STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the category “Radical right wing agenda”

It’s Time We Embrace An “Economy for Everyone”

Growing our economy has become a key focal point in political discussions in recent years, and has important public policy implications moving forward.  In the name of “economic growth” and the pursuit of “pro-growth” policies, we have implemented a series of austerity measures that have been devastating to the public at large, while protecting and further enriching the wealthy class in America.

The term “economic growth” is a frame designed to convince us that we all benefit when our economy grows, and that the best way to do this is to give wealthy people more tax breaks, or “tax relief”, which is another frame.  In other words, we are all expected to pay more in taxes, so the wealthy class can pay less!  A recent study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) does a great job at exposing both right wing frames.

The CRS study specifically analyzed 65 years worth of data between top tax rates and economic growth.  Although the top tax rates wealthy people pay have never been lower during this time period, the study found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth.  Another fascinating discovery was that a correlation was found between reducing the top tax rates and increased concentrations of wealth for this privileged class.  In other words, voting for “tax relief” in the past has led to a transfer of wealth over the past 65 years from millions of hard working Americans to a few affluent families.  It’s clear from these findings that providing “tax relief” in the name of pursuing “economic growth” is actually harming our economy by unnecessarily privileging the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Another interesting element of the “economic growth” frame involves the belief that with hard work anyone can become successful and achieve the American dream.  This is also known as social mobility, or equality of opportunity.  Unfortunately, America is no longer the land of opportunity it once was, and many people are coming to the realization that the American dream is now a myth.  Joseph Stiglitz, an award winning economist, wrote an article on this very issue recently called, “Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth

where he discusses how the U.S. has less equality of opportunity than nearly every other industrial country.  After pointing out that children of affluent families are inclined to experience better health care, education, and nutrition, Stiglitz noted, “in some cases it seems as if policy has actually been designed to reduce opportunity…”, particularly with respect to education.

This is what a focus on “pro-growth” policies has gotten us.  A lopsided economy where a few affluent families are able to send their kids to the best schools, receive the best health care, and live in enriching and non polluted environments, while the rest of us deal with the aftermath of austerity measures aimed at cutting funding for our children’s schools, losing our health care, and not having equal access to enriching environments.  The repetition of this frame by the modern day Republican Party, Fox news affiliates, and pundits on the right is used to gain public support for policies that prevent and outright reduce equality of opportunity for the majority of people, while convincing us to believe in the myth of the American dream.  This is what “pro-growth” policies mean.  They are intentionally designed to benefit the privileged at the expense of everyone else.

It appears as if some on the left have also started to adopt the economic growth frame.  In an effort to combat the utter failures of trickle-down economics and correct the deficiencies it has brought about, they too have adopted similar language arguing in favor of “middle-out” economics.  Unfortunately, being in favor of middle-out economics is still advocating for “economic growth”, and will continue to ensure we adopt more of the same “pro-growth” policies that are causing many of our social and economic problems.  Instead, we need to embrace an “Economy for Everyone”.

In their book The Spirit Level, epidemiologists’ Wilkinson and Pickett, brilliantly illustrate how we are currently experiencing material success, but social failure in the U.S.  This is largely a result of reaching the limits of what economic growth can provide to wealthy countries, as well as the undeniable contribution of inequality of income that exists within the U.S.  In fact, according to the authors, “economic growth, for so long the great engine of progress, has in the rich countries, largely finished its work.”  Today, we are witnessing an overall decrease in health, happiness, and wellbeing of millions of American families, among many other social ills as a result of one single factor; the difference in income levels between the have and have nots.  Such a discrepancy between material success and social failure suggests that, “if we are to gain further improvements in the real quality of life, we need to shift attention from material standards and economic growth to ways of improving the psychological and social wellbeing of whole societies.”

In order to successfully increase the overall health, happiness and well being for all American families, we need to advocate for and spread the message of an “Economy for Everyone”.  An economy that works for everyone takes all of our needs into consideration, and reduces the level of inequality across income groups, which is the single largest contributor to our current economic and social failures.

