metaphor fight: water and rich people

Hold onto your critical faculties, everybody: It’s time for a metaphor fight!

Today’s metaphor fight is about what happens when you cut taxes for rich people. In one corner, we have “trickle-down economics.” In the other, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Let’s start with the rising tide. In this metaphor, water represents rich people’s money and each boat represents somebody’s standard of living. If there’s more water (money) around, everyone’s boat (standard of living) is higher. It doesn’t matter if the rich boats rise thirty-five feet while the poor ones get maybe three or four inches at high tide — the point is, nobody’s boat would have risen at all without those tax cuts.

“Trickle-down economics” paints a very different picture. In this metaphor, rich people will have so much extra tax money jammed into their pockets that some of it is bound to fall out and land where a poor person can grab it. (Notice: There are very few things in nature that trickle that you would actually want to stand under and collect. Even if you picture coins or something, the implication here is that a bunch of greasy fingers [or worse] were all over them before they clinked sadly through the street grates into your outstretched hands.)

These metaphors aren’t fighting just for the hell of it. They are fighting over you. Each one wants you to think about money in society in a way that supports the belief system of the person who made it up.

Is money a force of nature, like the ocean? Is it a scarce resource, hoarded by the greedy few? Or are both of these ideas wrong?