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Monday, September 21, 2009

Reference books 



From kindergarten through my senior year of high school, and all four years of college, and both years of graduate school, every teacher, professor, instructor, graduate TA, etc., always gave good counsel regarding the value of reference materials, especially dictionaries. I always had a reasonably current version of a good dictionary on hand, throughout my schooling. Now I learn that by using a dictionary, I was "stretching." And I thought I had to go to the gym and warm up before I did that!

Today's editorial in the Wall Street Journal recounts President Obama's Sunday interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos:
Mr. Obama: "No, but—but, George, you—you can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase."

"I don't think I'm making it up," Mr. Stephanopoulos said. He then had the temerity to challenge the Philologist in Chief, with an assist from Merriam-Webster. He cited that dictionary's definition of "tax" -- "a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes."

Mr. Obama: "George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now. . . ."
I realize that politicians feel that they have to win the battle of language, but can we at least agree on the rules of the battle? Let's pick one of the well-recognized dictionaries (OED, M-W) and go with it so that words don't completely lose their meaning. Otherwise, Orwell will have been proven correct (see, especially, his essay "Politics and the English Language" -- sadly, I violate the Six Rules too often).

15 Comments:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 21, 07:58:00 PM:

***
Don't call it a TAX. Call it an INVOLUNTARY CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTION.
***
A rose by another name----.
***
Rocketman
***  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Mon Sep 21, 10:33:00 PM:

Let us consult a guru of great wisdom about this. Scam (Deprive of by deceit)

Hm. Can't argue with that.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 22, 12:27:00 AM:

From Link ... the meaning of "is" is?

Stephanopoulos tried to make a fair point ... that an individual healthcare mandate -- with penalties enforced through the IRS -- is tantamount to a tax. Obama wouldn't have it "Well, hold on a second, George" " No, but -- but, George, you -- you can't just make up that language" "George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now."

"When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'"

Thus, hustler Obama worked Stephanopoulos yet again. Has Georgie figured this out yet? Obama is either a shithead innumerate, or a charlatan ... take your pick. It's about the numbers, not Merriam definitions.

On the same day, on another Sunday morning program, House Minority Leader John Boehner said "we're broke." He's right, as I've ranted about here at length. There was no follow-up questions on Boehner's point ... even though it's the elephant in the room. Why Boehner's statement didn't generate screaming headlines is beyond me.

Link, over  

By Anonymous Candide, at Tue Sep 22, 01:46:00 AM:

If citing Merriam-Webster is "stretching a little bit" then what kind of "stretching" is citing Alice in Wonderland?  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Tue Sep 22, 02:26:00 AM:

Sad to say, Escort81, your well-intentioned suggestion went off the rails with your specific suggestions. The OED and M-W are both descriptive dictionaries, meaning that they define words as they are used. They will not prevent words from losing their meaning. Far better to use a prescriptive dictionary, such as American Heritage.  

By Anonymous E Hines, at Tue Sep 22, 09:47:00 AM:

This is just another demonstration--as if we need another--of Mr Obama's amorality, which is so deep and abiding that he cannot distinguish truth from lie.

Eric Hines  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 22, 10:10:00 AM:

Link follow-up:

You can look it up. The individual mandate is in Title IV of HR 3200. It would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 by adding a new Part VIII ... Health Care Related Taxes. Here's a sample:

"SEC. 59B. TAX ON INDIVIDUALS WITHOUT ACCEPTABLE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE
(a) Tax Imposed- In the case of any individual who does not meet the requirements of subsection (d) at any time during the taxable year, there is hereby imposed a tax equal to 2.5 percent of the excess of -- (1) the taxpayer's modified adjusted gross income for the taxable year, over `2) the amount of gross income specified in section 6012(a)(1) with respect to the taxpayer."

This isn't even a flat rate fine, as it varies based on your income. It'd be enforced by the IRS.

The Senate mark-up of "America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009" has the following:

"Excise Tax. The consequence for not maintaining insurance would be an excise tax. ....
"The excise tax would be assessed through the tax code and applied as an additional amount of Federal tax owed.