In addition, the PEW research center recently found that 90% of Americans want the government to do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity.  With equality of opportunity, we can overcome many of the hurdles that are artificially placed before us under the guise of “economic growth”, and once again ensure America’s standing in the world as the land of opportunity.  Therefore, spreading the message of an “Economy for Everyone” should be a no-brainer, and this language will hopefully replace any future discussion of “middle-out” economics.

The challenge facing the adoption of this new language comes from policy makers and political pundits, who (perhaps unknowingly) are keeping the “economic growth” frame alive.  Consequently, a focus on economic growth primarily benefits the affluent at the expense of everyone else, reduces equality of opportunity, and stands in the way to a achieving a happier and healthier society.

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“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%.

Why Good People do Bad Things: The Power of Names, Frames and Personality Factors

A recent article in the Business Insider, 27 psychological reasons good people do bad things, illustrates many of the common unethical behaviors experienced by people in our society.  Most people are familiar with the acceptance of small theft (#6) in the workplace, for instance, or the pressure to conform (#27) whenever attempting to ‘fit in’ to an existing peer group.  Others, such as obedience to authority (#12), foot in the door (#16), and the blinding effect of power (#13) tell a somewhat different story.  These psychological characteristics appear to stem from something other than minor unethical hiccups, and may have their root in personality factors, as discussed below.

Knowing these psychological tendencies exist may be useful fun facts to discuss at parties or other social gatherings, but they don’t tell us what we really want to know.  What about deliberate attempts to influence people to (unknowingly) act in an unethical manor, or take an immoral stance on an issue?  Does this happen? If so, who is more susceptible and why?  The power of names (#2) provides some initial insight into answering these questions.

2.  The power of names.  When bribery becomes “greasing the wheels” or accounting fraud becomes “financial engineering,” unethical behavior can seem less bad. The use of nicknames and euphemisms for questionable practices can free them of their moral connotations, making
them seem more acceptable
.

The power of names reveals the use of language can literally change the meaning of something, thus leading one to an immoral choice in behavior.  Beyond nicknames and euphemisms is a more sophisticated technique, known as framing.  In a nutshell, framing involves the deceptive use of language to convince others to support immoral choices.  A “frame” has the ability to not only change the meaning of something, but to literally alter one’s perception of reality.  Unfortunately, far too many people fall victim to the powerful effects of framing, and end up taking stances on issues contrary to their own beliefs! Take the “clear skies” initiative, introduced by GOP politicians under the Bush administration.  The so called “clear skies” plan, “would loosen Clean Air Act standards for most of the nation’s power companies. And it has taken the pressure off companies that violate the law, cutting inspections staff and reducing Fines and criminal charges against polluters.”

Basically, this law allows more harmful and toxic chemicals to be dumped into the atmosphere, polluting our lungs and the air we breathe.  I’m confident no one would knowingly believe this is a good thing, much less openly support such a position when provided the chance to voice their opinion at the polls.  Hence, a frame is intentionally crafted that serves the purpose of convincing people to vote in favor of a policy position that is actually detrimental to their health and well being.  Those on the left side of the political spectrum refer to this phenomenon as “voting against one’s self-interest.”

Now that we know framing occurs, who is responsible, and what motivates an individual or group of people to manipulate others in such a fashion?  The obvious answer is money, but in this case it’s much scarier than that.  The use of framing (ie, deceptive language) has been used recently in politics to advance an ideology that is consistent with the special interests of the ruling elite in this country.  This immoral behavior is being carried out by unethical pollsters and politicians in Washington, who happen to share a similar disposition, known as the authoritarian personality.

Shortly after the atrocities that took place in Nazi Germany, researchers in the field of psychology attempted to understand what led people to openly display such hideous behavior under fascist rule, including increased levels of anti-Semitism and prejudice against the “other.”  The result of this endeavor was a personality syndrome labeled, the authoritarian personality, which was later turned into a book under the same title, written by Adorno, et al. (1950).   Adorno and colleagues discovered that this personality syndrome was characterized by pro-fascist, antidemocratic attitudes, coupled with complete submission to authority figures.

