STOP Framing "us"

How a select few of "them" are Framing all of "us"

Archive for the category “Budget and tax policy”

“We” make it, “they” take it! Extracting Wealth from American Workers

Productivity in the United States has steadily risen over the past 30 years, and the U.S. continues to be one of the wealthiest nations on earth.  Despite this reality, the vast majority of Americans are not being rewarded for their efforts, and many people are earning less than their parents!  The reason productivity is up is because Americans are working longer and harder than they have in recent memory.  Productivity is thriving, yet worker salaries are dying.

As it turns out, conservative politicians in Washington have vigilantly pursued a set of economic and tax policies over the past 30 years reflecting the theory of trickle-down economics.  Simply put, this theory rests upon the assumption that perpetually lowering taxes on millionaires and billionaires, as well as borrowing money from future generations to give to the wealthiest members of our society will somehow trickle-down to the rest of us.  It’s safe to say that this theory has proven to be a complete and utter failure, and has led to the largest gap in wealth between those at the top (1%) and everyone else (99%) since the great depression.

The consequence of pursuing these policies has resulted in what can clearly be described as ‘wealth extraction’ from our economy.  The privileged class in the top 1% feels entitled to the wealth we all work hard to create, and they have used their power and influence to ensure legislation is passed that permit this to occur.  Evidence for this can be seen in 2010, when this group of wealthy elite claimed nearly all income gain in this country for themselves.  In 2010, the top 1% took in 93% of all income gain in this country.  Essentially, what this means is that America is stuck working harder than ever to create wealth for our nation that the top 1% extracts for their upper class members, while the rest of us struggle to survive on what little remains.

It wasn’t always this way, and more importantly it doesn’t have to be this way moving forward.  During the golden age of capitalism (1945-1975) all Americans in each income group were valued for the contributions they made, and were fairly compensated for their efforts.  Those at the bottom of the economic scale saw their incomes rise just as quickly as those at the top. For the first time in our nations history, millions of families could afford to buy a home, send their kids to college, purchase a new car, and lead relatively comfortable lives.  In short, the middle class was thriving.  During this time period, we all worked together to create wealth for our nation that was adequately shared among us, and fair and progressive tax policies were put in place that prevented the privileged class from extracting wealth from the rest of us.

This all changed when President Ronald Reagan took office.   Instead of embracing what was working for everyone, conservative politicians decided to replace the progressive tax code with tax policies favoring their wealthy elite donors.  As a result, rather than sharing in the wealth America worked together to create, those at the top decided to keep more of the money American workers generated for themselves.  In essence, the implementation of trickle-down economic policies allowed the privileged few to turn America into a we make it, they take it economy.  The wealth extraction underlying the divide between those at the very top and everyone else characterizing the conservative philosophy of we make and they take it has proven to work wonders for those at the top, but not so much for everyone else.

Since the wealth America creates is no longer being shared among us, and workers are no longer valued for their means of production, or paid thriving wages, poverty rates are steadily increasing, the middle class is eroding, more people are dependent upon food stamps and other government assistance to survive, and the most vulnerable populations among us are facing grave consequences each day we continue to adopt these failed and misguided policies.  The behavior of conservative politicians insisting our nation prioritize borrowing money from future generations to give to the super wealthy is not only immoral, but leads to catastrophic consequences for the vast majority of people in order to pave the way for what Vice Presidential hopeful, Paul Ryan calls a path to prosperity for the top 1%.

What priorities are being set for our nation? Are they the same priorities you would choose?

The GOP constantly cries over the debt limit and evokes the “spending problem” in Washington “frame” every time our Democratic representatives seek to place a priority on human needs. Paying for human needs with the common wealth we all contribute to helps sustain an America that works together.  Unfortunately, some of us are unable to contribute to the common wealth due to disease or an unfortunate disability, as well as those who have retired after working their entire lives, who become eligible to receive the earned benefits they contributed to during their most productive years.

We show empathy and care for these individuals by coming together as one nation to provide the essential services necessary to support their needs. Without the common wealth these people would not be protected, much like the millions of Americans currently living in poverty and the many Americans who die each year as a result of not being able to afford health coverage for their families.  Paying for human needs is essential for our nation to continue to be strong, along with investments in education, science and technology, and caring for our veteran population that bravely serve our country.  These priorities are reflected in the budget and tax policies our elected representatives advocate for and pass.

