by Jay Johansen | Jul 11, 2003
I don't want to fall into this trap. I try to work on the assumption that other people mean what they say. Just because I can't imagine how any rational or decent person could possibly think such a thing doesn't mean that they aren't really thinking it. Perhaps they simply have a different perspective. Maybe they're starting from different assumptions. I try to take them at face value, and see their point of view.
Neither incident was all that significant of itself. As the odds are that you are reading this some time after I wrote it, it is likely that these incidents are pretty much forgotten. But I wonder if you can look around you and see similar things being said and done today, or if these were just a couple of oddball cases.
Reaction from liberals was swift, but -- to me anyway -- surprising. Of course various liberal and democrat groups said that this showed intolerance, that there's nothing wrong with homosexual acts and if he thinks there is then he's just a narrow-minded bigot, etc. That's the sort of response I would have expected.
But numerous liberal organizations made remarks similar to these:
From Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-homosexuality Republican group: "If you ask most Americans if they compare gay and lesbian Americans to polygamists and folks who are involved in incest and the other categories he used, I think there are very few folks in the mainstream who would articulate those views." (CNN, April 22, 2003)
David Smith, of Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual-advocacy group: "He seemed to put gay people on the same moral and legal plane as someone who would commit incest." (Philadelphia Inquirer, April 24, 2003)
A man who challenged Santorum at a town hall meeting, who described himself as "a proud, gay Pennsylvanian": "You attacked me for who I am ... How could you compare my sexuality and what I do in the privacy of my home to bigamy or incest?" (CNN, April 23, 2003)
But ... Why do they consider it offensive to compare homosexuality to incest, bigamy, and adultery? Unless they believe that there's something wrong with incest, bigamy, and adultery? But isn't that awfully intolerant, to say that these things are "wrong" -- whatever that outdated old word means? Haven't these groups been telling us for the last thirty or forty years that all forms of sex are simply "alternative lifestyles", with no moral distinction? Indeed, just a couple of years ago, when their favorite president was accused of adultery, sexual harassment, and maybe even rape, they all rushed forward to say big deal, that's a personal matter, there's nothing really wrong with it and it's none of your business anyway. But now all of a sudden the same people are saying that it's unfair to compare homosexuality to adultery because adultery is immoral and homosexuality is okay. Well, maybe it's not the same people. It's the same organizations, but perhaps these particular individuals didn't get the memo.
They are heading down a very dangerous path here. For once you say that bigamy is morally wrong or somehow less desirable than monogamy, doesn't that open you up to the argument that maybe other forms of "sexual expression" might also be morally wrong or undesirable? If bigamy is wrong, maybe incest is wrong too. If incest is wrong, maybe promiscuity is wrong. If promiscuity is wrong, maybe ... maybe homosexuality is wrong.
Side note: I can't help but be struck by the odd logic of the Pennsylvania gentleman. Homosexuality is something he does "in the privacy of my home", and thus cannot be compared to bigamy or incest. But surely bigamy happens in "the privacy of the home" far more often than homosexual acts, which frequently take place in gay bars and bathhouses. And incest is almost always done in the privacy of the home. You don't commit incest with a stranger you just met in a bar, by definition. Perhaps the gentleman simply used a poor choice of words in the pressure of the moment, but it brings up an important point: If the defence of homosexual acts is that they happen in the privacy of the home and therefore are none of the policeman's business, then by the same standard, bigamy and incest must also be off-limits to the law. If a man rapes his 7-year-old neice, does the fact that he did it in her own bedroom make it a private matter between the two of them and no one else's business?
The only conclusion I see that you can draw from all this is that liberals really do believe, just like conservatives, that some sexual acts are morally wrong and deserve to be condemned. But they refuse to say this. Whenever a particular immoral act is being condemned, they rush forward to say that there's really nothing wrong with it and it's no one's business. But every now and then, like here, they slip up. In their haste to defend homosexuality, they forget that they were supposed to defend bigamy, incest, and adultery too, and they accidentally let slip that they know that those things are, indeed, immoral.