Modern day polls can also be traced to this time period.  Due to the stranglehold widespread propaganda had on certain elements of the population, and the ease at which the repetition of lies led to blind submission to fascist authority, Gallup and others developed polling techniques to assess public perception.  Today, these techniques are being used by unethical pollsters like Frank Luntz, who craft frames, poll test the language, and focus group approve the final product for use by right wing authoritarian (RWA) politicians, and other true believers to manipulate public perception in favor of this authoritarian ideology.

Right wing authoritarian (RWA) is a personality and ideological variable studied in political, social, and personality psychology. Right-wing authoritarians are people who have a degree of willingness to submit to authorities they perceive as established and legitimate, who adhere to social conventions and norms, and who are hostile and punitive in their attitudes towards people who don’t adhere to them.  They value uniformity and are in favour of using group authority, including coercion, to achieve it.”

“Authoritarians are generally more favorable to punishment and control than personal freedom and diversity…they are more likely to advocate strict, punitive sentences for criminals, and report that punishing such people is satisfying for them.  They tend to be ethnocentric and prejudiced against racial and ethnic minorities and homosexuals.

History has already proven what is capable of happening when RWA’s are in positions of power, but what many people may not be aware of is that the modern day GOP are right-wing authoritarians!  Simply take a look at the 2012 GOP party platform.  Many of the personality characteristics mentioned above can be seen in the actions taken by GOP lawmakers.  For a glimpse of how this ideological agenda is being carried out, let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

Radical right wing governors across the country are actively implementing laws to discriminate against minority groups by suppressing their right to vote in the upcoming presidential election.  To get people on board with this radical agenda, the frame “voter fraud” was created.

GOP politicians are passing laws to ship our jobs overseas.  The frame used in this case is “illegal immigrants” are taking our jobs.

GOP politicians are passing laws that force us to work for less, and take away our rights to fight back when our wages and pensions are raided by vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney.  This is being framed as “right to work.”

GOP politicians are implementing laws to control women’s reproductive health, framed as “religious freedom.”

GOP politicians are spending taxpayer money to enrich the super wealthy elite, framed as “tax relief.”  Coincidentally, the funneling of taxpayer money to the richest among us is being framed as using taxpayer money to give to “welfare recipients.”

Perhaps even scarier than the GOP taking total control of our government and convincing people with clever framing to vote against their own interests and well being, is the very future of our planet if these RWA’s continue to gain momentum and firmly implement their dangerous ideology.

“In roleplaying situations, authoritarians tend to seek dominance over others by being competitive and destructive instead of cooperative. In a study by Altemeyer, 68 authoritarians played a three hour simulation of the Earth’s future entitled the Global change game. Unlike a comparison game played by individuals with low RWA scores, which resulted in world peace and widespread international cooperation, the simulation by authoritarians became highly militarized and eventually entered the stage of nuclear war. By the end of the high RWA game, the entire population of the earth was declared dead.[15]

The Solyndra Frame Exposed! How Mitt Romney and the GOP are Framing reality.

In a speech given last Thursday, Mitt Romney broke out the GOP Solyndra frame once again, but this time while standing in front of the now vacant plant in Freemont, California.  His of way of giving people a visual image to go with the framing, perhaps.  In a nutshell, the Solyndra frame involves the literal framing of President Obama for actions that both former President Bush and the ‘wannabe’ president Mitt Romney are guilty of committing, such as giving taxpayer money to wealthy donor friends (ie, Bush tax cuts) and engaging in ‘crony capitalism’ or Mitt Romney’s specialty (ie, vulture capitalism). This type of immoral behavior regularly practiced under the Bush administration and characteristic of Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital days were projected onto President Obama during this brief speech.

The very first question asked after three solid minutes of misinforming the public was, “In 2005, President Bush signed the energy policy act that created the government loan guarantee (ie, putting taxpayers on the hook when companies fail) doesn’t he get the blame for this?”