What are our national priorities?

Take a look at this chart from the National Priorities Project and consider what priorities you think we should adopt for our nation, and compare that to what our nations priorities actually are at this moment.

When our elected representatives decide to place a priority on spending the common wealth as can be seen in the chart above, we are sending the message to our friends, family members, and neighbors alike that we don’t care about the suffering of others.  We don’t care about education for our children.  We don’t care about investing in science and technology.  We don’t care about providing for those who are unable to provide for themselves.  We don’t care about our wounded soldiers who return from war.  When we enact immoral budget and tax policies that exclude the needs of the people, and ignore making crucial investments in our future, we not only increase the burden being placed on our families and communities, but we also send the message to other nations that we don’t care about each other.  It appears the one thing we do care about is increased military spending.  As indicated in this chart, we are spending the lion’s share of our tax dollars on military spending, at the expense of other social programs that provide for the needs of our citizens.

Even if we were to accept the frame put out there by pollsters working for the GOP regarding our “spending problem” in Washington, then we should at least be curious as to how that money is being spent.  If it is acceptable to spend nearly 60% of our discretionary spending on the military, then why not shift our priorities, and start focusing on the needs of our citizens, instead of using our tax dollars (ie, the common wealth) to build an empire around the globe, bomb and destroy communities abroad, and create more enemies in the process. We didn’t always spend this much on our military.  Even at the height of World War II, we spent a fraction of the cost we are spending today. The increase in military spending has more than doubled under former President George W. Bush’s watch to the point that we are now spending more money on our military than the rest of the world combined!

For the most part, the increased spending on the military was used to enrich shareholders of Haliburton and it’s subsidiaries (Dick Cheney’s former company) who received no bid contracts courtesy of Dick Cheney and former President Bush’s effective use of our Government to suppress competition. Rather than being used to keep us safe and protect us, which is the language the GOP repeatedly runs with when discussing increased military spending, Bush and Co. effectively used the power of the federal government to suppress competition and enrich fellow members of the privileged sector. This by the way is a textbook example of what the GOP’s frame of “picking winners and losers” is all about.  Just like the “spending problem” in Washington frame, also referred to as the fictitious “tax and spend” Liberal, the “picking winners and losers” frame was purposely crafted to be repeated endlessly when facing any opposition to the GOP’s efforts to place a priority on corporate greed over human needs.

The National priorities project is an excellent resource for showing us what we could experience in this country if we simply shift our priorities.  For example, instead of spending $22,000 per second to create enemies abroad, we could hire thousands of teachers, firefighters, and police officers, not to mention jump-start this economy by getting ahead of our national competitors in the development of clean, safe, fuels of the future like wind and solar power that will never run out, as opposed to focusing on dirty, unsafe fuels of the past that are polluting our planet and lungs, not to mention the devastating effects it will have on our economy when they do run out. This will finally eliminate (not just reduce) our dependence on foreign oil, increase our national security, and provide the desperately needed economic stimulus to get us back on track and working together as one nation.

Ultimately, the spending issue frame boils down to placing a priority on protecting and enriching the privileged in this country, (GOP led priorities) or protecting human needs and providing an equal opportunity for every citizen to pursue life, liberty and happiness by coming together in support of human needs over corporate greed (Democratic priorities).

Can Socialism rescue ‘us’ again from the grips of Crony Capitalism? Corporations seem to love it!

Although the modern day GOP would have us believe that our economy functions better when those at the top continue to receive endless tax breaks, oil subsidies, corporate jet subsidies, and other forms of corporate socialism, our nation’s history proves otherwise.  When we enacted economic policies that favored higher taxes on those making over a million per year in today’s dollars, built the interstate highway system, and initiated a Government led program that put America back to work, everyone, including those at the very top benefitted.  The result of this courageous leadership led to the introduction of socialist programs that were designed to rescue ‘we the people’ from the grips of crony capitalism that resulted in the great depression.

This was real courage, unlike the current “frame” being fed to the public about how Paul Ryan is being “courageous” for introducing his austerity leads to prosperity plan.  If successful, Paul Ryan’s plan will result in forced ‘austerity’ measures on all of us in order to continue to pave the “path to prosperity” for those born privileged in America.

