Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Critical Rhetoric Failure

You ever think about the talking points that get tossed around in this culture? I mean, really think about them? I do, because my day job is about as stimulating as oatmeal. And I have to say, a lot of 'em don't make a lick of sense.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

This has been a favorite since Reagan cut taxes before raising taxes. It's supposed to illustrate how enriching the already rich will make everyone rich, but whoever came up with that was not the most poetic of souls. Because the phrase as it stands merely claims a rising tide, which would represent the economy at large. That everyone benefits from a growing economy is one of those "no shit" assertions.

Whereas if we try to fit the supply-side argument into the metaphor... Well, are the big yachts the supply and the little canoes the demand? Are we making the yachts bigger or filling them with more cocaine and strippers? Increased weight could lead to greater water displacement, raising the canoes marginally but nothing comparable to a "rising tide." And technically, those 1% yachts not only didn't rise but just sank a little.

Makers and Takers or Water Carriers and Water Drinkers

This betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of consumer economics. Without the takers, the makers would have no reason to make save for their own subsistence. And if that's the standard, nobody's gonna make an iPad or any other inedible gizmo.

Of course that's not what is intended by "takers." The idea is instead that there are those engaged in productive work and the evils of the welfare state force them to subsidize the idleness of the masses. Leaving aside the fact that such a claim is ludicrous in the context of routine 60 hour work weeks for stagnating wages and slashed benefits, this still can't get around the issue that the much maligned "takers" are simultaneously the primary market for the products of the "makers." Unless all that's made is art, but few Hollywood liberals complain about paying for the food stamps of single moms.

So there's the sister phrase differentiating who's carrying the water. The most obvious critique - "Why don't you just drink the water you're carrying?" - is met with dull gruntings of "The Gub'mint!" and "Mah freedoms!" because they feel like victims. Which they are, but it's always easier to bitch about the single mother with the SNAP card than about your boss buying another summer home. He might be listening!

There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

This, oddly enough, is an entirely sensible statement. At the most basic, anything you consume was first produced by a complex process costing a degree of matter or energy. Even if you just eat grass, you're depleting the grass you'll have available for the next day or until more grass can grow.

But then everyone who offers this argument does so in defense of one free lunch or another. Typically it's used to decry welfare on the way to cutting taxes - the goal being a massive tax cut to maximize immediate personal cash. Except the TANSTAAFL crowd still expects roads and the rule of law, things only possible through a tax-funded system. Or they expect the meat they consume is free of pathogens. Or, ever more frequently, they buy commodities manufactured by Third World slaves rather than local blue collar workers, ensuring that big box retailers are enriched while they themselves suffer greater wage stagnation as all the real work is shipped overseas.

Punishing Success

You have to wonder how anyone can take a look at American culture, where even the most vapid bimbos can be celebrated for being celebrities, and then assume that paying a few more percentages in taxes is somehow a punishment. Maybe the people offering up this line spent their childhoods eating only candy and never taking baths, so now they see anything that is not immediate wish fulfillment to be a punishment. I doubt it though, because then their stinky asses would've died of diabetes long before they could get jobs in cable news.

I Never Got a Job from a Poor Person

What kinda slave's logic is that!?

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Like so much to do with terrible prose, this really comes back to one Thomas Friedman. As his continued relevance shows, the American ruling class doesn't need or want particularly clever sloganeers. Friedman made his bones using similarly daft and dodgy arguments to celebrate globalization and now that America's imperial war machine is out of gas - thanks, Bush! - we're getting the same nonsense treatment at home. And it sells because all those years Friedman and the rest of the 1% nomenklatura were gloating at foreigners, they were really performing for all the heartland rubes. We're not just dumb enough to accept this dodgy rhetoric, we've been conditioned to.

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