Instead of answering the question, which is based on facts, Mitt Romney continued framing this issue by deflecting attention away from who is truly responsible by making it appear as if President Obama was to blame for the failure of this single company. The untold reality is that the circumstances that led to the use of $535 million dollars of taxpayer money (a mere 1.3% of all loan guarantee amounts) was implemented by former President Bush, hurried along by GOP politicians, and backed by the super-wealthy Walton family, who have donated millions to GOP politicians over the years.

As reported by Stephen Lacey and Richard Caperton, It’s often claimed that the Solyndra loan guarantee was “rushed through” by the Obama administration for political reasons” In fact, the Solyndra loan guarantee was a multi-year process that the Bush administration launched in 2007.”  They go on to note that “Rather than “pushing funds out the door too quickly,” the Obama administration restructured the original loan when it came into office to further protect the taxpayers’ investment.”

This reporting is backed up by Politifact, who noted, “The Energy Department’s loan guarantee program was created as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by Bush.”
 To make matters worse, President Bush touted the bill as a success at the time, while using many positive sounding words to provide the illusion of responsible governing.

President Bush: “This bill will strengthen our economy and it will improve our environment, and it’s going to make this country more secure. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is going to help every American who drives to work, every family that pays a power bill, and every small business owner hoping to expand.” What President Bush failed to tell the American people is that this positive sounding language is an intentional act of deception that conceals the GOP’s true intentions of minimizing the risk made by wealthy investors who donate to his campaign, while maximizing the risk to unsuspecting taxpayers. This two-faced political strategy of the GOP involves taking credit for initiatives they frame as strengthening our economy and helping Americans, while blaming the opposition for any market failures that occur as a result of gambling with our tax dollars.

This win-win strategy is a product of the memo Frank “The Liar” Luntz crafted with the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, in the mid 1990’s, called Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.  Ever since then, the GOP began using positive sounding language when describing any social, economic or political position advocated by the GOP, regardless of any immoral or devastating consequences to the public, while simultaneously using negative sounding language when describing any social, economic or political position in opposition to their ideological agenda.

So, when Mitt Romney breaks out the Solyndra frame and says that “It’s a symbol not of success but of failure, and that “the president was taking money from the taxpayer to give freely to his friends”, he is partially correct.  It just so happens the serious conflict of interest and the decision to line the pockets of wealthy donors was a result of the immoral actions committed by Bush, not President Obama. This is what the modern day George Orwell Party (GOP) does.  They literally frame the opposition for actions they are guilty of committing.

When the market fails, or when the immoral and reckless behavior of a select few causes catastrophic conditions for the rest of us, people like Mitt Romney and other corrupt politicians step in and use it to their political advantage by framing the issue, and focus media attention and blame on the very people who are trying to protect the public from the abuses of crony capitalism.

The Bain Approach: Mitt Romney’s Plan to Profitize America!

During his CEO days at Bain Capital, Mitt Romney engaged in vulture capitalism (not to be confused with venture capitalism). Vulture capitalism, or private equity as it is otherwise known is nothing more than legalized corporate raiding.  The Bain approach is to seek out healthy companies with sizeable pension plans for their employees, and lure them in with false promises of ‘strengthening’ these companies while hiding their true intentions of ripping them apart.  Under the guise of expanding revenues and cutting costs, the Bain approach is sold to investors, management, and employees of companies they prey upon as a means of promoting growth and making them more efficient.

Despite this rosy sounding language that’s sure to resonate with companies that seek to expand their business, the Bain approach of increasing revenues and cutting costs has a more sinister meaning.  The Bain approach only involves increasing revenues for shareholders of Bain Capital, at the expense of shareholders of the companies they seek to devour.  The costs they are cutting come in the form of employee layoffs, reduced benefits, lower wages, and out-right theft of worker funded pension plans.  For a better understanding of how the Bain approach works, Ampad provides all the evidence needed to understand the true intentions of vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney.

While CEO of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney bought American Pad & Paper Co. (Ampad) for $5 million in 1992.  The Bain approach of bleeding this company dry was very successful.   Revenues in the form of dividend checks (ie, un-earned income) were substantially increased for shareholders of Bain Capital, while investors of Ampad lost millions, along with employees who lost their livelihood and life savings.  In fact, Mitt Romney continues to live large off of the un-earned income he stole from people during his Bain days.