Despite the rhetoric coming from the right wing echo chamber, we have elements of both socialism and capitalism in the United States.  When we take our grandmother to see her doctor about health concerns, we are embracing socialism.  When we drive on paved highways to pick up the medication for our grandmother, we are embracing socialism.  When we send our disabled child to a local specialist, we are embracing socialism.  When our parents use their earned benefits from working their entire lives to pay the bills and fund their daily needs, we are embracing socialism.  When we serve in the Military, or care for the wounded veterans who have served our country in the past, we are embracing socialism.

The right wing echo chamber has become so successful at convincing people to fear socialism that many overlook the obvious benefits socialism provides their family members, not to mention those who actively serve in our armed forces.  Many people do not think about socialism in this way.  This is partly due to the lack of effectively communicating the benefits of socialism, not to mention touting the fact that Social Security and Medicare are two of the most successful, efficiently run, and popular socialist programs we have ever had in this country.

We are led to believe that capitalism is good and socialism is bad.  This message is coming primarily from those on the far right, of course, who actually benefit from socialism, at the expense of everyone else. According to David Cay Johnston, corporate socialism is alive and well in the United States (see clip below). The problem is that it only applies to the privileged class, and not the rest of us.  The trick for those born privileged is to privately benefit from socialism, while publicly decrying it as a solution to help the rest of us out of the current economic crisis their immoral tax policies actually created.  In essence, they seek to privatize profits and socialize losses, which amounts to taking from the many and redistributing it to the few, as explained by David Cay Johnston in the clip below.

Our elected representatives have a choice.  They can decide to continue implementing the failed economic policies of the past that have continually led to crisis after crisis, and that only benefit the super-rich, or they can choose the tried and true economic policies that made this country a household name where everyone benefitted equally from the fruits of our labor.  This would require real courage on behalf of our elected leaders to do what’s right!  Not only for the sake of struggling families and putting Americans back to work, but to stimulate our economy and help achieve a happier and healthier society for all.  Since income equality is proven to lead to happier and healthier societies, and income inequality has proven itself to lead to more poverty, crime, stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and an overall less happy, and less healthy society, what are our elected representatives waiting for?  If ever there was a blueprint for courage this is it!

If we continue to pursue failed and immoral economic policies that strictly benefit the privileged in this country, then we are forced to inflict severe ‘austerity’ measures on everyone else.   As we can see by the example in Greece, the austerity leads to prosperity approach favored by Paul Ryan and backed by the GOP, is failing miserably.  Why not opt for an America that works together!

The “Slush fund” frame: Cover for the GOP efforts to raid the Public health and cancer prevention fund in order to transfer it up to the ‘privileged’ in America.

What John Boehner and the rest of the GOP are calling a “Slush fund” is the Public health and prevention fund that provides critical health services that all Americans depend on, especially women. The GOP is actively trying to convince the rest of us that we should be in favor of supporting an immoral bill that would eliminate 600,000 cancer prevention screenings for women across the country in order to prevent the student loan interest rates from doubling for college students. This stands in direct contrast to what Democrats are proposing, which is to simply end the taxpayer funded subsidies the oil industry receives. As it stands, the student loan interest rates are scheduled to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1, 2012, and so our elected representatives are faced with a moral choice.

This issue is fundamentally about the priorities we hold as a nation, and involves the choices our elected leaders make about what we value in America.  Do we value the health of women in this country?  If given the chance, would we choose to prevent our wives, mothers and daughters from getting cancer?  Or, do we value profit over people?  Do we value protecting the privileged in this country by placing a higher priority on oil subsidies for billionaires like the Koch brothers rather than preventing women from getting cancer?

Unfortunately, the choice that an overwhelming majority of conservatives in the House of Representatives made when faced with this choice was to continue protecting oil subsidies for people like the Koch brothers.  After all, the Koch brothers were born privileged, and believe they are ‘entitled’ to free money from all of us, so their children can be born privileged too.

Why did the GOP pass this bill?  The obvious reason is so they can continue protecting and enriching the ‘privileged’ members in society, who fund their re-election campaigns.  More importantly, however, the GOP passed this bill because it is in line with their ideological vision for America.  This vision involves the pursuit of one’s self-interest to the dismay of everyone and everything else, including the destruction of the environment.  To make matters worse, conservatives are making sure we continue to use taxpayer dollars to rely on dirty, unsafe fuels of the past, even at the expense of preventing women from getting cancer!

