Rhetorical Analysis Essay
In the New York Times article titled “Why You Might Not Want to Take Away a Billionaire’s Money”, writer Jeff Sommer attempts to persuade the reader to re-think their opinions on the extremely wealthy. In doing so, he writes to someone who already has strong opinions on the current economic situation. Although it has its faults; through the authors use of ethos, pathos, and logos, I feel this is an overall effective essay.
Because The New York Times is a typically “left-leaning” newspaper, one would think it has some biases to it. Surprisingly, Sommer’s is able to craft a non-biased essay using neutral language and carefully worded sentences. One example of this is when the author talks about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns of which economic inequality was brought up in both. When he mentions that Trump, although indirectly, addresses economic inequality and promises to restore lost jobs and prosperity to downtrodden Americans, Sommers writes” …and perhaps he will do that.”. Through this neutral tone, he is able to portray the professionalism of an un-biased journalist without giving opinionized side-remarks. Later in the article, Sommer’s mentions that in the 1980’s and 1990’s, he “…spent time as a reporter in countries that had endured such ordeals [revolutionary violence] – particularly post-Cultural Revolution China and Russia before and after the Soviet Union’s collapse.”. He states this as an appeal to his credibility as a writer by showing that he has personal experience in the topic in which he is writing about.
Another appeal that the author uses, although minorly, is the appeal to emotion. Throughout this article, Sommer’s mentions his elderly father’s opinions on the current economic situation. His father, someone who rose from an impoverished Scranton Pennsylvania to a New York City businessman, is a firsthand witness to someone who made it out of poverty. While stating that his “…father died in September 2015, a month before his 93rd birthday…”, Sommers appeals to a reader who has lost their hard-working father, mother, or relative to old age. Another time Sommer’s appeals to the reader’s emotions is when he talks about Steven T. Mnuchin, the secretary of Treasury, who is worth 2.9 billion according to Bloomberg. The author explains that Mnuchin is so rich, he neglected to account for 100 million on a disclosure form because of what he called an “unintentional” oversight. Sommer’s makes the comparison of 100 million dollars, which is roughly the equivalent of the total net worth of over 1,200 average American families.
The use of facts and statistics can make an article more reliable. For the most part, the stats used were backed up by sources but on two occasions, Sommer’s seemed to pull random facts out of thin air. At one point, he mentions how China and Russia has “…created a billionaire problem of its own…” but he does not go into further details. Without giving some more insight as to why this is a problem and how it happened, it almost invalidates the entire argument he was trying to make. Another time Sommer’s “facts” were not quite on point was when he states how the changes in the tax system will favor the wealthy. Without proper stats behind it, this argument sounds more opinionated rather than factual.
Although this article had some minor faults to it, I believe Sommer’s crafted an effective article and is able to reach his targeted audience. Through his credibility, appeals to emotion, and the use of facts and statistics, this piece has achieved its goal of making the reader question their opinions on the extremely wealthy.