It’s not what you say, it’s how you cloak it

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It has been said before, but it bears repeating: Control the language of the debate and you control the debate.

Witness President Obama’s studious effort to take control of the debate Wednesday in his speech on how he would slow the runaway federal budget deficit.

Like most politicians who want to raise taxes, the president will do almost any rhetorical tap dance to avoid saying the word unless it takes the general form of, “tax breaks for the wealthy” or “unaffordable tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”

We have as many euphemisms for raising taxes as Eskimos have for snow. Unions insist that “revenues” must be on the table in any debate on deficits. Gov. Deval Patrick talks about preserving “investments” in education, health care, infrastructure – probably apple pie too. Human service advocates demand “compassion,” by which they mean confiscating money by force from working people to pay the debt they feel toward the allegedly less fortunate. Everybody on the left talks about “fairness “ and how the “more fortunate” are never paying their “fair share.”

But, all such efforts to cloak their true agenda have a limited shelf life. The hunt is always on for new euphemisms. And we got a couple from Obama on Wednesday – James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal pointed out in advance of the president’s speech that Obama would be dwelling on “balance” when calling for raising taxes.

Another I hadn’t heard before is even more Orwellian than most: the president promised to “reduce spending in the tax code.”

That’s more disingenuous than calling the Pentagon the Ministry of Peace and Gitmo the Ministry of Love.

What “reduce spending” in this case means is to collect more taxes from those the president has decided are rich. Also known as those he famously said have, “at some point … made enough money.” Of course, he wants to decide what that point is.

The implication is that all money is created by and belongs to government in the first place, and that he is going to stop the unconscionable practice of the IRS showing up every year on the doorsteps of the rich to hand them even more bags of cash.

If he is allowed to get away with language like that, it won’t be worth having a debate – it will be over before it really gets started.