It’s obvious that no one would be in favor of denying potentially life saving screenings for women to prevent cancer.  This is morally wrong, and goes against the values we hold dear in this country.  This is exactly why the GOP created the “Slush fund” frame to make it appear that Democrats are being selfish and are engaging in corruptive practices in order to line the pockets of special interests.  When viewed through the lense of this frame, who is going to support the use of a “slush fund” for private gain?

The incredible irony here is that this is exactly what members of the GOP are guilty of doing.  The GOP is literally “framing” Democrats for their actions, since they are completely selfish and are engaging in corruptive practices in order to line the pockets of special interests.  The GOP “Slush fund” is enormous in scope and was set up to purposely transfer wealth from all of “us” to a select few of “them.”  This and other frames are being used to justify inflicting draconian budget cuts on all of us, while they laugh all the way to the banks that they own with their latest tax cut.

For a visual of what this transfer of wealth into the GOP “Slush fund” looks like, take a look below.

This is the what happens when we vote for conservative politicians in Washington. Our choice to vote for the GOP leads to a “path to prosperity” for the top 1% that is being paved by a path to poverty for the rest of us.

Paul Ryan’s crusade to “Raid the Railroad” is being framed as an attempt to “save” taxpayers money. Where have we heard this language before?

Paul Ryan, Republican chair of the House Budget Committee, is attempting to Raid the Railroad Retirement fund by introducing a ‘poison pill’ that would effectively steal the hard earned money that Railroad workers have been putting aside for years. Many people may be familiar with Paul Ryan’s current budget plan for our nation, which he calls a “path to prosperity.”  What many people may not be aware of is that his plan for the nation is similar to his plan for local railroad workers, which is to create a “path to prosperity” for the top 1% that is being paved by a “path to poverty” for the rest of us.

Paul Ryan added a little something extra this year to the conservative’s immoral budget proposal for America.  In addition to devastating our social safety net by gutting social programs that benefit the most vulnerable populations among us, including the working poor, sick, disabled and elderly populations, Paul Ryan is extending this destructive crusade to include middle class working Americans who contribute to the railroad pension fund.  It should be noted that the money saved from this crusade will be transfered up to the wealthiest among us, who believe they are entitled to it!

According to the Railroad Retirement Board “An accompanying report (House Report 112-421) to the House of Representatives’ version of the federal budget for fiscal year 2013 includes a list of reforms that could impact government income security programs.” According to this report, conservative politicians in Washington are actively trying to “conform Tier I so that its benefits would equal those of Social Security, with an estimated savings to taxpayers of $2 billion over 10 years.”  What this means is that workers will be forced to alter their existing pension plan, which has been working to benefit retired and disabled railroad employees for years.

What Paul Ryan is not telling the American people is that the railroad pension fund has absolutely nothing to do with taxpayers.  The Railroad pension fund is completely funded by railroad workers themselves.  Not one dime of taxpayer money is used to fund this pension plan.  So, why would a conservative politician in Washington say otherwise?  The short answer is that Paul Ryan is operating under a radical ideology that seeks to transfer wealth from average working Americans to upper class members of what Vice President Joe Biden referred to as the “privileged sector.”

Despite the fact that Railroad workers fund their own pension plans, NOT TAXPAYERS! it is important to point out that this language of “saving taxpayers $2 billion over 10 years” will soon be the focus of attention by the majority of conservative politicians in Washington, not to mention Fox news, and all of the radical right wing talk show hosts.  Soon, they will all be on the same page, so to speak, and join forces to endlessly repeat this talking point of saving taxpayers money.

When viewed through the lens, or “frame” of saving taxpayers money, Paul Ryan’s comments appear to make sense.  This is how framing works.  Specific language is used to create a “frame” that represents how people see an issue.  In this case, the endless repetition of “saving taxpayers money” that will shortly occur will start to make sense to viewers and listeners of this right wing echo chamber because of the sheer repetition of this nonsensical frame.  This strategy works in a similar fashion to advertising.   The more a message is heard or seen, the more readily available it becomes once this topic is brought up.

