STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the tag “economic growth”

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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Two visions for America: One Progressive the other regressive. Which path will our elected representatives choose?

In reference to the choices we make today that will decide the fate of our nation tomorrow, Jim Wallis mentioned in a recent article, the choice Paul Ryan and members of the GOP have made, (which they are calling a “path to prosperity”) is really a choice to hurt people who don’t have the political clout to defend themselves.  In addition to not paying down the deficit, which is what the GOP claims, or should I say “frames” their budget plan does in order to convince people to support it, Wallis notes, “Two-thirds of the long term budget cuts that Ryan proposed are directed at modest and low-income people, as well as the poorest of the poor at home and abroad.”

He states that, “Cuts of this magnitude for people of modest and low-incomes will result in a direct increase of poverty and misery in America.”  This is what happens when we pursue economic growth at all costs, which is proven to only benefit a select few at the top at the expense of the health and well being of everyone else, including the planet!

This regressive vision for America the GOP chooses to embrace will allow those at the very top to prosper, while everyone else slowly sinks into poverty and despair.  This is evident in the massive transfer of wealth from all of “us” to a select few of “them” Paul Ryan’s “path to prosperity” for the super-rich plan will generate.

As pointed out by Jim Wallis, “In dramatic contrast, Ryan has chosen to help the people who need help the least. Wealthy individuals and companies reap a windfall of benefits in Ryan’s plan — with tax cuts and breaks, continued subsidies and loopholes for every powerful special interest, and increased corporate welfare payments from the government.”

As you can see, the only prosperity being achieved is for the already affluent and super-wealthy in the top 1%, who use members of the GOP to advance their radical agenda by passing laws to the detriment of ‘we the people’ in order to continue to re-distribute wealth up by showering the “privileged sector” with corporate welfare (ie, more of our tax dollars).

The actions of the GOP mentioned above represent a regressive vision for America, which ultimately leads to further pieces of radical legislation being introduced, not to mention the proposal of immoral budget priorities like the Paul Ryan plan that serves to perpetuate the status quo of income inequality, which amounts to further austerity for all of “us” in order to provide continued prosperity for a select few of “them.”

In opposition to Paul Ryan’s immoral budget priorities and regressive vision for America, the Progressive caucus in the House of Representatives put forth their own plan last week.  This moral budget, called the ‘Budget for All’, represents a progressive vision for America, which puts an end to the corporate welfare the “privileged sector” feels entitled to receive, and focuses on improving the livelihood of the vast majority of the population.  The Budget for All plan focuses on putting Americans back to work, as opposed to putting the burden on the backs of Americans.  The Budget for All reduces the deficit by focusing on the true cause of our deficit and rising debt levels, (ie, the transfer of wealth that is taking place from all of us to a select few of them).  This transfer of wealth is primarily occurring in the form of unsustainable tax cuts for the super-rich, out of control military and war spending, and many other types of corporate welfare to sustain the high society, upper class lifestyle the richest among us have become accustom to.

Amazingly, this progressive vision for America was shot down in the House of Representatives in a 346-78 vote, while the regressive, immoral budget plan passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 235-189.

Now what?

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