independent, and resulting gubernatorial candidate, Ben Westlund likes to play the word game too. He has been promoting a sales tax for years and most notably during the last legislative session. However, Ben doesn’t like the negative connotation of the term “sale tax.” (That’s probably because it has been rejected by voters nine times in a row.) So Ben insists on referring to his proposal as a “consumption” tax and he claims that it has a “neutral” impact on taxpayers. Okay, Ben we’ll explain it one more time. A sales tax is a tax imposed on what your purchase – a “consumption” tax is a tax imposed on what you consume. What you purchase is what you consume. You are arguing a distinction without a difference. A sales tax by any other name is still a sales tax.
And, a tax that is “neutral” as to taxpayers is also neutral as to the revenue raised. Unfortunately Big Ben’s consumption/sales tax, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office raises an additional $1 billion in tax revenue each biennium – a long stretch from “neutral.” Okay, Ben we’ll explain this part one more time also. Additional tax revenue means taxpayers are paying additional taxes – this just can’t be that hard to understand.
The latest linguistic perversion is the new insistence by Democrats that we have to stop spending more than we receive in tax revenues. At first glance, you would assume that this is a welcome conversion by big spending Democrats to limit expenditures to current revenues. But that’s not what they mean. What they mean is that we should continue to spend prolifically and then increase taxes to cover that level of expenditures. If they meant otherwise then they would not continue to oppose PERS reform, privatization of government programs, spending limits tied to growth in personal income, or reductions in program spending to meet available revenues.
We have introduced truth in advertising for business, perhaps its time we introduce truth in linguistics for politicians.