With that being said, the sad, but ugly truth is that some of us will begin to view the Railroad Retirement pension fund through the lens of this frame, and believe that this issue is primarily about saving taxpayers money, and not about the fact that it really involves stealing money from working Americans.

The great thing about framing, (for conservatives who seek to manipulate us), is that any fact that doesn’t fit the frame is rejected, and only misinformed opinions that reinforce the frame are accepted.  They’re pretty slick aren’t they!

Since the ‘poison pill’ language above has not yet been used to amend the Railroad Retirement Act, the Railroad Retirement Board, who oversees the fund is not able to comment on what changes to tier I benefits will actually take place for current railroad employees.  I guess now would be the time for people who work on the railroad, as well as concerned citizens who care about threats to our current social safety net, should begin to take action by calling their local and state representatives to protest this immoral theft taking place by radical conservatives politicians.

David Cay Johnston sheds light on two critical “frames” conservatives use to manipulate us: Government “Picking winners and losers” and a “Transfer of wealth.”

David Cay Johnston wrote an article entitled, “Taxed by the boss” where he discussed the implications of the more than 2,700 companies in the Unites States that are keeping the state income taxes they are collecting from hundreds of thousands of workers for themselves.  So, in case you were wondering why states are laying off teachers, firefighters, and police officers, among other drastic cuts to social services that affect millions of people’s lives throughout the country, look no further than the corporate socialism taking place, as pointed out by David Cay Johnston.

To make matter worse, big banks and businesses like Goldman Sachs, J.P Morgan, and Mitt Romney’s former company Bain Capital, are enriching themselves by a process known as “job piracy”, where one state diverts taxes in order to lure an employer from another state to relocate if they promise to create jobs.  The problem is that no jobs are ever created.  Instead, the money is transferred in an upward direction from workers to the corporate bosses in the top 1%, as indicated in the report by the taxpayer watchdog organization, Good Jobs First.  This report also discovered that “deals cut with states over the past two decades diverted $5.5 billion from public purposes to private gain.”  Talk about a transfer of wealth!!

Big businesses are getting away with diverting the taxes they collect from workers to enrich themselves because radical right-wing Governors like Chris Christie, who tops the list, has personally transferred a whopping $251.2 million from average workers to those in the “privileged sector”, who believe they are entitled to it!  No wonder why Chris Christie was being groomed for a spot in the Whitehouse.  He has done the most to enrich the privileged few at the expense of everyone else.  David Cay Johnston calculates that this transfer of wealth amounts to $80 per household in corporate welfare average families are spending to subsidize shareholders of the big banks and large corporations in the United States.

According to David Cay Johnston, “these deals typify corporate socialism, in which business gains are privatized and costs socialized. They also mean that Government picks winners and losers, interfering with competitive markets.” So, it turns out that radical right-wing Governors, in support of an ideology that advocates corporate socialism, are actively “picking winners and losers” (big business is always the winner) which amounts to a “transfer of wealth” from all of us (ie, workers) to a select few of them in the privileged sector (ie, CEO’s and shareholders).

Those of us who watch Fox news or listen to Glenn Beck, or some other radical right-wing talk show host are being framed to believe that Government is “picking winners and losers” in an attempt to benefit lazy people on welfare programs, which serves to create a society of dependency on Government.  Following this logic, believers of this frame are further inclined to believe that a “transfer of wealth” is occurring from the so-called successful people in the top 1% to those who are lazy and don’t want to work hard in order to carry out a socialistic agenda.

The problem with this logic and the rest of the radical right-wing frames is that the opposite of what they say is true!  In this case, Socialism is alive and well in America, as indicated by the Good Jobs First report and David Cay Johnston’s take on this issue.  However, the problem is that it’s only being applied to the top 1% instead of being used to benefit all of us!

The irony here is that the fear of socialism is being used to scare people away from supporting policies and programs that will benefit us all.  A prime example is the current ‘Budget for All being introduced by the progressive caucus in the House of Representatives.  This budget is more in line with our nation’s moral values, and will benefit all of us, as well as help prevent the abuses of power that lead to examples of corporate socialism mentioned above.

As expected, Allen West (R-FL), a conservative member of the tea party, initiated the latest socialism scare by telling people in a town hall recently that there are approximately 80 representatives in the House that are members of the communist party.  Although communism and socialism are not the same, they are used interchangeably as if they were in order to increase the fear effect, I presume, so people will not vote for it!

