Friday, September 20, 2013

Step Three: Passive!

Paul Krugman's column today drew (among others) these two comments, one in reply to the other. Here I'm not discussing the content of the first comment's suggestions, nor their practicability. Instead I draw your attention to a phrase in the response - my italics:
Simply defund Congress retroactively to the beginning of 2013; cancel the members' health benefits, pensions, and any other remuneration associated with their membership that formerly august body retroactively to the beginning of their current terms. Deny them any federal benefits to procure food, clothing, or housing. Do this, and let it stand until six months after the Senate and the House have approved a budget that improves the quality of life of the so-called bottom 80 percent of the American population. This will also encompass the time in which President Obama should by all rights have raised the debt ceiling, citing the powers contaIned in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Let the members of Congress work for free, much like the new employment subculture of interns, who are cheated by large corporations and inadvertently take away paying jobs from workers beyond the intern stage of their careers.

Do this before this country descends into madness. It's a simple enough request from a simple American citizen.
Dear -: You say "simply defund Congress," but the problem is WHO would defund them since the House of Representatives holds the purse strings of the nation according to the Constitution. Are suggesting that Obama disband the Congress, like Morsi did in Egypt? You say "deny them any Federal benefits" you use the passive voice failing to identify the actors of your suggested defunding.
Why is it that people cannot identify the passive? "Deny them any Federal benefits" is not the passive. It's an imperative, and it's active voice.

Granted, the commenter is "failing to identify the actors of [his] suggested defunding", but failing to identify the actor is neither the hallmark nor a necessary condition of the passive. Plenty of active constructions totally hide the "actor", if by that you mean the person responsible (the bus blew up, the rules require you to dress differently, the poison killed three innocent people), and plenty of passive sentences point a rather emphatic finger (the man was killed by his own doctor, mistakes were made by each and every one of us, the civilians were gassed on the orders of their own president).

It's certainly akin to "and then a miracle happens" or "step two: ???" to just wave your hand and say "defund Congress". But it's not using the passive voice.

Can we please attack the real problem, and not the not-even-real symptom?

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