Whoever defines the terms, wins the argument. If we allow the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and the academic left define our terms, our case will be neutered. Justice Scalia gave us an example of the kind of rhetorical flabbiness used by government stooges when defending their ideas. H. Bartow Farr argued the severability issue before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 28. He began using some interesting definitions of the word “essential” comparing it with another amorphous definition of “necessary.” Scalia showed us the importance of not letting the words become redefined and twisted to fit their objectives.
MR. FARR: “The reason is because the word "essential" in the Commerce Clause context doesn't have the colloquial meaning. In the Commerce Clause context "essential" effectively means useful. So that when one says in Lopez, when the Court says section 922(q) is not an essential part of a larger regulatory scheme of economic activity, it goes on to say, in which the regulatory scheme would be undercut if we didn't have this provision.
It's like the word "necessary" in the Necessary and Proper Clause clause. It doesn't mean, as the Court has said on numerous occasions, absolutely necessary. It means conducive to, useful, advancing the objectives, advancing the aims. And it's easy to see, I think, that that's what Congress -
JUSTICE SCALIA: Is there any dictionary that gives that -
MR. FARR: I'm sorry, Justice Scalia?
JUSTICE SCALIA: — that definition of "essential"? It's very imaginative. Just give me one dictionary.
MR. FARR: Well, but I think my point, Justice Scalia, is that they are not using it in the true dictionary sense.
JUSTICE SCALIA: How do we know that? When people speak, I assume they are speaking English.
What Scalia is reminding the attorney, and us, that the words matter. Farr’s stretching of the words “essential” and “necessary” to mean “conducive to, useful, advancing the objectives,” is a sneaky little ruse to allow a straight forward word mean something quite different. “Essential” means “absolutely necessary, indispensable.” “Necessary” means “being essential, indispensable or requisite.” In other words, Farr’s linguistic redefinition of the word made it something barely recognizable to anyone reading it.
Farr was disingenuously arguing the minimum standards provisions in Obamacare could be severed without affecting the rest of the law because by “essential,” Congress meant “because it would be helpful.” A definition that is baffling. Why use the word “essential” and not “useful” or “nice?” Clearly, Congress intended this minimum standard of insurance to be a central part of the law. Misconstruing it was a rhetorical dodge and Scalia called him on it.
So, now it is my turn to call out the Artful Rhetorical Dodgers. First up, we will address the language of U.S. Rep. Betty! McCollum (D-MN 4th District).
“The Grand Old Party’s budget sounds extreme, and it is, because it reflects the core values of the Tea Party Republicans: protect the rich, cut off the poor and walk away from the middle class,” McCollum said. “Every American deserves to know that the Republicans are choosing tax subsidies for the ultra-wealthy over deficit reduction.”
‘McCollum: Republican budget a ‘millionaires manifesto’ by Devin Henry, MinnPost.com 03/29/12
I will not attempt to dispel her first nonsensical statement but I will her second. Now, I will acknowledge that anyone who’s heard Betty! debate knows she isn’t the sharpest knife in the butcher block. However, even her fuzzy brain can understand that subsidies are actual monies and resources given by the government to entities. Let’s look at the dictionary definition.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a subsidy as:
“a grant by a government to a private person or company to assist an enterprise deemed advantageous to the public”
She is referring the to “unfair” tax rates of the wealthiest 1% Americans who now pay 38% of the tax burden. Betty! is making the laughable assertion that the Bush tax cuts are somehow subsidies. A subsidy is not a reduction in tax rates. A subsidy is a sum of money the government gives to a business or group to do something good for the country. A lower tax rate is not a subsidy, not according to any definition that is sane or reasonable. We have allowed pernicious politicians like Betty! to redefine the term. Cutting tax rates for all people in the same tax brackets is not and never will be a subsidy. It’s a tax cut. Period.
Betty! isn’t the only prevaricating person on the left. Our own president is also engaging in this reinterpretation of the word “subsidy” to smear the energy sector. The polls have informed him that oil companies aren’t held in high esteem. People also hate the idea of “subsidies.” Therefore, President Sun Power has combined the two making this ridiculous argument.
“Right now, the biggest oil companies are raking in record profits –- profits that go up every time folks pull up into a gas station. But on top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year -- billions a year in taxpayer subsidies -– a subsidy that they’ve enjoyed year after year for the last century.”
President Solyndra, while passing out billions in federal loan guarantees and grants to failing green energy initiatives, wants oil companies to pay up. These oil companies must be getting checks from the Energy Department right? Well, if they are those checks are awfully small. There are only four categories of subsidies that would even fit the real definition of subsidy. Of those four, only one is actually being used to any extent. That one is the research and development grants. Eliminating that program, according to the Department of Energy, would save about $400 million. Less than half a billion for the entire industry! What Obama is referring to with his “billions a year” rhetoric are business write-offs. He wants to make oil companies pay taxes on their expenses. That’s how he gets to “billions.” Even though these are not profits, Obama wants them to pay taxes on them. He hides his lie behind $400 million in research grants. Meanwhile, President Beacon Power wants more money for his failed green experiments.
This is a real subsidy, not one as defined by Betty! or Obama:
“EnerDel, maker of lithium-ion battery systems, landed a $118.5 million energy grant in August 2009. About one-and-a-half years later, Vice President Joe Biden toured a company plant in Indiana and heralded its taxpayer-supported expansion as one of the "100 Recovery Act Projects That Are Changing America."
Two months after Biden's visit, EnerDel corporate parent Ener1 paid $725,000 in bonuses to three executives -- including $450,000 to then-CEO Charles Gassenheimer, who led Biden on the tour. This January, Ener1 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.”
It’s time for us to stand up and correct when these dishonest public servants warp words to mislead the country. When Bartow Farr makes an absurd assertion based on a term that is redefined, Scalia calls him on it. When people like Betty! and President Ener1 redefine a word like “subsidy” to deceive us, we have to call them on it.
They are not going to bamboozle us any more.