Unfortunately, if we continue to believe the conservative “frames”, we will never know the benefits that other nations currently enjoy, such as living longer, happier and healthier lives, not to mention being better educated, less stressed, depressed and anxious, as well as having the safety and security of knowing our family members will be taken care of if they get sick, or become disabled for any reason.  All of these benefits are not fantasy, but reflect the reality of countries that adopt moral budget priorities, and implement a system based on socialism for all, not a select few.

The top 1% took in 93% of all income gains in 2010. What does this transfer of wealth mean for our country?

The most critical issue affecting the majority of American citizens that is rarely discussed by political pundits, including those on the left, is the fact that in order for the top 1% to rake in 93% of all income gains in 2010, as illustrated in the chart below, a transfer of wealth must take place from all of “us” to a select few of “them.”  This is how it becomes possible for the top 1% to pile up such massive amounts of wealth to the point where just 400 households, (those at the peak of the pyramid scheme they have turned America into) can possess more wealth than 154 million people combined (half the U.S. population).

Startling figures like this is what makes radical right wing initiatives, such as Paul Ryan’s budget plan so extremely important, since the implementation of our budget and tax policy not only determines the moral values we set for our nation, but also who benefits in our society.  Should everyone share in the success we all help to create, as reflected in the past when we implemented moral budget priorities and a progressive vision for our future?  Or, should we continue to adopt radical pieces of legislation that further widen the gap between those in the top 1% and everyone else, as seen in the fat cat illustration above?

This chart from the Economic Policy Institute reflects how the growth in income was shared between those at the top and everyone else during what was known as the ‘Golden Age of Capitalism’ (1945-1975).  During this time period, our political leaders recognized that higher tax rates on the super-rich were advantageous to our economy and nation as a whole.  This ‘Golden age of Capitalism’ led to the creation of a thriving middle class, where the majority of people (including those at the top) benefitted, as opposed to only a tiny minority reaping all of the income gains.

Contrast the ‘Golden age of Capitalism’ with the time period immediately following it when Ronald Reagan came into office in 1980, and ending when George W. Bush  left office in 2008.  During this period, our conservative leaders decided to drop the progressive vision for America that was working to benefit us all in favor of a radical right wing ideology that focuses strictly on what benefits those at the very top.  It’s no surprise, given the shift in priorities that an unconscionable amount of profits were captured by those at the top, while a mere pittance of 2% of all income gain during this time period was made available for the rest of the people (90%) to share.

The problem we face today is that the tiny minority in the top 1% has been very successful thus far at implementing this radical vision for America and getting what they want.   This is largely accomplished by consolidating and controlling the media (ie, corporate media) in order to develop a well functioning ‘echo chamber’ to spread misinformation and “frame” the public to believe conservative politicians are actually trying to “save” and “strengthen” Social Security and Medicare, and help create a path to prosperity for all.

If we continue to believe this nonsense, then the GOP’s “path to prosperity” for the top 1% will continue to be paved, which means the rest of us will be faced with drastic cuts to vital services that will initially affect the most vulnerable populations among us, (the working poor, sick, and disabled) but will eventually affect us all every time they seek to re-pave the “path to prosperity” in the future.  We must understand that this is the conservative version of morality, and their tax and budget policies will naturally follow from their moral principles, which are first and foremost to protect and enrich fellow members of the upper class at the expense of everyone else.

 

David Cay Johnston explains why it pays to be a bus driver in Sweden: Made possible by the ‘S’ word – “Socialism”

You hear it every day on right-wing talk radio, Fox news, and even by Conservative politicians, who repeatedly say that we are headed down a path toward “Socialism”, or President Obama is a Socialist, and favors Socialist policies.  Republican Presidential candidates are also chiming in.  Mitt Romney accused President Obama of adopting policies based on what he called, “European style Socialism”, and Newt Gingrich claimed that the Obama administration is a “Secular Socialist machine.”

As pointed out by Peter Dreier, Distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College, there hasn’t been a significant socialist movement in this country for decades.   However, “After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the word “socialism” started making a comeback. But it wasn’t because the socialists were gaining momentum. It was because Obama’s opponents — the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the right-wing blogosphere, the Chamber of Commerce, and conservative media gurus like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh — labeled anything Obama proposed, including his modest health care reform proposal, as “socialism.”

