You walk into a shoe store. The salesman runs up to you. “Great news!” he beams. “We’ve just slashed our prices 20 percent!”
“Yikes!” you say. “I can’t afford a price cut like that! I’m outta here.”
“No, no — maybe you didn’t hear me,” the clerk says. “We’re cutting our prices 20 percent. Cutting, not raising.”
“I heard you just fine,” you say. “I’m not paying an outrageous increase like that!” And you storm out the door.
The preceding scenario makes no sense — except in the bizarro world of government finance. For that is precisely how many people speak, writes A. Barton Hinkle, when they speak of taxes.