When Mitt Romney and other vulture capitalists claim that they are in favor of rebuilding companies by expanding revenues and cutting costs to make them more efficient, this is what they mean.  The costs they are cutting are people’s jobs, wages, and pensions, which make up the expanding revenues (un-earned income) for the super-wealthy shareholders of this vulture capitalist firm.  This siphoning of wealth to a tiny group of super-wealthy people is a result of adopting the Bain approach.  This Bain approach is what has led to the Great depression, the savings and loan crisis, the housing crisis, and the near financial global meltdown and big bank bailouts witnessed recently that amounted to the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the United States.

Mitt Romney made himself, along with his privileged wealthy investors huge fortunes at the expense of workers losing their jobs and life savings. This is what Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP mean when they say capitalism produces winners and losers.  This is also why Frank “The Liar” Luntz alerted a room full of GOP politicians not to use the word capitalism any longer.  The reason for this advice is because many people are starting to figure out that capitalism no longer works as intended.  The Bain approach has taken over and turned capitalism into a Wall Street Casino, where only the house wins! The house, of course, represents the vulture capitalists that are destroying our democracy, and preying upon us to feed their addiction for more wealth and power.

The Bain approach involves racking up enormous debt so a select few privileged shareholders can reap mind-boggling profits.  Why does this sound eerily familiar to the problems facing American today?  The unfortunate reality is that we have been following the Bain approach ever since Ronald Reagan was elected into office.  It’s safe to say that this approach to governing our nation has failed miserably and represents the source of the political and social divide currently taking place on important issues affecting our lives.

This new breed of capitalism is seeping its way into our daily lives by influencing our most valued and precious institutions, including our health care and education system, our social safety net, and the vital public protections that exist to ensure we all have safe food to eat, clean water to drink, and non-polluted air to breathe.

– The Bain approach seeks to profitize our healthcare system by denying care to those in need in order to maximize profits for insurance companies at the expense of our health.

– The Bain approach seeks to profitize our education system by using taxpayer dollars to fund the education of rich kids.

– The Bain approach seeks to profitize the water we drink by reducing our reliance on public sources of drinking water.

– The Bain approach seeks to profitize the food we eat by eliminating safety inspections in order add unsafe chemicals and by-products.

– The Bain approach seeks to profitize our energy policy by eliminating public protections and preventing the development of clean, safe, fuels of the future, while advocating for a continued reliance on dirty, unsafe fuels of the past that will run out and are polluting our lungs and the environment, not to mention jeopardizing our national security.

In essence, Mitt Romney’s Bain approach to governing our nation, if elected president, will seek to profitize America! Romney’s recent claim that 80% of the Bain Capital deals grew their revenues may actually be a true statement.  The part he left out is how this occurred and at whose expense.

Bernie Sander’s attempt to ‘Protect the Public’ from the immoral behavior of the Big Banks!

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Bernie Sanders describes a much needed effort to reign in the big banks who are walking all over us. As pointed out by Bernie Sanders, the 6 largest financial institutions (ie, big banks) own more than half of all mortgages in this country, two-thirds of all credit cards, and assets of $9 trillion dollars, which is equivalent to two-thirds of the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States.

What does this mean for you and me? Well, for starters, it means the privileged class in this country is accumulating massive amounts of wealth at the expense of everyday citizens by squeezing them with increased ATM and other bank fees, hikes on their credit card interest rates, and predatory lending practices that led to the housing crisis we are still recovering from. To make matters worse, these privileged members of society are using their enormous wealth and power to influence our elected officials to enact a variety of legislation that perpetuates the status quo of income inequality.  By doing so, the GOP is effectively allowing a select few at the top to achieve prosperity at the expense of the rest of us, who are doing our best to keep our heads above water and make ends meet.

As explained by Bernie Sanders, when the big banks engaged in this immoral behavior in the past, a Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, put an end to it by preventing the big banks from gaining even more wealth and power by breaking them up. Legislation was introduced to protect the public from this immoral behavior, which served the purpose of stopping powerful special interests from colluding with one another and exploiting the rest of us.

