As we head into a presidential election year, Dante Alighieri’s famous inscription on the Gate of Hell seems appropriate. Once again, Frank Luntz –Republican pollster, strategist, consultant, and cunning linguist – is setting forth the rhetorical recommendations that will be used in shaping the talking points used by Republican candidates all across the nation, from those seeking the Presidency, to those seeking seats in the House or the Senate, to those seeking seats in state legislatures and even city councils. Dante’s epic poem comes to mind because operators like Luntz have always been with us, even in the 14th century, where they were just as reviled as they are now.
It was Luntz who famously dubbed the inheritance tax the “Death Tax.” This phrase, which makes the government appear so petty that it would take the money of dead people was adopted by virtually all Republicans and used to secure the votes of millions of Americans who will never have to pay such a tax. It did, however, make it more difficult for the government to provide services that benefit all of those very same Americans.
Newsflash: Bill O’Reilly is a ridiculous man. In response to President Obama’s jobs bill, which would close tax loopholes and raise tax rates for the richest in our society, O’Reilly threatened to take his ball and go home:
My corporations employ scores of people. They depend on me to do what I do so they can make a nice salary. If Barack Obama begins taxing me more than 50 percent, which is very possible, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do this. I like my job, but there comes a point when taxation becomes oppressive. Is the country really entitled to half a person’s income?
This threat came after an earlier claim that he has “more power than anybody but the President.” Rush, are you listening?
Here’s yet another video about the current state of affairs. This time it’s the late George Carlin. He’s considerably more profane and angry than gentle Robert Reich, but just as concise and just as eloquent. This rant from several years ago seems even more prescient now that the President and both houses of Congress have completely ignored the American people, who overwhelmingly favor increasing taxes on corporations and the super-rich.
I’ll be back in the more comforting world of literature in a few days with a post about F. Scott Fitzgerald, who also had a few things to say about the American Dream.