Who’s Right?

September 27, 2008 at 9:35 am (Politics) (, , , , , )

Phew!  Things have been busy down at the ol’ hermitage, so I’m afraid I haven’t had a chance to post for a while, despite many interesting things happening this week.  Well, time to start scrawling on the walls again….

How many of you listened to the debates last night?

How many of you who listened realized that the fastest way to commit suicide during them might be to devise a drinking game where you take a shot every time you hear the words “That’s not true” from either candidate?

I’ll confess, I didn’t listen to the whole thing (I had errands to run, and lousy reception on the radio where I was running them).  But with what I did listen to, I was struck by the fact that their were three messages you could come away with.

  1. John McCain is old, and has been in the Senate a long time.
  2. Barack Obama’s voice is much easier to tell from Jim Lehrer’s than John McCain’s, and he hasn’t been in the Senate such a long time.
  3. One of the two of them – or both of them – was lying through his teeth for much of the debate, proving that they were fully qualified to serve in the Senate.

I take that last message from the fact that, frequently, one of them would say something, and the other would reply with ‘that’s not true’ or some variant thereof.  So, either the one who had the floor was lying at the time, or the one protesting was.  They couldn’t both be lying about it, could they?  And they couldn’t possibly be telling the truth, could they?  So how do you know who to believe?

Well, here’s the thing.  Most of the time, they were both telling the truth.  And they were both lying.  Not only in the same breath, but in the same words. You see, in the words of Obi Wan Kenobi, “everything I told you was true… from a certain point of view.  Many of the things we accept as truth, are only true from a certain point of view.”

Let’s take this one, for example.

Obama says “If you’re making more than $250,000 a year in taxes, your taxes will go up under my plan.  But I’m going to give 95% of American families a tax cut, the people who need it.”

McCain says “Under Senator Obama’s plan, your taxes could go up if you’re making $42,000 a year.”

Obama interrupts with “that’s not true, that’s just not true.”  Rude, but I’ll let him slide – McCain did it too.

Now… which one of them is telling the truth?  Both of them.

You see, under Senator Obama’s plan, if you’re making $250,000 a year, your taxes will go up, and he’s going to give a tax cut to 95% of American families.  But he’ll also potentially raise your taxes if you’re only making $42,000 a year.  Because, from a certain point of view, you can only be making $42,000 a year at the very same time you’re making $250,000 a year.

Here’s how it works.  Let’s say you run a small restaurant, or other business.  You can easily be making $250,000 a year – gross.  Now, that $250,000 a year is promptly chewed up by the cost of supplies, salaries you pay out, rent on your business, registration… and taxes that you’re already paying.  After all – at that level, if you’re not a corporation for tax purposes, you’re in the 35% tax bracket, and firmly within the realm of the 26% AMT.  You end up taking home about $42,000 a year… net.  So they’re both telling the truth.  By the way.  Tell me – in a typical double-income household (huband and wife), is your shared net income $42,000 a year?  Would you consider yourselves rich?  You’re making just as much as the guy who brings home the $42,000 above, so why not?

But, you say, you’re not making $250,000 a year gross.  You’re probably right, so by that standard you’re not rich.  But, again, it’s all a matter of your point of view – net pay, or gross pay?

Similarly, Senator Obama will give out a $1000 refundable tax credit to 95% of American families.  Why?  Well, because they’re just so wonderful they deserve it, I guess.  Where will that money come from?  The extra taxes paid by all those ‘rich’ people out there.  Whether he ‘raises taxes,’ ‘closes corporate loopholes,’ or does both at once (or, for that matter, whether or not there’s a difference between the two), he doesn’t deny they’ll be paying more.  They’re funding, among other things, that $1000 bucks.  The only way this isn’t a forced financial redistribution is if he plans on making that credit one that you pay back the next year, in which case it really isn’t that helpful.  Is a forced financial redistribution a bad thing?  Maybe, maybe not.

But a lot of the people in that 95% already get a refund back.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I wouldn’t really mind an extra digit on my tax refund, but is it fair to arbitrarily say “since you don’t make as much money as Mr. X, we’ll take his money and give it to you?”

Tax credits are great… when they’re there for a reason.  When you have a tax credit to help people recoup the costs of college, that’s a good use for it.  When you give people credits to make sure their dependents are taken care of during the day so they can work, that’s a good use for it.  You’re using a credit to stimulate specific activity that you want to see.  But just saying “I like you, have some money” isn’t the purpose of a tax credit (that’s what Christmas is for!)

So, who’s right?

They both are.  They’re both telling the truth, and they’re both lying.  Politicians rarely want to get caught in a bald-faced lie – that’s why they’re so very good at twisting the facts.  Perhaps the best recent example of this was Bill Clinton’s infamous line – “That depends on what your definition of the word ‘is’ is.”

Lies cause scandals.  Half-truths, twisted truths, and lies of omission just give jobs to advertising executives.

EDIT:  For further examples, please take a look here.


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