Friday, August 19, 2005

Sacrifice, yes. But, not mine.

Several years ago, amidst vocal opposition from some liberals, Massachusetts lowered its state income tax rate from 5.85% to 5.3%. At the time of the decrease, GOP lawmakers, in part to prove a point, successfully lobbied for the 5.85% rate to remain in place on a voluntary basis.

The point was made. The following tax season, the liberals who had ardently supported the higher tax rate for their fellow citizens suddenly embraced the lower one as their own. Of every 10,000 Massachusetts taxpayers, three opted for the higher rate. Famously among those who declined the higher tax rate was John Kerry, who saved $687 by accepting the lower rate. In fact, because of loopholes and write-offs, in 2003 Kerry and his billionaire wife paid just 14% of their income in federal, state, and local income taxes.

When Massachusetts' wealthiest residents have not been busy finding ways to limit their contributions to the government, they have been fighting environmentalists. A group of environmentalists, along with an organization called Cape Wind, seek to build 130 windmills off the shore of Cape Cod. Reports suggest that the windmills would ultimately provide about 75 percent of the energy used by Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and the Nantucket. One would think that this use of clean, renewable energy would be an instant hit among pro-environment liberals like Ted Kennedy and Walter Cronkite.

Except there is a problem. The windmills, which would be built from 5 to 13 miles off-shore, might blemish the view from Kennedy's and Cronkite's oceanfront homes. While opponents of the windmills have advanced numerous arguments against the windmills, Cronkite admits that much of the opposition really comes down to selfishness. ''The problem really is Nimbyism, 'and it bothers me a great deal that I find myself in this position. I'm all for these factories, but there must be areas that are far less valuable than this place is.''

An ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy that involves replying to an argument by addressing the person presenting the argument rather than the argument itself. The reason that ad hominem arguments are considered fallacious is because an argument is either valid or invalid - independent of the character of those who advance it.

In one sense, these stories of liberal hypocrisy in Massachusetts are classic examples of ad hominem arguments. The fact that some some liberals can be hypocrites does not mean that the issues they support are invalid. In short, Kennedy's and Cronkite's squirming on self-sacrifice does not invalidate their positions on anything. But, it sure is funny.

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