Congress passed a tax cut. One item in the tax cut was an increase in the child tax credit, from $600 per child to $1000 per child. Liberals rushed forward with a telling criticism: Lower-income Americans were excluded from this tax cut. An ABC News story of May 29, 2003 was typical. It had the headline, "Feeling Short-Changed, Poor Families With Children Cut Out of Tax-Cut Bill, Critics Charge". The article quotes the president boasting about how so many ordinary Americans will be helped by this tax cut. But after a brief description of the increase in the child tax credit, they state, "But some parents won't get anything." They then quote an expert saying, "A married family with two children that makes $20,000 a year now is completely left out of this tax bill and won't get a thing." They conclude by explaining that the Republicans had to exclude poor families from the tax cut to make room for cuts for rich investors.
A June 3 story on CNN was similar, including statements like, "But a provision that would have extended the child tax credit to families making between $10,500 and $26,626 was excluded from the final bill signed by President Bush." I read several articles that described the tax cut as being limited to 10% for a family making less than $28,850 and 15% for most other low-income families or similar calculaations. When I first read these, I was quite puzzled. Did they really write into the tax law that a poor person should multiply his income by 10% and that was the limit of his tax cut, while rich people had no such limitation? I can't imagine a politician even proposing such a thing, let alone getting is passed. No wonder there was such an uproar!
Until I looked at the numbers agan, and realized -- 10%, 15% -- those are the two lowest tax brackets, and yes, the income ranges they quoted could fit if you made various assumptions about a family's tax situation. In other words, the real complaint was that the amount by which a person's taxes could be reduced was limited to the amount he paid in taxes. If you were currently paying, say, just $500 in taxes, and this credit would be worth $2,000, then you pay no taxes -- your entire tax bill is eliminated. Sounds pretty fair and obvious to me. But no, the liberals figured that in this case the government should have to send you a check for $1500 -- the $500 you would have owed "minus" $2000. Indeed, it turns out that the vast majority of the people whom they described as being "excluded from the tax cut" are people who presently are paying no taxes at all. You might think, How could someone who is not paying taxes get a tax cut? How would it even be possible? But the liberals have an answer: They should get bigger welfare payments.
Okay, I can comprehend logic that says that when people who are paying taxes get a tax cut, then to be "fair" people who aren't paying taxes should get increased welfare benefits. I have yet to hear a liberal insist that any time you increase taxes then, to be fair, you must also cut welfare payments. But my point isn't to debate the issue itself, but rather the way liberals presented it.
And the way they presented it was, to put it bluntly, deliberately misleading. I heard several radio call-in shows where the callers gave arguments so similar that I think they must have been reading from a script. They would start out by saying how poor people were "excluded from the tax cut". The host would challenge this by asking, "How much are these people paying in taxes now?" or something to that effect. The caller would refuse to anser the question, talking about fairness and so on. If the host refused to let it by, they would suddenly change to a different tack: If poor people get more money in their pockets they are more likely to spend it, thus boosting the economy, while a rich person might save it.
Well, one might question whether it might not also help the economy to have people saving and investing, providing the capital to create new jobs. But as I say, my point here is not to debate the issue, but to debate the debate.
If liberals really believe that it is just plain fairness for any tax cut to be accompanied by a welfare increase, why didn't they just say that? Why didn't they say, "It's not fair that a poor person's tax cut is limited to the amount he pays in taxes", instead of "It's not fair that a poor person's tax cut is limited to 10% of his income"? Surely because the second statement makes it sound like the system is deliberately slanted against poor people, while the first statement sounds like plain common sense. If they really believed that the policy they were calling for was fair and just, why didn't they spell it out plainly? Why the subterfuge? The only explanation seems to be that they really didn't believe what they were saying at all, and so they found it necessary to come up with another story that sounded better.
© 2003 by Jay Johansen