By Libby Lewis, CNN
Washington, DC (CNN) - We’re hearing a lot about tax loopholes these days, as Washington grapples with ways to solve the fiscal crisis. But what IS a tax loophole?
Well, there’s the book definition, says Howard Gleckman, senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center:
[:32] "The dictionary definition implies that the law was imperfectly written – and somebody got some smart lawyers who figured out a way to get around the intent of the law."
But when you ask some people to describe it, they’ll do it more this way: A tax loophole is what somebody ELSE gets.
So where does THAT idea come from?
Cognitive linguist George Lakoff at the University of California at Berkeley has studied the way the mind approaches politics for a long time. He says, how one defines tax loopholes is all about their political worldview:
[1:52] "It means something totally different to liberals and conservatives. It’s basically a moral term that is very important."
President Obama calls the tax breaks that oil and gas companies get – and the owners of corporate jets – “tax loopholes.” Some conservatives call the mortgage interest deduction a “tax loophole.”
Neither side is accurate, says the Tax Policy Center’s Gleckman. But it’s dead-on accurate in capturing how each side feels about that particular tax benefit.