Look at how far the Republican Party has moved to the right since then.  Ever since Ronald Reagan was elected president in the early 1980’s we have witnessed a GOP gone wild, and every successful public protection policy put in place to prevent harm caused by the big banks was repealed via the use of the “burdensome regulations” frame. The GOP cleverly made it appear as if enacting public protections (ie, regulations) were somehow causing the very problems these protections were trying to prevent.  As a result, people are more inclined to support GOP efforts in expanding the size and power of the big banks, while firmly believing that they are helping to solve our problems.

This language of “burdensome regulations” has been repeated so often by our elected representatives, media personalities, and other newscasters that it simply rolls off the tongue of those who have been exposed to it whenever discussing any attempt to enact public protection policies. The unfortunate reality is that the instant gut reaction many people feel when simply hearing the word regulations is enough to activate this frame, which leads one to believe action is needed to stop regulations from being imposed on us. In order to avoid this trap of adopting a self-defeating view on a particular issue, we should stop using the term regulations, and start calling them what they are, public protections that seek to prevent people, both real and imaginary (ie, corporations) from causing the rest of us harm.

According to Bernie Sanders, “we need to re-regulate the big banks”, or re-enact the Glass Steagall (public protection) Act in order to prevent the Wall Street Casino from crashing our economy again. As an added slap in the face to the American taxpayer, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase (one of the 6 big banks) is currently serving on the Board of the New York Federal Reserve, which is responsible for protecting the people from the immoral actions of the big banks.  Just as we did in the past, Bernie Sanders is planning on introducing legislation next week to break up the big banks, and put an end to the “fox guarding the hen house” situation of putting Jamie Dimon in charge of stopping the immoral behavior of the big banks.

The Ricketts use of Taxpayer Money to Enrich Themselves and Attack President Obama in the Process: Priceless!

The headline from the Washington Post on Thursday read Rahm “livid” at Ricketts.  Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, is supposedly not returning calls from the Ricketts family after he discovered Joe Ricketts intention to launch a multi-million dollar attack ad campaign against President Obama.

The issue surrounding the Ricketts family demonstrates the need to shift our priorities from protecting and enriching a few privileged Americans, to protecting the most vulnerable among us, as well as provide an equal playing field for everyone to become prosperous.  As it stands, our political system is set up so that members of the privileged class like the Ricketts are able to use our taxpayer money to launch attack ads against those who seek to put an end to their number one priority, which is paving the path to prosperity for the top 1%, at the expense of the rest of us.

In the case of the Ricketts family, they plan to use taxpayer dollars to fund their smear campaign against our current President.  How do they plan on doing this? Simple. They are legally able to lobby our elected officials for taxpayer money to the tune of $100 million to make so called “renovations” to their privately owned stadium, Wrigley Field.  The planned attack ad campaign is expected to cost $10 million dollars, a mere 10% of the people’s money that will be transferred to the Ricketts family, courtesy of GOP members holding positions in public office.  According to the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, David Cay Johnston, this form of corporate welfare is nothing new.  He claims that taxpayers are spending $2 billion dollars per year to subsidies the four major sports leagues (baseball, basketball, football, and hockey).

In an interview with Democracy now, David Cay Johnston reveals how the super-rich are getting away with transferring wealth from all of us to a select few at the top. He notes, “We have created in the United States, largely in the last 30 years, a whole series of programs, a few of them explicit, many of them deeply hidden to take money from the pockets of the middle class and working poor and funnel it to the wealthiest people in America.”  This interview was conducted shortly after the release of his new book Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and stick you with the bill). As described in this interview, one of the key ways of doing this is to use taxpayer’s money to build sports stadiums so the super wealthy in the privileged class can profit from them.

David Cay Johnston describes how George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, received over $600 million in taxpayer funding to build the new Yankee stadium.  The owners of the New York Mets also received over $600 million in taxpayer money, as well as an additional $50 million dollars in taxpayer money courtesy of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, so these wealthy owners could lobby our elected representative for more “free” money.

