Friday, December 2, 2011

It takes a hack

‘To Catch a Thief’ was on the other night and it occurred to me that I should be more like Carry Grant for all kinds of reasons. Stealing jewels isn’t my thing – due to high coffee consumption my hands are only steady when I sleep (and even then only in delta stage) – and I tend to hum when I’m nervous, which has got to be all the time if you’re a criminal, so the whole stealth thing is out. What I can do is write things, twisting words to my will. So, a la The Cat, in the spirit of “it takes one to know one” I’m going to start calling out other people who abuse language.

Today, it’s the pollster Frank Luntz. Frank is on my watch list for turning the estate tax into the “death tax.” The kind of cleverness one might expect from Lex Luthor or Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Frank spoke at the Republican governors’ conference on the last day of November, and showed off some new verbal judo moves.

According to Frank, raising taxes on the rich should be called “taking money from hard-working Americans.” The spirit of the phrase is disingenuous, but he means it. Franks feels that Warren Buffet and crab fishermen should be lumped together. (They’re not taxed the same now, but that’s a different diatribe.) The real problem is technical. Taxes don’t take money from you. They are imposed on a transaction yet to take place. They are a cost to doing business. If you made $22 million like the hard working Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz did last year no one is going to take it away from you. Taxes are on thing to come.

My other favorite quote from Franks’ speech is this:
“You should occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”

He’s actually telling you he’s performing a trick. He’s taking your eyes from one focus to another, like a stage magician. Except, you expect illusions if you you’re watching an illusionist. The fact that the White House has been ineffectual in getting any of its economic policies passed in the last two years doesn’t matter. The real leaders of the economy are not in the White House, they’re not even in Washington, and Frank’s slight-of-word wants to keep from seeing them.

And that’s the saddest part of Frank’s misdirection to Republican governors. Legerdemain works. If you don’t believe me, watch ‘To Catch a Thief.’ Carry Grant’s character could sell derivatives to Occupy Wall Street. But, don’t forget, he was burglar.

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