STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the tag “America works together”

“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).

Paul Krugman on why President Obama may lose the election! It’s all about firmly communicating their values.

Nobel-prize winning economist, Paul Krugman recently criticized the communication strategy of President Obama’s team in a recent TPM article.   According to Paul Krugman, “There may not be much President Obama can do to improve the economy between now and the election, but telling a clear story about why it remains weak could mean the difference between victory and defeat this November.”

The moral of this story, and Krugman’s take on this issue is that we should not be afraid to speak out about the value and role of our Government to help us out of the economic disaster the Republican Party created for all of us by their strict focus on enriching those in the ‘privileged sector’.

Perhaps, the President’s communication strategy should revolve around the fact that the public protection policies, and other Democratic tax and budget proposals serve to protect all Americans and prevent those in the right wing from harming the rest of us with their immoral vision for America.  As noted by Paul Krugman, “What they should be saying is, ‘We have the right ideas and we’re pursuing them as far as we can given the opposition from Republicans,’ which would be more or less the true narrative.”

Therefore, Democratic legislators, political pundits, and the President’s team should join together in reminding people daily that the ‘Great Depression’ was a result of Wall Street greed, much like it this culture of corruption on Wall Street was responsible for the near global financial meltdown that sparked the current depression we are now in.

We should remind people that Government led the way out of the depression through stimulus spending, and more stimulus spending, not less is needed to get us out of this one.  Paul Krugman agrees, and unfortunately, he points out that the President’s team “never conceded that that first stimulus was too small, or that there really should have been a second round of stimulus.

As a remedy to this, we should remind people that Roosevelt’s New Deal enabled the birth of the middle class in this country, which led to the ‘golden age of capitalism’ where everyone essentially shared in the wealth that we all helped to create.  Similarly, Krugman notes that we should reverse the “state layoffs of teachers, firefighters and other employees, and then ideally with a New Deal-style public works push to rebuild American infrastructure by putting the unemployed to work.”

These are sound policy decisions that were once made and openly communicated to the public.  Everyone at the time understood the value and place of Government in their lives.  It was understood that Government was highly capable of, and directly responsible for vastly improving the living conditions for individuals, families and communities alike.

It was this focus on America working together and sharing in the prosperity we all helped to create that made this nation the beacon of the world.  We shouldn’t be afraid to tell this story, and we certainly shouldn’t be fooled by attempts to paint Government as a failure, when clearly Government once led the way!

Most importantly, we should remind people that all of the progress that was made over the years, such as the expansion of real freedoms, such as civil rights and voting rights for both African Americans and women, along with environmental protections of the air we breathe and water we drink are now being systematically replaced with immoral budget policies that amount to a war on women and the middle class, so a few at the top can continue to stroll down a path to prosperity that is paved by a path to poverty for the rest of us.

The public protection laws, along with the progressive taxation and budget policies that led to the greatest time period in our nations history were based on the principle of the common good, where we all have a stake in what we help to create, and we all pay into this system to ensure the freedom of opportunity and prosperity for all that comes with it.  This vision was based on the values of fairness, equality of  opportunity, and freedom for all!

Why are we shying away from the policies that once worked?  It’s time to start communicating the value and role of Government in being able to re-create these circumstances today, and let the people know that if we work together, we can all help to create the golden age of capitalism part II.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: