The language of the loophole
In the language of Washington, "loophole" is one word that means different things to different people.
November 23rd, 2012
07:35 AM ET

The language of the loophole

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.

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soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. wiseup

    wiseup: The repubs being able to have an intelligent negotiations, have their hands tied by t-no deal and soon to be irrelivent Norquist. Several repubs has already denounced their pledge to norquist. They realize the cosequenes of going over fiscal cliff.

    November 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. wiseup

    wiseup: the one post quoted that 19% voted for Obama. Oboma won by 3% that means only 16% voted for Romney. The Top 2% has had a free ride for years. The myth that ending the Bush tax cuts would hurt the other 98% costing jobs. With all the breaks the top 2% has received unemployment should be about 4%. Ending the Bush tax cuts would not hurt the economy. Most of those tax cuts go into theiir pockets or to Caymans or swiss accounts.

    November 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. J.V.Hodgson

    A loophole does not necessarily have to be the result of bad law drafting it can also be because of the specific intent of legislators to exclude income as income or CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE having a lower or delayed levy of a tax rate. Carry over interest anyone??
    We are also talking direct tax breaks like The $4bn assistance given to oil companies or even mortgage relief. This latter I would as step 1 cap at the maximum mortgage amount of S1m at start on One " official " home": residence only.
    Nothing for 2nd third mortgages on " HOME" and certainly not the famed 5 houses of Romney, I would also limit tax relief of any kind = property tax at both state and local level to one HOME.
    Long term too the AMT has to go even if it means introducing a lower start line TAX RATE.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. artraveler

    First, if you tax all income, not just work, at the current same rate and get rid of that 15% interest/diividend gift to the rich and also include Social Security and Medicare taxes for everyone for 100% of their income before any deductions, you can fix the economy fast enough, along with SS and Medicare, to stop playing mind games on the poor. The rich will always have money but it is timne for them to pay their share with no deductions. If they don't like it, put their money in foundations that must pay out 5% of their gross value every year to a charity serving the nation or donate it to the national debt fund and then they can try to live like the rest of us. Maybe even make their own drinks and learn whether they are shaken, not stirred, or blended. With just the Waltion family alone having more net worth than the bottom 50% of the entire US popul;ation, there is something badly wrong when they also get tax benefits not available to those making far less and suffering to survive.

    November 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. RQ

    Our defense spending is draining us dry.

    November 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |

    The media was right for not questioning the sound judgement of President Obama during the last W.H. Pres Conference. The media was to just sit there and take copious notes. Who has the right to question a duly-elected top governemnt official? Lessons about Nixon were well learned. President Obama knows what is best for our Nation, and the majority of American citizens have proved it.

    November 24, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Chunky Tuna

      Where the heck to you get "a majority of americans" proving anything? There are 320 million americans and obama received 58,720,700 votes. Now, according to my calculations, that is just under 19% of amercians that voted for him.

      November 25, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |

    Republicans should stop picking on UN Ambassador Susan Rice. She had no reason to question talking points pased on to her by the Intelligence Community instead of her supervisor, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Besides, did not Hillary Clinton already assume "full responsibilty" for diplomatic actions iwith the Benghazi affair prioe to President Obama's re-election? Furthermore, Hillary Clinton has voluntarilly decided to step down. So let it rest and trust the sound judgement of President Obama. Susan Rice is an "excellent choice" for Secretary of State.

    November 24, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |

    If Obama is to be held ultimately responsible for the "quick death" of four innocent Americans in Benbhazi on 09/11/2012, and perhaps serve some prison time, let us first execute Bush for ignoring the signs that led to the death of 3000+ Americans on 09/11/2001. Then we would be seeking justice PROPORTIONATE to POTUS crime.

    November 24, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Lin

      Here's the problem with Bush being prosecuted. You see, no one thought in 2001 that this kind of thing could really happen; that there were idiot's in this world that cared so little about human beings that they would actually carry through with "terrorist" threats. BUT from 9/11/2001 on...any threat is a reality and needs to be heeded as such, especially those made on 9/11 of any year after 2001. When I saw the news bit on CNN my immediate thought was, boy, somebody better get in there and help those people NOW! When I saw the announcement of their deaths at 10:30pm, I was just plain angry! If I new it was bad, then Washington, UN, etc. should have realized IT WAS BAD! Hypervigilence should now be the norm, not the "let's wait and see" attitude of late.

