Can lawyers write?

Who are the best writers? If we held a vote, English teachers might win, or authors of popular novels. But one group that would get no votes at all is lawyers. Oh, they likely know how to write; they learned it early in school. But some time during Law School, the skill of writing clear, common sense statements was sucked right out of ‘em.

Here are two recent examples. Neal Gorsuch, the new conservative Supreme Court Justice, voted with his liberal colleagues to overturn a ruling because the law it was based on was “vague.” In other words, the law was written so poorly by a legislative body that a judge had to figure out what it meant. Gorsuch says that ain’t right; it’s up to Congress or a state Legislature to write down exactly what it means. Then a judge can do his or her job of deciding whether the accused is innocent or guilty based on that law as written.

We all watched Jeff Zuckerberg, the whiz kid who founded Facebook, being interviewed (or interrogated) by a bunch of old Senators who still send out messages by telegram. They couldn’t figure out how a service provided free to millions of people could earn any money, let alone make Zuckerberg a billionaire. Well, the secret to his wealth is included in the legal document every Facebook user signs. But nobody reads it because it’s hundreds of pages. One prominent Senator admitted, “I’m a lawyer and I don’t understand it.”

The solution to these problems is for all legal documents to be written by non-lawyers. Someone who is blunt, straight-forward and clear. Someone like, say, Barbara Bush. Yes, we already miss her example of common sense clarity presented with a touch of humor.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

“The minute you read something and you can’t understand it you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer. Then if you give it to another lawyer to read and he don’t know just what it means, why then you can be sure it was drawn up by a lawyer. If it’s in a few words and is plain and understandable only one way, it was written by a non-lawyer.

Every time a lawyer writes something, he is not writing for posterity, he is writing so that endless others of his craft can make a living out of trying to figure out what he said, course perhaps he hadn’t really said anything, that’s what makes it hard to explain.” WA #657, July 28, 1935

Income taxes deflate humor

Income taxes are due. I heard on the radio today that 20 percent of Americans pay 84 percent of all income taxes. That’s for 2017. Here’s a surprise: next April the top 20 percent will pay 87 percent of ‘em. Here we thought those birds were getting the big income tax cuts. Maybe those of us getting a few crumbs should say ‘thanks’ to those folks and utter a prayer for them to keep on living.

When it comes to taxes, our government does not have a record of brilliant decisions. (See Historic quotes below.)

At least one group of business folks is paying lower income taxes. Since 2012, net farm income has been cut in half. Soybean growers have been in the news lately because of the trade battle with China over tariffs. But dairy farmers are hurting even worse because cows are becoming too productive. Yes, they are giving milk faster than we can drink it. So drink more milk (real milk, not nut juice pretending to be milk). On your pizzas, order double cheese. And let’s hope it finally warms up this spring so we can enjoy ice cream. With cows and farmers producing too much food, Will Rogers’ suggestion in 1931 could work today, “Wish all the Farmers would move to town one year; that’s the only way I know to clear the thing up.”

Historic quotes by Will Rogers (income taxes):

“We got a long?sighted government. When everybody has got money they cut the taxes, and when they’re broke they raise ’em.” DT #1770, March 27, 1932

“We owe more money than any Nation in the World, and WE ARE LOWERING TAXES. When is the time to pay off a debt if it is not when you are doing well? … You let a Politician return home from Washington and announce, ‘Boys we lowered your taxes. We had to borrow the money to do it, but we did it.’ Say, they would elect him for life.” WA #161, Jan. 10, 1926

“We are known as the wealthiest Nation of all time.  Well, in the first place we are not. The difference between our rich and poor grows greater every year. Our distribution of wealth is getting more uneven all the time.  We are always reading, ‘How many men paid over a million dollar income tax.’ But we never read about ‘How many there is that are not eating regular.’” WA #388, June 1, 1930

“The crime of taxation is not in the taking it, it’s in the way that it’s spent.” DT #1764, March 20, 1932

The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.” WA #17, April 8, 1923 (also WA #99, Nov. 2, 1924)

“You can’t legitimately kick on income tax, for it’s on what you have made. You have already made it. But, look at land, farms, homes, stores, vacant lots. You pay year after year on them whether you make it or not.” DT #1798, April 28, 1932