Harvard's Lawrence Katz has calculated that even if all the gains of the top 1% were redistributed to the 99%, household incomes would go up by less than half of what they would if everyone had a college degree.
This is the most comprehensive example of weasel-wording I've seen since Nixon's "Mistakes were made." Let's list all of the examples of weasel wording the author used in this one short sentence:
1. Harvard's... (Harvard's what? groundskeeper?)
2. ...Lawrence Katz... (I'd like to assign the expert fallacy to this, but I have no idea who he is. is he an expert at all? and if so, is he the only expert who says this?)
3. ...has calculated... (based on? using which criteria?)
4. ...even if... (dismissive qualifier)
5. ...all the gains... (meaning how much? 6 trillion dollars? $30? how do you define a "gain?")
6. ...were redistributed... (by who? not to mention, in what fashion? this is classic passive voice.)
7. ...top 1%...99%... (vague terms undefined in the article, but how delightful that they contain numbers so they sound so exact!)
8. ...household incomes... (I'm guessing you mean 100% of household incomes, but, shit, I don't even know who Lawrence Katz is based on your article, let alone what sample sizes he was using)
9. ...less than half... (how much less than half? 49%? 18%? those are both less than half.)
10. ...half of what they would if everyone had a college degree... (this amount is also undefined, but best of all it's used as a benchmark for how much the other undefined amount is! So X < Y/2, but we don't know what "X" is, what "Y" is, or HOW MUCH LESS either one is than the other! this should really count as two or three examples of weasel wording, but I can't even parse it out that far, so I'll be kind and call it just one.)
I kind of feel bad letting you down, my loyal blogketeers, because I'm sure there are more examples of weasel words and I'm just not enough of a grammar expert to spot them. (Theresa and Alicia, I'm looking in your direction...) But I still spotted ten instances of weasel wording in ONE SENTENCE of this article. And this is a very short article. I'm sure she didn't want to drag it out because the whole premise is so ridiculous and the longer anyone would spend reading it, the more ludicrous they would find it.
Because, to be frank, I've just been assessing this sentence grammatically. After doing some research, I found that Lawrence Katz is an economics professor at Harvard, so it's entirely possible his analysis is valid, although for all I know he could have just made a logical guess (i.e., pulled the numbers out of his ass.) Or he could be a kook who everyone else in the economic community dismisses. OR HE COULD BE THE GREATEST ECONOMIST OF ALL TIME. The point is, I don't know, and this article makes no attempt to tell me. I didn't even get into the whole premise of this sentence, which is farcical.
Let's say everyone in America DID get a college degree. (I guess that would be 100% of adults over the age of 22 healthy enough to work? I don't really know who "everyone" is in this scenario.) I'll ignore for a moment the seemingly magical means by which we would obtain this result. Let's say, for instance, that higher education was made both free (as in Portugal) and mandatory (as in the magical land of Oz.) In what sense would that change the job market? It would just mean that garbage men have degrees in modern dance. Because garbage man would still be a job that had to be filled that doesn't require a degree, and there's no reason why the wages for being a garbage man would go up just because everyone in America got a degree. More than likely, since the baseline had changed, it would simply mean that having a bachelor's degree would become the modern day equivalent of having a high school diploma...and all professionals would have to have a master's or higher.
But now I'm getting away from weasel words and into actual content. It seems clear, though, that the reason why the author felt the need to use so many weasel words was because she had so little actual content. Take this as an object lesson, young and aspiring writers.
UPDATE (5/8/12): The lovely folks at Edit Torrent have, in fact gotten back to me, and even graciously reposted my link at their site. I'm enjoying some of the comments over there. Here's a brilliant example of weasel words specific to academia, thanks to Ashlyn Macnamara.