Humpty Dumpty in the White House
Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. One of the characters she meets along the way is Humpty Dumpty, a garrolous fellow with peculiar ideas about words. Words mean, he explains to Alice, just exactly what he means them to mean:
(Humpty Dumpty) There’s glory for you!’
`I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
`But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’
Like Alice, we might be a little puzzled as to what this has to do with the White House. Do pay attention.
In a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos, Obama answered a question about taxes.
… when “the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t [buy insurance]. . . . How is that not a tax?”
… to which Obama answered (after deftly trying to evade the question)
No. That’s not true, George. The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore . . .” In other words, like parents talking to their children, this levy — don’t call it a tax — is for your own good.
Well, if it’s for your own good, and it’s not a tax, it’s a levy, it must be all right.
Unfortunately, the word “levy”, as a noun, means “The act or process of levying”. That’s not much help, so we go to “levy” as a verb: “To impose or collect (a tax, for example)”.
So while Obama prefers not to call a tax a tax, but rather a levy, he fails to realize that a levy is in fact a tax.
Obama keeps at it:
“No, but — but, George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase.”
One of the Old Greek Guys – Epicurus – was fond of asking people to “define your terms”. Voltaire also thought that was a good idea, especially if people intend to carry on a meaningful conversation.
Stephanopoulos lays down his trump card:
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.”
[Keep in mind two important points: “imposed by authority” (in other words, pay up or else), and “for public purposes”.]
Obama fields that one like a typical liberal – he ignores it:
“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. . . .”
[“Stop trying to confuse me with facts.”]
There’s no retreat:
Mr. Stephanopoulos: “But you reject that it’s a tax increase?”
Mr. Obama: “I absolutely reject that notion.”
Even though it is “imposed by authority”, and “for public purposes”.
The problem is, Obama has such a faint grasp of economics that he wouldn’t recognize a tax if he saw one. He seems to believe that people owe the government mountains of money, and they should be more than happy to just send all their moldy old greenbacks to Washington.