Monday, July 12, 2010

Depleting depletion

In today's Toronto Star, there's an op ed piece by John Cartwright pushing for various governments in Canada to roll back a variety of tax cuts for businesses. John Cartwright is not only wrong, but he seems to be rather confused. But since this isn't Economics, Jack, I'll leave the economic arguments up to folks who are far more qualified to make them than me.

The English angle shows up in these sentences:
"That is that both the federal and Ontario governments are implementing a series of corporate tax cuts that deplete public revenues by billions of dollars every year."
"Stephen Harper’s corporate tax cuts will end up depleting federal revenues by nearly $14 billion every year."
I'm not aware of having seen deplete used this way before, and after searching a wide range of style books (including MWDEU), I find none have noted this creative use of deplete or depletion. You can deplete ozone, resources, water reserves, energy supplies, substances, stocks, nutrients, savings, soil, populations, and funds, but all of these have in common that they are entities or quantities; they are (or can be) replete. Revenue, on the other hand, is simply a measure of change (it shows up on the income statement, not the balance sheet). People don't typically speak of depleting velocity, for instance or depleting aging.

But Cartwright's use here is, I think, calculated to make us feel a loss. It's spin, pure and simple. I wonder if you can deplete spin.


Anonymous said...

From a budgetary perspective, "revenue" is a quantity, not a measure of change. In this particular case, it is the amount of money the government will take in over the course of the year.

To someone writing the federal budget, revenue is essentially a "pot of money," and it can be depleted.

The English Planner said...

Really? When I look at a financial balance sheet, I am looking at Revenues (Income) and Costs (Expenses). So you might say that costs are increasing or revenues are decreasing. But I agree with Brett that revenue is something that cannot be depleted. That being said, is the word "revenue" actually being used in this way in finance? Are revenues being depleted? I gotta go do some searching...