‘Newspeak’ Is Routine Practice In Today’s Politics
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‘Newspeak’ Is Routine Practice In Today’s Politics

BY MIKE W. RAY

English author George Orwell coined several terms in his groundbreaking dystopian novel 1984. Among those terms was “Newspeak.”

Newspeak was a controlled language of restricted grammar and restricted vocabulary, meant to limit freedom of thought. In the appendix to his book, which was published in 1949, Orwell explained that “Newspeak” follows most of the English grammar, but is a language characterized by complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning.

1984 comes to mind every time I read a comment by some politician who claims he/she doesn’t want to raise taxes, just broaden the tax base.

The latest was a story distributed by state Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah. He sponsored two studies of Oklahoma’s tax code, focusing on state taxes, tax credits and exemptions, and spending. Thompson said his next step is an interim study about reforming the tax code.

“[I]nstead of raising taxes, we need to broaden the tax base,” Thompson said.

Mr. Thompson is a newspaper publisher, so he knows how words, like numbers, can be manipulated.

A blatant example was the attempt by the GOP-controlled Legislature to label as a “fee,” rather than a “tax,” a proposed 7½¢ levy on every cigarette sold in this state. The Oklahoma Supreme Court correctly scuttled that notion.

Here’s another example: Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on the pending motor vehicle title transfer issue, repealing a tax exemption is tantamount to a tax increase – at least it is in the real world. If you have been the beneficiary of a tax exemption, and that exemption is repealed, you experience an increase in taxation.

No amount of legalistic, political legerdemain can alter that fact. “Newspeak” cannot make it otherwise.

Don’t misunderstand me: I support the idea of creating more taxpayers rather than simply raising taxes – especially since my labor is taxed at a rate twice as high as the rate at which investment income of millionaires such as Mitt Romney is taxed.

I’m just tired of the euphemisms.

Mike W. Ray, a veteran Oklahoma journalist, lives in Oklahoma City. He recently retired after four years as media director for state House Democrats.

August 11, 2017

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