Targeting The Swag

One of the great linguistic crimes of the left in recent years is their attempt to hijack the term “tax cut” to refer to what are, in essence, payoffs to specific constituencies.

During the 2000 and 2004 elections, in a spate of almost-honesty trumping marketing, the Gore and Kerry campaigns referred to them as “targeted tax cuts” – allowing the audience to ask “Targeted?  At whom or what?”

The answer, of course:  anyone whose vote the Democrats want to buy.

As a Republican, of course, I favor across-the-board cuts in both taxes and spending.  I also acknowledge that many of the most popular tax cuts that fall short of that goal are “targeted”, in a sense.  The Mortgage Interest Deduction is targeted at homeowners; Capital Gains Tax cuts are aimed at stockholders and others who directly or indirectly buy or sell investment securities, equities or property; the Death Tax is aimed at people who die.  These have one thing in common; they affect the vast majority of the American people, most of whom own houses and participate in the market (directly or via their 401K funds, and all of whom will eventually enter the probate and inheritance system, presuming the Democrats leave them any property to bequeath).  Home owners, direct and indirect investment and probate cross all party, demographic, regional and social lines.

Democrats’ “targeted cuts”, however, try to slice the pie into much finer slices, each of them a constituency they need, essentially to rebate some of the cost of the higher spending back to the groups, classes and other slices they need to keep happy.

Hence Al Franken and his proposal to give a post-secondary tax deduction, which Aaron Landry misleadingly labels a “tax cut”. 

From a Franken press release today:

A college diploma is more than a dream for Minnesota families – it’s practically a requirement for middle-class prosperity. But with George W. Bush in the White House and Norm Coleman in the Senate, that prosperity has slipped out of reach for Minnesota’s middle class. My tuition tax cut will bring college within reach for 10 million students nationwide. And it will take a step towards restoring America’s middle-class promise: that hard work can bring prosperity to your family.


The average student loan debt in Minnesota jumped over $6K during the first three years of Coleman and is the 5th in the nation. Coleman’s continually voted against students, such as letting tuition tax deduction expire, opposing $4.9 billion for Pell grants.

Of course, one of the reasons a postsecondary education is so expensive is the immense subsidy from the government.  It’s Economics 101; when more money is made available to pay for something for which there is a limited supply, the price will rise.  The price of postsecondary education has risen much  faster than inflation over the past thirty years; anecdotally, tuition at my very modestly-priced alma mater has nearly tripled since I was in school, while average incomes have not. 

So Franken isn’t proposing a “tax cut”, so much as a “rebate” of a price increase caused by the government’s own subsidies, which are the primary inflationary pressure on tuitions in the first place.

At any rate, getting into college isn’t the biggest problem facing Americans’ entry into the middle class; graduating from high school knowing enough English, math and citizenship is.  And on that front, Franken promises only more of the status quo.

Not even a “tax cut” to help people secede from the system that Franken’s biggest supporters, the Teachers’ unions, broke in the first place.

But I digress.

Let’s just make sure we keep our terms straight, OK?

9 thoughts on “Targeting The Swag

  1. But isn’t the redefinition of terms the “go to” weapon in the modern Democratic arsenal?

    If they can’t “reinvent” the meanings of marriage, victory, freedom, fairness, alive, rights, and many other words, aren’t they a little “disadvantaged”?

    They might try to call you “fascist” for doing so, but won’t even be able to do that if they are robbed of the ability to redefine the word as “like, all mean and conservative”.

  2. Just what we need, more people going to college and getting art history majors so they can work at Starbucks.

  3. We are sorely in need for some big-time reformation in higher education, and further subsidies will only delay the inevitable.

    According to this blogger, the number of high school graduates peaked last year, and that will put some pressure on colleges.

  4. Of course, I’ll vote for any pol who is willing to say that college tuition subsidies are a bad idea. Same goes for an ag state pol who wants to cut agricultural subsidies.

  5. Meanwhile while messing up college, the congressional Democrats are poised to further mess up K-12 and try to pass HR 3036, The No Child Left Inside Act, on Thursday, which uses taxpayer funds to develop grants that produce environmental education curricula and programs that 1) teach environmentalism in EVERY academic subject 2) Insert recycling and composting programs in schools, taking more time away from academics 3) Promoting improved self-esteem and community involvement (or is that community organizing?) Reps. Kline and Bachmann and lots of other Republicans are working against this. This is pure propaganda and would teach kids to oppose drilling, clean coal, and nuclear. For more info, go to

  6. I question the diploma fetish that lies behind Franken’s ‘tax plan’. So does Chas. Murray:
    College is not for everybody and it should not be a requirement to enter the middle class. In my long & desultory college career I learned many things, and one of those things is that anybody with an average IQ and work ethic can get through four years of post-secondary education. However, not everyone who has an average IQ & work ethic can afford to spend four years shelling out for tuition wile earning little or nothing.
    If you want to raise the wages for unskilled or semi-skilled labor increase the demand for it or decrease the supply. Deomographics will take care of this eventually but in the meantime there are things we could do tomorrow to help accomplish this without any change in the tax law or even any new laws.
    Just close the damn border & begin the process of eliminating the endless supply of cheap, unskilled labor that crosses our border.

  7. One of the great linguistic crimes of the left in recent years is their attempt to hijack the term “tax cut” to refer to what are, in essence, payoffs to specific constituencies.

    Oh my God, the hypocrisy of that claim is infinite.

    And Troy – troy out Healthy Forest, or any of 100 other Orwellian conflations perpetrated by this Administration. Maybe you’ve heard of the Terrorist Survaillance Program, you know, the one that survailled US Citizens illegally? Or I know, No child left behind, the unfunded catastrophe of an education program which bribed schools into teaching to tests rather than to thinking?

    Mitch, is this just the continuance of the ‘best defense is a good offense’ theory where you ascribe to your opponent what you know you do FAR worse/more often?

    Conservatism (of the Reagan variety) has been nothing but promised tax cuts in an effort to buy votes – tax cuts which were shams because the average joe wound up owing it through the deficit (it was a loan taken out in his name made payable to Haliburton) – but the BIG fat cats who saw real cuts, well, they got payoffs for their political contribution largesse, now didn’t they?

    Good lord, now I’ve heard everything. Kudos to you Mr. Most Ridiculous blog author…

  8. penigma,

    I read about “Healthy Forests Initiative” from the administrations perspective and from the Sierra Club. While the initiative may be flawed, the Sierra Club produces a whine-fest in response. The initiative seems to make it possible to successfully manage forests, where the current situation (in 2003) made that difficult.

    That said, you have to travel to the realm of crazy government labels to get what you’re looking for, but I do not. :-/

  9. Mitch, is this just the continuance of the ‘best defense is a good offense’ theory where you ascribe to your opponent what you know you do FAR worse/more often?

    No, this is a continuance of your “you have nine fingers pointing back at you” thing which, I have to tell you, isn’t really doing much for you.

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