He also reported that the new owners of the Washington Nationals baseball team paid $450 million dollars for the team, but actually got the team for free!  We actually paid these people to buy the team, and gave them a bonus of over $161 million in the process.  He points out that taxpayer funding is the key to what makes these sports teams profitable.  That’s right, without taxpayer-funded money, also known as corporate welfare, the privileged folks like the Ricketts family would not be able to turn a profit! At the same time we are doing this, David Cay Johnston says that we are starving our public parks for money.  Due to the lack of organized activities in local communities, he says, we are seeing a rise in urban, and now suburban gangs, as well as an increase in violence.  This is what happens when we focus our priorities on transferring wealth to the privileged in this country, as opposed to ensuring prosperity for all.

As it turns out, we are literally taking money from everyone who is physically able to contribute to our common wealth and giving it to the privileged class, who believe they are entitled to it! To make matters worse, families like the Ricketts, who benefit from our tax dollars are also using the power of our Government to prevent anyone else from being able to own sports teams, such as other competitors, non-profit groups, etc.  The so-called “free market” is really nothing more than what David Cay Johnston describes as Corporate Socialism for the super wealthy, and true market capitalism for everyone else.

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!

For those who believe there is no need to participate in politics, think again! Watch this Unbelievable demonstration of how Clueless conservative representatives are becoming, thanks to framing.

The common reason people tend to give about why they are reluctant to get involved in politics, much less pay attention is because it doesn’t affect them.  All of this is about to change once you watch this brief interview on Jon Stewart’s the daily show. Aasif Mandvi conducted an interview with Wanda Brown, a member of Missouri’s State House of Representatives regarding the ridiculous notion of workplace discrimination against gun owners.  Besides the fact that this is not taking place, federal law already protects the rights of gun owners.  In what is clearly a demonstration of utter ignorance, Wanda Brown is not only unaware of what is happening in her own state’s House of Representatives, but apparently is unaware of her own actions in voting against a real discrimination issue.

This interview is a perfect illustration of how utterly misinformed conservatives are becoming, thanks to the echo chamber on the right spoon feeding them their talking points.  More importantly, people like Wanda Brown are becoming elected in state after state with the help of special interest money, courtesy of the citizens united Supreme Court decision, and are blindly introducing and passing laws once they get into office that will have a detrimental impact on our lives.  In this particular case, her actions have a negative impact on the gay community. Tomorrow her actions may have a negative impact on women, and the day after that her actions may have a negative impact on those too disabled or elderly to work. Such attacks are already occurring in state legislatures where Republicans are in positions of power.  This clip not only reveals the true priorities of the Republican party, but also sheds light on what’s to come in the future if we keep electing people like Wanda Brown to positions of leadership.

This interview reveals how critically important the ideological divide has become in this country, and provides a glimpse into how this divide is being strengthened daily by those on the right to force their ideology onto the rest of us.  With the help of the right wing echo chamber, conservatives are “framing” Government as being a failure in order to prop up state’s rights, so special interest groups like ALEC can slip in the back door and pass model legislation across every state in the nation.  This is a win-win strategy for conservatives.   They get to use Frank Luntz talking points to blame Washington for our problems, while they sneak in the back door and carry out the very actions they are literally “framing” Democrats for.

In essence, the right wing think tanks have discovered that they can literally use ignorant people to their advantage by convincing them, (via framing) to introduce nonsensical legislation.  In this case, the bill introduced by Wanda Brown is already protected under the 2nd Amendment of the constitution, as pointed out by Aasif Mandvi during this interview. It appears that unbelievably misinformed people are being sought after and encouraged to run for public office, while special interest money is used to prop them up in the public eye as being competent to represent their interests.  A few examples that immediately come to mind include Sharon Angle from Nevada, Sarah Palin from Alaska, and who could forget “I’m not a witch” Christine O’Donnell from Delaware.  Once these Wanda Brown’s get into office, they blindly follow the direction they are provided by ALEC and other special interests, who fight to keep them in positions of power (as seen in the case of Scott Walker in Wisconsin).

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.

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