Speech Police: “Dear Politicians, Stop Calling People ‘Taxpayers'”

The New Republic recently went through an internal overhaul in order to stay relevant, and the recent drivel that was written shows that it wasn’t for the better. Last week, there was an article written called, “”Dear Politicians, Stop Calling People ‘Taxpayers'”, in which the author proposes to eliminate the word “taxpayer” from everyday lexicon because it favors those who pay taxes. You can’t make this stuff up.

The article, which was released coincidentally during the same week as the House Republican FY2016 budget, accuses said budget of being “an ideological document meant to advance a particular set of beliefs about how government should function, and toward what end”. Her evidence of such ideology is that, “in the 43-page budget, the word “taxpayer” and its permutations appear 24 times, as often as the word “people.”

Imagine that. How dare a budget — which is a plan that fleshes out income and expenditures over a period of time — should use the word taxpayer, seeing that the main source of revenue for that budget is taxes, which is paid by…wait for it…taxpayers.

She further analyzes this phenomenon by suggesting, “It’s worthwhile to compare these usages, because the terms are, in a sense, rival ideas. While “people” designates the broadest possible public as the subject of a political project, “taxpayer” advances a considerably narrower vision — and that’s why we should eliminate it from political rhetoric and punditry.”

In other words, it is a “narrow” vision to consider a budget at all from the perspective of taxpayer, from which the government derives most of its revenue. Oh, and the government is now a “political project.”

It gets better.

The author goes on to point out that Democrats also use the word “taxpayer” in their budget: “Democrats often refer to “taxpayers,” too. At 150 pages, the White House budget proposal for 2016 uses the term 26 times”. However, it’s different when Democrats use it! Really it is.

Let’s compare the two. With regard to the use of taxpayer in the House Republican budget, the author writes,

“The House budget is full of examples of seemingly straightforward deployments of the term which are, upon closer inspection, clearly furthering a particular ideology. “There are too many scenarios these days in which Washington forgets that its power is derived from the ‘consent of the governed,’” the plan reads in one instance of the term’s use. “It forgets that its financial resources come from hard-working American taxpayers who wake up every day, go to work, actively grow our economy and create real opportunity.” In other words, Americans’ taxes are parallel with taxpayers’ consent, suggesting that expenditures that do not correspond to an individual’s will are some kind of affront.”

And more,

“The report goes on to argue that “food stamps, public housing assistance, and development grants are judged not on whether they achieve improved health and economic outcomes for the recipients or build a stronger community, but on the size of their budgets. It is time these programs focus on core functions and responsibilities, not just on financial resources. In so doing this budget respects hard-working taxpayers who want to ensure their tax dollars are spent wisely.”

Put simply, taxpayers should get what they pay for when it comes to welfare programs, and not be overcharged. But, as the Republican authors of this budget know well, the beneficiaries of welfare programs tend to receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes, because they are in most cases low-income. The “taxpayers” this passage has in mind, therefore, don’t seem to be the recipients of these welfare programs, but rather those who imagine that they personally fund them. By this logic, the public is divided neatly into makers and takers, to borrow the parlance of last election’s Republicans.”

So here we have it. The use of the word “taxpayers” is bad coming from Republicans because the Republican budget takes into consideration those who personally fund government programs with their taxes. Unfortunately for the author, taxpayers don’t “imagine that they personally fund them”, but actually, truly do fund them with the taxes that they pay. This is problematic to the author, because, she writes, “the “taxpayers” this passage has in mind, therefore, don’t seem to be the recipients of these welfare programs”. (Probably not, largely because, “the beneficiaries of welfare programs tend to receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes”.)

Presumably, that is mean. It is mean to consider at all the source of revenue when writing a budget, even though budgets (are supposed to) have finite revenue limits — which, in this case of a federal budget, are the taxes collected by the taxpayer. But it’s worse than mean. It’s ideological. And narrow.

Contrast this with her defense of the Democrat’s use of the word “taxpayer” in their budget plan (she references the White House one). Taxpayer is used

“26 times, predictably invoking it when referring to cuts and reductions in services. The Budget includes initiatives to improve the service we provide to the American public; to leverage the Federal Government’s buying power to bring more value and efficiency to how we use taxpayer dollars…,” President Barack Obama writes in his introductory message. “The Budget includes proposals to consolidate and reorganize Government agencies to make them leaner and more efficient, and it increases the use of evidence and evaluation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on programs that work.”

So, because the Democrats talk about the “taxpayer” with regard to, and in reference to, “services” and “Government agencies”, that is good. Because Government is good. And “services” and “Government agencies” surely include everyone.

What’s really interesting is that both budgets have similar language, but one is bad (Republican) and one is good (Democrat). See here:

Republicans wrote, “this budget respects hard-working taxpayers who want to ensure their tax dollars are spent wisely”, while the President wrote, “The Budget includes proposals… to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on programs that work” (emphasis added).

So, because the President focused his words on describing Government programs (that work), ergo, it must be true and good. And not ideological or narrow. This is reinforced by the author’s assertion further in the article that “public revenue is just that: a pool of public money to be used for the good of the public, not 300 million pools of private money each to be used to serve private individuals’ interests.” The greater good. Everyone. People. So, how dare any budget consider at all those “taxpayers” who fund it it with (taxpayer) revenue!

The final paragraph of this article, however, is the creme de la creme:

“Whereas “taxpayers” is strewn throughout political documents, “people” is associated with populist and revolutionary movements, and not for nothing. Power to the people, the evergreen revolutionary slogan trumpeted by popular fronts around the world, has a ring that power to the taxpayers does not precisely because it demands an inclusive view of public goods. The same could be said about the first line of the U.S. Constitution: “We the Taxpayers” would have been an odd construction for a nation born from a revolt against British taxation. So let’s leave “taxpayer” to the IRS and remove it from everyday speech. With every thoughtless repetition of the word, we’re carrying political water.” (emphasis original).

This is what passes for meaningful discourse these days. “Taxpayer” is now another word of class warfare, because it suggests there is a divide of “makers and takers”. The Left is content with taking our money to fund (endlessly) whatever programs it deems good — and now it is content to take our speech too.

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