The “Socialism” frame is one based on fear.   The modern day George Orwell Party (GOP) is trying to convince the American people that a distribution of wealth that disproportionately benefits the super-wealthy elite, (those in the top 0.01%) at the expense of everyone else is fine, but anything that remotely resembles a benefit to average working families is condemned as supporting the ‘S’ word.

The use of the word “Socialism” in reference to President Obama is intended to evoke the image of a totalitarian dictatorship, where the rights and freedoms of the people are not protected.

This is the image that the radical right wing wants people to associate with our current President.  However, as illustrated in a recent article by Peter Dreier, this strategy may backfire!

In reference to the Pew Research poll released in December 2011, it was determined that the majority of Americans (77%) agreed that “there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations.”  In addition 83% of 18-29 year olds shared this view.

Joseph Schwartz, a Temple University political scientist made it clear that “Many young people associate capitalism with inequality, big corporations, and poverty,” and “If young people have any image of socialism at all, it is probably northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia. They know that northern Europe has less poverty, more equality, and more social mobility.”

For a realistic picture of what life is actually like in countries that adopt “European style socialism”, take a look at David Cay Johnston’s recent interview describing how it pays to be a bus driver in Sweden.

This is made possible, as David Cay Johnston points out in this clip because:

“They organize their economy to provide what Adam Smith said in the wealth of nations an economy should do.  Any policy that benefits the majority must be good policy.”

“We organize our economy on the theory that the very, very richest among us, the multi-billionaires don’t have enough, and unless we give them more our economy cannot grow.  That’s just nonsense!” Hence, the reason we are being “framed” to believe socialism is bad, and capitalism is good.

 

Vice President Joe Biden discusses the ‘vision’ of the modern day Republican Party or what he calls supporting the “privileged sector.”

In reference to the political strategy of obstruction and division the modern day Republican Party uses to divide this country, Vice President Joe Biden had this to say recently, “these guys, I don’t think their bad guys, but I think they really believe, they really believe as strongly as we do in the direction they want to take the country…”  He goes on to describe their vision of America by saying that they are not even trying to hide or pretend anymore about what they stand for.  He says, “Not only in their rhetoric, but their actions, how they vote, what they propose, what their budget is, it’s a stark, stark, stark, stark contrast, even a stark contrast of the traditional Republican party of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s…”

“The big difference between us and them, I think, can be distilled to a phrase, the difference between us and them is, we are strongly supportive of the private sector, they are supportive of the “privileged sector…”

For a visual of what happens when we support the “privileged sector”, take a look at the following chart.  It reflects the analyses offered by Economist Paul Krugman regarding what really happens when we enact Republican budget and tax policies.  Paul Krugman notes, “Because of movement conservative political dominance, taxes on the rich have fallen, and the holes in the safety net have gotten bigger, even as inequality has soared. And the rise of movement conservatism is also at the heart of the bitter partisanship that characterizes politics today.”

Notice that when we enact policies that favor the “privileged sector”, such as less regulation and lower taxes on the super-wealthy, look what happens.  These ‘Tea-party’ policies of less regulation, limited Government, and lower taxes on the so called, “job creators” not only led to the “great depression” in 1930, but also led to our current depression that began in 2008, which nearly led to a global financial meltdown.  Both of these periods are marked by vast poverty, needless suffering, and terrible economic conditions resulting from unnecessarily high levels of income inequality.

In contrast, the period in the middle of this chart from around 1940 to 1980, reflects a period in our nation’s history when we increased Governmental regulations on the “job cremators”, preventing them from killing American jobs, when we imposed higher taxes on the super-wealthy members of the “privileged sector”, making sure they participated in our Democracy, as opposed to their preferred method of ruling from above, and when we allowed the average working American to participate in the profits they helped generate in both the private as well as public sectors.

In reference to Presidential candidates of the modern day Republican party, Vice President Biden had this to say, “I think it’s more than about obstructionism for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, I think they actually believe what they are saying.  When they say, let Detroit go bankrupt, let foreclosures happen, poor people have no habit of work, Barrack Obama is the food stamp president.  I think it’s not just political theatre, I think they are committed to it.”  He’s right!  They really believe what they are saying because it’s necessary in order to continue the status quo of income inequality, which coincidentally, further enriches the “privileged sector” at the expense of everyone else.

