Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Moment of "Duh" from Kathleen Parker

How does she come up with stuff like this:
Democrats are equally guilty of obfuscation through language distortion. How many times throughout the tax bill debate have you heard some variation of the following? Giving tax breaks to the rich will add to the deficit.

Pardon? How does money in someone's own pocket add to another's debt? This sort of logic is possible, of course, only under confiscatory rules of wealth redistribution.
Actually, Kathleen, it's called "math". You see, if you have a deficit and you cut taxes without offsetting spending cuts, your deficit gets larger. And unless your spending cuts are sufficient to erase the current deficit and produce enough of a surplus to offset the impact of the tax cut it's still fair to say that the tax cut adds to the deficit - because that's how the math works.

Let's try it like this. Jimmy, Kathy and Bobby have committed to giving Granny Smith ten applies to make a pie for the bake sale. Jimmy doesn't have many applies, so he's contributing one. Bobby has more applies, and he's contributing two. Kathy has lots and lots of apples, and she's contributing three. That means that they have six apples, but need four more in order to give Granny ten.

Kathy whines, "It's not fair that I have to share three apples - that's wealth redistribution." But Granny Smith explains that she can't make a pie with less than ten apples and even after spending dozens of seconds thinking about it the best solution Kathy can come up with would take a tiny slice or two of apple out of the pie - so they still need all ten apples. If Kathy's contribution is reduced to two apples, the apple deficit rises from four to five - that is, in order to keep their commitment to Granny Smith, Kathy, Bobby and Jimmy must borrow five apples instead of four.

Let's say, instead, that Granny Smith says, "You know what? You only have six apples. I can make a smaller, dryer, less satisfying pie, but it will be a pie nonetheless," wiping out the apple deficit. Kathy nonetheless whines, "This is still wealth redistribution" and refuses to contribute her third apple. The apple deficit goes from zero to one. Yes, Kathy, the number one is bigger than the number zero - that's because the deficit went up.

So how does Kathleen Parker avoid basic math facts? By... using an irrelevant analogy:
Let's say Joe is $100 in the hole and yet continues to spend money like a drunken fool. Mary has five bucks, which she declines to share because she has to buy food. Joe is insistent. His debt will get worse if Mary doesn't help out. This may be true, but Mary isn't convinced that helping Joe pay down his debt will do any good as long as he continues to spend. She's betting that Joe will just dig a deeper hole, and she will have less security of her own.
So we're going to pretend that the nation's budget and debt are analogous to Kathy's drunk uncle Joe trying to bum a five spot that Kathy... er, sorry, Mary, whose AGI in this analogy is over $250K/year, desperately needs to feed her family? Come on.

The analogy works better if Joe and Mary are married, Joe's a drunken spendthrift and Mary's trying to hold the household budget together. Joe says, "Can you give me $5?" Mary says, "No, I need it for groceries." Joe says, "Fine," and uses the family's credit card to spend the $5. Mary may have kept the $5 bill in her pocket, but as a result the family debt rose by $5.

Maybe we could imagine Joe, sober and more responsible, complaining to Mary about her grocery bill. "You're spending too much money - what can we cut?" "If you want three meals a day for yourself and the kids, we can't cut anything. At least not unless we cut out the extra money you insist we spend for corn, sugar, beef, and those fancy preparation tools you insist we need in order to have the best prepared food in the world." "Oh, I don't want to cut any of that. What else can you cut?" "Breakfast?" "No, I like eating breakfast. But maybe you could remove three oat grains from each serving." "That wouldn't affect the spending by even a penny." "It wouldn't? Well, I see on your shopping list you've 'earmarked' romaine lettuce instead of head lettuce." "They cost the same at our grocery store - that doesn't change the total budget." "Well, I'm not willing to earn more money in order to contribute more to the family budget, and I'm not willing to give up any of my personal luxuries, so I think the solution is that I personally contribute less to the family food budget." "But that will mean we have to borrow money to buy food." "Not my problem, I'm not into wealth redistribution. Just make sure I have three hot meals each day, the way I like them."
Yet, the effect of this oft-repeated trope has been to demonize "the wealthy," as if they somehow have wronged their fellow citizens by working hard and achieving what everyone else wants.
Merely by referring to wealthy people as wealthy, it seems they're being "demonized." Mind you, if you're not wealthy it's not "demonizing" you to call you "poor" or analogize you to a "drunken fool." Also, without diminishing the fact that the majority of wealthy people "worked hard", for roughly a third is it not reasonable to say that the "hardest" thing they did in life was to be born to a wealthy family?
You see the problem. It isn't the money. It's the dishonesty of the argument.
As I see it the problem is both one of money - we are talking, after all, about a budget deficit - and the dishonesty of arguments like the one presented by Ms. Parker to mask her unwillingness to address the issue or to contribute toward a solution that might involve her giving up... pretty much nothing she would notice.


  1. Would that mean that you are finally willing to attribute to malice that which could (barely) be explained by stupidity?


  2. Funny. ;-)

    As you probably know, my gut reaction is to attribute malice so taking a step back and saying "Maybe she's stupid" is hard work for me. (Half-kidding.)

    Parker accused those who don't see things her way of being dishonest, so I ran with her theme. I'll concede your point that maybe she's to "stupid" to understand why her arguments are sloppy and poorly reasoned, or why it's possible to honestly disagree with her personal beliefs. I don't think "stupid" is quite the word, as I think she's capable of doing so; but I'll grant that there's no sign that she's willing to do so.


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