But it's not a tax, if Obama says it's not. As Richard Pryor would say, "who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes."

The real question is how long guys like Stephanopoulos will put up with this.

Link, over  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 22, 10:36:00 AM:

This says a lot about Obama's educational background and may signal why he conceals his academic record. If using a dictionary is a "stretch" for Obama then he must have had a pretty laid back dope fest at Columbia and Harvard. He is brilliant only because the media says he is. Can you imagine ANY professor at Columbia pushing him in any way or calling him out for plagiarism?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 22, 11:04:00 AM:

Link again,

I don't think it's his education. Obama's not dumb. Obama is used to getting away with stuff. It's a bad character trait. A lot of white people cultivated it.

MSM won't call him out on things. I expect this will change, but I can't say when. If and when it does, Obama's ratings will plummet. He started out with a lot of goodwill, but he's been losing it.

Obama can't admit that the individual mandate is a tax, because then he'll have raised taxes on those making less than $200,000. Read my lips ... Stephanopoulos knows that, so the interview became a rhetorical exercise.

But the elephant in the room is that federal spending is so out of control, that we'll have to raise taxes on everyone a lot. The real answer is to cut federal spending a lot.

The biggest issue of the day is unemployment. Obama isn't helping.

Obama  

By Blogger Escort81, at Tue Sep 22, 11:58:00 AM:

Excellent point, TigerHawk! I hope we get to decide on the definitions for economic terms such as "tax" in the next AH dictionary.

But the fact that M-W is a moving target dictionary, and that the mandate still falls under any reasonable interpretation of "tax" as cited by Stephanopolous, makes Obama look worse in a way. If the AH had been cited, he could have danced around that by saying, "oh, that's a static dictionary and is archaic, nobody has used the word that way for 100 years!"  

By Blogger Escort81, at Tue Sep 22, 12:08:00 PM:

Link's quote from HR3200, using the bill's own terms in calling the mandate a tax, is very helpful and illuminating.

It brings to mind, yes, the Richard Pryor line, but also a next-generation comic, Eddie Murphy, in his "Wadn't me" routine. Classic.  

By Anonymous SouthernRoots, at Tue Sep 22, 03:06:00 PM:

As Link points out, the actual language in the bills says, "tax".

For Obama to claim that it can't be called a tax is proof that he has little idea of what is actually in the bills he is trying to cram down the throats of the public.

George would have been better advised to read the actual sections of the bills to Obama instead of M-W.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 22, 03:34:00 PM:

Isn't it critical that the "mandate" be structured as a tax for it to fall under federal power? I can't off the top of my head think of another basis for the federal government to impose health care other than through the tax power. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that's why the actual bill is so explicit about calling the measure a tax.

So here's the obvious question: does Obama, the heralded constitutional "professor," know the constitutional basis for his health care plan? And if he does, why does he apparently treat it like a complete formality?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 22, 04:10:00 PM:

Anon at 3:34 raises a really interesting point.

To pass constitutional muster back in 1936-1937, draft Social Security legislation was revised to be solely an exercise of Congress' tax and spend authority. It had been first drafted to look like an insurance program ... but the Supreme Court had just invalidated the Railroad Retirement Act finding that Congress didn't have Constitutional authority to run an insurance program. FDR's lawyers actually argued that -- as revised -- Social Security wasn't insurance because no one had any vested rights to benefits. FDR's threat of court packing got the Supreme Court to see the distinction.

This is consistent with the way the program actually works. Taxes come in, money goes out. The lock-box is an accounting gimmick. Congress could end Social Security tomorrow.

Of course Social Security was sold to the public as something very different.

So Obama is on the horns of a dilemma. The individual mandate has to be a tax to be constitutional, but if so Obama's breaking his campaign pledge.

Link, over  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Tue Sep 22, 08:19:00 PM:

The OED is not only descriptive, but historical, showing how a word was used over time.  

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