Framing The Debate: 'Estate' Vs. 'Death' Tax

(AP)
As part of a report on the changing face of Congress on last night's "Evening News," CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson followed a quote from Democrat Charles Rangel with this bit of analysis: "That might mean higher taxes on upper-income Americans and perhaps reinstituting the death tax."

Attkisson's use of the phrase "death tax" apparently raised some eyebrows, because last night CBS News Senior Vice President, Standards and Special Projects Linda Mason sent out an email on the matter. "It has been called to my attention that on Thursday's Evening News we referred to the estate tax as the 'death' tax," wrote Mason. "The government taxes estates after death, not the person who dies. Therefore we should refer to the tax as the estate tax."

People on both sides of this issue have tried to frame it through the use of terminology. Those who oppose the tax favor the phrase "death tax," which raises the specter of the government taxing people simply for dying. Some people on the other side, meanwhile, have referred to the elimination of the tax as "the Paris Hilton tax cut." Framing through language is an integral part of the political game – just think about the rhetorical impact of the "pro-choice" movement going by the moniker "anti-life," or the "pro-life" movement identifying itself as "anti-choice." On Tuesday, Mason gave Public Eye her explanation for why CBS News uses "late term abortion" instead of "partial birth abortion," arguing that the latter is "a color phrase for people who are anti-abortion rights."