The “frames” used by Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other radical right wing conservatives are designed to focus our attention on those receiving food stamps, as opposed to the extremely wealthy, who are gaming the system to benefit the upper class members of the “privileged sector.”  What Vice President Biden was trying to express, I believe, is that the private sector has been replaced by the “privileged sector”, and that he is in favor of going back to a time period in this country when the tax and regulatory policies that led to the creation of a thriving middle class were firmly in place.  Policies that promoted income equality, as opposed to high levels of income inequality that we will surely experience under the direction and leadership of the modern day Republican party.  After all, as pointed out by Vice President Biden, the modern day Republican Party is no longer hiding the fact that they are in favor of the “privileged sector.”

Watch Paul Ryan and Jeff Sessions tag team President Obama’s Budget proposal in a well-coordinated effort to “frame” the public.

Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee engaged in a tag team effort to “frame” President Obama for the their party’s failed budget and tax policies, as well as attempt to use framing to convince the American people to vote against their self-interest.

Paul Ryan kicked off this tag team effort with this framing attempt.

“Let me just say this…

we know we have a fiscal crisis in this country,

we know we have a debt crisis in this country,

we know its threatening our way of life, its threatening our economy and

we know we need to do something about it,

Everybody, whether your right or left, knows the sooner you tackle these problems in America the better off everyone is. “

Notice the immediate use and pairing of the words “we know” with fearful “debt crisis” rhetoric.  This type of framing is straight out of Frank “The Liar” Luntz’s playbook, and is designed to make us think what this intentional framing effect wants us to think, which is that everybody knows we have a debt crisis.

In the first three minutes of Paul Ryan’s remarks, he mentioned the language of this “debt crisis” frame numerous times in order to firmly plant this idea in our heads.  Just like in advertising, frames must be repeated several times in order to have an effect.

Here is some of the additional language he used to evoke the “debt crisis” frame.

“He (President Obama) punted on the deficit and the debt”,

“Crushing burden of debt that is coming our way”

“We all have to remember that today’s big deficits mean tomorrows high taxes”

“You can see that we have a title wave of debt”

“The presidents budget doubles the debt in 5 years, and triples it in 10 years”

The effectiveness of using frames to stir up our emotions is a very powerful motivator, as Frank Luntz has discovered while pushing our buttons (pun intended) in his aptly named “dial sessions.”  Frank Luntz uses the information gained in his focus groups, or “dial sessions” against us in the form of deceptive language designed to not only convince us of a false reality, but to anger us enough to do something about it!

What people don’t realize is that their anger is being directed in the wrong place! 

The reason we have a large deficit is primarily due to an unsustainable military budget, and tax cuts for the super-wealthy.  Together, these top two priorities of the George Orwell Party (GOP) backed by Paul Ryan and Jeff Sessions, are significantly increasing our national debt and deficit by transferring wealth from average American citizens to super-wealthy members of the “privileged sector” who believe they are entitled to it!

However, when combined with a half-truth, such as the fact that we do have a high deficit, the language used by Paul Ryan to evoke the “debt crisis” frame has the added power of convincing conservatives and tea-party folks, and possibly independent voters that we need to focus on budget and tax policies that fit the frame (ie, reduced spending for all of “us”, and more tax cuts for “them”).  After all, the frame tells us that we must cut spending since we have a “debt crisis”, and we must give tax cuts to the “job cremators” in order to stimulate the economy.

This is what we have been framed to believe!

The “tax & spend” Liberal frame was Jeff Sessions’s contribution to this tag team effort, and is designed to convince the American people that President Obama and Liberal Democrats are to blame for the current level of debt and deficit we face as a nation.  Nice try!

Since it is becoming painfully clear that the GOP is now the George Orwell Party, let’s take a look at what Paul Ryan’s initial comments really mean.

we know (our insistence on tax cuts for the wealthy and massive military and war spending) led to a fiscal crisis in this country,

we know (our current debt was mostly caused by these 2 priorities),

we know (these budget and tax policies) are threatening our way of life, and threatening our economy and

we know we need to do something about it,

Everybody, whether your right or left, knows the sooner you tackle these problems in America the better off everyone is.

Now it makes sense!

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