Volume 12, Issue 6 ~ February 5-11, 2004

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Our Revised Dictionary for “Newspeak” Governing in 2004

You may already know that George Orwell meant to title his classic futuristic novel 2004 but changed it to 1984 to sell more books.

But you probably didn’t know that Orwell considered setting it in Annapolis rather than Oceania because he envisioned the sort of Big Brother mind games that would be played in Maryland on the subject of taxation.

In 1984, part of the government’s effort at control was a psychology called Newspeak, which redefined words and actions.

Seems to us that Newspeak has arrived in Maryland. And even before the General Assembly gets down to business, the deception is getting wearisome.

Up to now, we’ve been mainly amused when the Ehrlich administration persists in labeling the various new taxes it’s proposing as “user fees” and the like. We think Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s proposed $2.50 water bill increase to clean up sewage treatment plants is a fine idea, and we’ll probably come around to supporting his new marina tax, too.

But in listening to many Republicans talk about taxes this year, we can’t help but note that the hypocrisy smells as foul as leaky sewage.

We noted in an Associated Press dispatch Chip DiPaula, the governor’s budget secretary, saying that Ehrlich “is not interested in raising any tax, including the gasoline tax.”

And then there’s Senate Minority Leader Lowell Stolzfus making his distinction between taxes and user fees and adding, “If they are legitimate user fees, we’ll support it.”

We note this deception in part because of what we are hearing around the country this presidential election season. The phrase “tax-and-spend Democrats” (spoken with contempt) is already making its way into the campaign lexicon as Republicans gear up to run in November.

We’re not defending Democrats here; we’re as critical as anybody of dumb governing and wasted tax dollars.

But we think it’s time for a measure of truth from both parties, whether in Annapolis or in Washington. We’re not being partisan to note that it was the GOP, not those spendthrift Democrats, that rang up an astounding $521 billion deficit this year. Get out your calculator and you will see how each of our families will be paying tens of thousands of dollars to pay down that debt.

Meanwhile, property taxes have swelled and college tuition has jumped an average 28 percent across the land. But working folk are being told we’re much better off thanks to our $304 “tax cut.”

(While we’re at it, we wonder why, to protect our freedom, the government wants to keep track of us with its computerized “Total Information Awareness” system, a term that was no doubt plagiarized from Orwell.)

In Annapolis, perhaps it’s time for a new Truth User-Fee. It would finance the purchase of 1984 for the governor, his staff and each of our lawmakers. And maybe with the “non-revenues” left over from another Tax That’s Not Really a Tax, the state could hold seminars in Orwellian Newspeak.

They’d be optional — but Big Brother would know if you didn’t show.



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Last updated February 5, 2004 @ 12:05am.