American Elephants

Politics And The Words That Move Your Opinion by The Elephant's Child

This week we have been getting a real display of politics in action. Politicians learn there are certain words that get a more agreeable emotional response than others. Certain visuals that appeal directly. Many an environmentalist drive for funds or membership has been fueled by pictures of baby animals.

It’s not fair, of course, but surely you didn’t expect politicians to be fair. An excellent example of ‘good’ words is ‘balance.’ President Obama has been using ‘balance’ steadily in reference to avoiding the sequester that he dreamed up. Can’t have across the board cuts, we need a “balanced approach” which means if I give you a cut in anything at all—I want more tax revenue. Sounds ‘fair,’ which , by the way, is another ‘good’ word.

President Obama is in a bad spot. He proposed the sequester and got it passed into law in 2010, with the idea that Republicans (warmongers, you know) would be so averse to cutting defense spending that they would give in on other cuts, and he would be left with all the spending money he wanted. Republicans realized that they weren’t going to get the president to cut anything willingly, and sequester cuts would at least rein in spending a little. The administration is livid. Even some in the media are noticing:  Here’s abc News:

Listening to the White House, you’d think the key to averting the across-the-board spending cuts (the dreaded “sequester”) set to in place on March 1 is closing the tax break for owners of private jets.

Here was White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week: “How do you explain to a senior that we’re doing this, asking you to sacrifice, but we’re not saying that corporate jet owners should lose their special tax incentive.”

On Wednesday, Carney summed up the Republican position this way: “We’d rather see our national security undermined than corporate jet owners, God forbid, give up their tax break.”

And President Obama in an interview Wednesday with KAKE-TV in Wichita: “What we don’t want to do is give somebody who’s buying a corporate jet an extra tax break.” Carney has brought up the corporate jet tax break at every single briefing this week.

But the Senate Democrats’ plan protects corporate jets. Heh.

‘Corporate jets’ is a negative term, like fur coat, or diamond tiara. It says — excess, and undoubtedly wretched excess as well. If you remember, when Obama spent TARP money rescuing the auto industry, he made a big deal about GM’s corporate jets, and forced them to get rid of them.

But what is this “special tax incentive” that corporations get for their corporate jet? The tax break allows owners of private jets to depreciate their airplanes over five years instead of the standard seven years for commercial airplanes — and would raise less than $300 million a year. That’s a teeny fraction of the across-the-board cuts scheduled to go into effect this year. According to the CBO, it isn’t $85 billion, but only $44 billion,  or in household budget terms, cutting out a daily latte.

The big deal about the tax break for corporate jets, is simply the negative impact of the words themselves. The White House also frequently mentions the tax break for oil and gas companies which simply refers to ordinary business deductions that sort of organization is entitled to. It’s nothing special like enormous subsidies for unproven technologies like Solyndra.

A corporate jet amounts to a moving corporate office with WiFi, desks, satellite communication systems, and saves hours of time and inconvenience for major business travel. They utilize a network of more than 5,000 airports in the U.S. while commercial airlines only reach 550. One flight-department manager for an East Coast company makes the point that “we often operate our jet (a Dassault 7X) almost like a shuttle, carrying program managers and engineers to numerous locations in South America,” he says. “Some of the places we fly to are not served by airlines.”

Long-range jets have a full-fuel range of 7,800 geographical miles, or 12 to 13 flight hours, or New York to Tokyo. (best case) There are 11,261 private jets authorized for use in the U.S. and 7.997 in the rest of the world. Medium size private jets carry up to 8 or 9 passengers.

Barack Obama was a skilled community organizer, and knows how to rouse your emotions with the use of special words and pictures that will influence how you feel about a policy. You just need to be aware that you are being played, and try to find our what the real facts are.

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