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    The Sleepy Modifier That Could Save Us

    As America’s “leaders” play chicken with the debt limit, we can learn some cool lessons about the strategic art of rhetorical listening. Take a gander at this quote by Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican. Then try to guess why every Democrat should enthusiastically endorse the conservative’s statement. 

    We don’t need
    new taxes right now.

    Sen. Jon Kyl on “Fox News Sunday,” quoted in the Wall Street Journal

    Sleeper modifier: a term coined by Figaro, denoting an innocuous-sounding adjective or adverb used as a subtle signal in negotiations. 

    As President Obama takes charge of the debt-limit talks, Senator Kyl wants to signal to Democrats that some revenue enhancers might be acceptable. For instance, he might be able to live with eliminating some tax deductions for the corporate jets that are clogging the nation’s airways. 

    But the Senator doesn’t want to raise howls from Tea Partiers who equate any kind of tax with theft. So what does he do? He slips the word “new” in front of “taxes”—implying that old, reliable taxes might not be so bad. 

    The Democrats should jump on this statement, agreeing to give up on any new taxes. Just reimpose some old ones. If taxes were restored to the levels under President Reagan, for example, we could eliminate the deficit without any further budget cuts. 

    No New Taxes! It should become the liberals’ sleeper mantra.

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