      November 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
      • steve

        The terrorists attacked the twin towers with truck bombs prior to 9/11. So what do you mean?

        November 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sanely Grounded

      Way to go! The article is about tax loopholes and you bring up Benghazi. Stick to the subject. I'm so sick and tired of reading the same talking points on every article about all things right or wrong in the current political stance of our country by the same people over and over. Move on.

      November 25, 2012 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |

    Since those who voted for Obama want to blame the rapid deterioration of our economy on Bush and the House GOP, perhaps there should not be any negotiation. Let's give Obama full control and allow him to do whatever he wants with the budget. No doubt he wants to exact very high levy on our nation's wealth and future top 5% income. Let him re-distribute this levy to the lower and middle income people. Let Obama have free unbridaled control of Obamacare and the military spending. He is the POTUS and deserves to assume all power like Mosry in Egypt. Congress is just a "bureaucratic nuisanse." Allow Obama full freedom to choose numerous advisors ("czars") that match House members within each State, to oversee the smooth fiscal transition and cut any "red tape." No one need question the judgement of President Obama with this matter. He knows who is needed and where. America shouted it's trust in President Obama. Now is the time to demonstate it.

    November 24, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • artraveler

      Bush 2 was left a budget that had a surplus and a start to paying off the national debt. This at one time was the great Republican mantra since about 90% of the debt at the time was run up by Republican presidents under good economic times and any or all of them should have made reducing it a priority over any tax cuts for anyone but that isn't the Republican way. The Bush tax cuts took us from a surplus on an annual basis to a deficit and then 2 unpsid-for wars and Medicare D further screwed up the situation coupled with his zeal in eliminating all regulations because of all those noble bankers would never buy, cheat, or steal. Wrong on all 3 counts. We may have made more progress if the Republicans actually were American first and not Grovericans./idiots.

      November 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |

    When people say that their successful choice of POTUS has a "mandate," it usully pertains primarily to control of the budget - social and foreign policies are usully secondary. Balanced budget was stalemated since July 2011 with the intent to finish the game once and for all after November 2012 determined the final players. Ironicaly, we have the same players and the same position of pieces on the fiscal chessboard. The major difference: 16 months have past with only 30 days to go. What is the difference in plan? The Generation Xers and Milleniums better want to know.

    November 24, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. mmi16

    The GOP has tried for the past 4 years to wreck the economy so that the could 'pin it on Obama'. They failed. It is time for the GOP to leave the Norquist playbook on how to make the US a 3rd World pipsqueek and get with the job making the USA great instead of making it behind the rest of the world to 'spite Obama'.

    November 24, 2012 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
  12. mmi16

    One mans Pork is another mans job.
    One mans tax loophole is another mans Leer Jet.

    November 24, 2012 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |

    increasing taxes on the top 2% may not be effective because people with that much money can afford very shrewd corp lawyers and can easily help minimize tax liability -- well BELOW that expected by spirit of the law - for the richest of people. then is flows downhill to small businesses who are not that savvy - and will get zonked. then what? so better to focus on the CUTS first - way to go House GOP!

    November 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • joep199

      The only problem is that there just isn't enough money available through cuts alone to do the job. There also has to be an increase in revenue, the amount of money that the government takes in through taxes. And, since our economy is driven by demand (about 70% of our GDP comes from consumer spending), it doesn't make sense to take more money out of the consumers' (middle class) pockets, since that will slow the economy down. Over the past 60 years, the very wealthy have consistently accumulated a larger and larger portion of the nation's wealth, so that they now have the resources to be able to contribute a little more. Just check the economic performance of our nation since WW2, we were at our most prosperous when tax rates (particularly on capital gains) were considerably higher than they are now. Even the wealthy did better, because the economy was generating so much money.

      November 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |