STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the tag “framing”

Scott Winship and Paul Ryan know better than you! Their “solution” to poverty…Voucherize it!

In order to change the growing awareness among the general population that the GOP is too extreme and doesn’t care about people, Paul Ryan is attempting to alter this perception and enhance the GOP’s image by pretending to “solve” the issue of poverty.  Naturally, his first step is to seek the assistance from right-wing think tanks.  In this case, Paul Ryan is recruiting the assistance of Scott Winship, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who focuses on issues of income inequality and economic mobility.

In a recent interview, Scott Winship was asked how concerned he was with the disparity between the top 1% and everyone else.  Although he acknowledged that income inequality is real, he stated, “the evidence does not make me nervous that it’s a problem.”  He went on to say, “if you look at inequality between 1950 and today, it’s been not nearly so severe as between 1980 and today.”  This is correct, but he failed to explain why income inequality has been so severe since 1980.  In order to gain an accurate understanding of why income inequality (or lack of equality of opportunity) is a problem, it is essential to compare each of these time periods rather than lump them together in an attempt to distract people from realizing the truth.

There is a stark difference in how income gains in this country were distributed between those at the top and everyone else during these two time periods, which clearly impacted one’s ability to climb the economic ladder (ie., economic mobility).  As indicated in this interactive graph from the Economic Policy Institute, from 1950 to 1980 the bottom 90% of workers collectively shared two thirds of all income gains, while the top 10% took in the remaining third.  What about the period from 1980 to 2008?  As it turns out, the bottom 90% collectively shared only 2%, while the super rich, or top 1% took in two-thirds of all income gains!  This is the same percentage the bottom 90% previously shared when equality of opportunity was alive and well.

With so little income being available to the vast majority of workers in this country since 1980, no wonder the American dream is dead.  The rungs on the ladder of economic mobility have been deliberately broken over time to the point that most of the rungs are now completely missing!  Scott Winship even acknowledges as much by citing a statistic showing that if you happen to be born in the bottom fifth, there’s a 40% chance you will end up there as an adult, and only a 13% chance you can make it to the top two fifths.  Despite this admission, however, he stated, “contrary to what the left says, the evidence doesn’t clearly indicate that mobility has declined over time.”  Of course it has, especially since there is only a 5% chance this same poor person can make it to the top fifth.

Perhaps the reason he is in such denial has to do with the stated mission of his employer, rather than dealing with the reality of the devastating effects income inequality has on the vast majority of Americans.  The Manhattan Institute is a tax exempt, right-wing think tank with the stated mission of developing and disseminating ideas that enhance “economic choice” and “individual responsibility”.

These two “frames” conveniently allow Scott Winship, Paul Ryan, and other conservative politicians to focus their attention and our tax dollars on blaming the victim, and hence search for solutions that address this framed version of reality.  For instance, during the interview, Scott Winship was asked, “what policy ideas have you been considering with Paul Ryan?  His response was, “it’s really easy to reduce poverty if you just give cash to people but obviously, that causes people to work less.  It causes them to behave irresponsibly.”  That’s funny, because this is precisely what has happened in the opposite direction since Ronald Reagan took office in 1980 (e.g., welfare for the rich).

Scott Winship made it a point to mention that it’s necessary to raise taxes on the middle class in order to address poverty in this country, since he claims, “you can’t do what the left wants to do and continue to think that tax increases on the rich are going to get you there.” But, this is exactly how we got there in the past, as echoed by President Obama in a speech he gave recently, and is key to how we get there in the future.  It starts with reversing the devastating trend that has taken place since 1980, which involves giving cash to the super-rich (ie, tax cuts) at the expense of everyone else.  It’s important to point out that the main difference between the two periods mentioned earlier involves the tax rate on the top 1%.  In 1980, huge tax cuts were put in place by Ronald Reagan, dropping the tax rate on the top 1% from 70% to 28%, while doubling the tax rate on the vast majority of workers in order to pay for it.  This transfer of wealth has continued to the present day, such that in 2010, 93% of all income gains went to the top 1%.  This is truly startling and explains why the U.S. is no longer a country with equality of opportunity (ie., economic mobility), and instead is quickly becoming a third world country with escalating poverty rates, and accompanying social-ills.

What is Scott Winship’s advice to the GOP for resolving such issues?  Instead of increasing aid to those in desperate need as a result of this transfer of wealth, Scott Winship is embracing the Paul Ryan plan to drastically cut aid to the poor, voucherize medicare, cut social security benefits, increase the retirement age to 70, as well as cutting benefits to surviving spouses, and disabled children and veterans.  This key Scott Winship said, will be coming up with incentives “that are consistent with conservative values about personal responsibility and smaller government”.   Therefore, when viewed through the lens of these “frames”, it is impossible to see how immoral one’s actions have become.  Since Paul Ryan and Scott Winship are clearly operating under these frames, they are stuck trying to convince us that poor people are “irresponsible” and somehow to blame for their own poverty, rather than ‘seeing’ the reality that only 2% of income gains were available to share among 90% of the working population.  Unfortunately, this math makes it impossible for the average worker to make it to the top regardless of how hard one is willing to work, especially if they are born into poverty.

Rather than focusing their attention on increasing equality of opportunity for all, Scott Winship and Paul Ryan believe that providing people in desperate need with vouchers will not only magically “solve” our poverty epidemic, but it will make parents take “personal responsibility” by allowing them the “economic choice” of spending a limited sum (ie., voucher) that will run out in place of guaranteed assistance.  So, rather than rely on existing anti-poverty measures that are proven to be effective at reducing poverty, and leveling the playing field with progressive tax policies that will surely increase one’s chances of achieving the American dream, the GOP plan is to provide poor people with vouchers, since this approach fits the “frames” of the Manhattan Institute, and the GOP’s immoral approach to governing.

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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.

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.

Scott Walker and his Billionaire Buddies are Framing us!

Thanks to a loophole in Wisconsin state law, Governor Scott Walker is able to raise unlimited amounts of money from out of state donors in order to bombard Wisconsin voters with a massive misinformation campaign.  Billionaires like the Koch brothers and other special interest groups, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have contributed to over two-thirds of the $25 million dollars Scott Walker has raised in order to spread misinformation about the Governor’s plan to inflict austerity on Wisconsin workers.

The consequences of Scott Walkers’ proposed austerity plan are already being felt, and have led to an overwhelming pushback from those who realize the harm he is trying to inflict on workers in Wisconsin.  Fortunately, a recall effort has been launched with the goal of removing this radical Governor from his position of authority and to to prevent the forced austerity measures that have already contributed to the worst jobs record in the nation.  Since taking office, Governor Scott Walker’s failed austerity plan, currently being embraced on a national scale by Paul Ryan and the rest of the GOP, has led to the most job losses anywhere in the country.  Under Scott Walker’s watch, over 30,000 jobs have been lost in Wisconsin.

This is where the misinformation and framing comes into play.  Scott Walker’s abysmal record of 30,000 job losses is being spun by countless television ads, Fox news appearances, and backing by billionaires to conceal this reality in favor of misinformation that frames Scott Walker as a job-creator, as opposed to a job-cremator.  In this fictional framed version of reality created by billionaires like the Koch brothers, Scott Walker is portrayed as protecting working Americans, and somehow having added the same amount of jobs he actually destroyed.

Another tried and true method used in the billionaire-backed war on workers is to “frame” harmful legislation that will strip away people’s rights as laws that will supposedly protect people from abuses of power.  This “right to work” law being advocated by radical right-wing Governors across the country is purposely designed to fit that frame. In reality, this law will force people to work-for-less and strip away their rights to fight back (ie, collectively bargain) once this occurs.

The National Right to Work Committee, another right wing group backed by ALEC, recently cited a single question from an 18-page survey conducted by Frank “The Liar” Luntz as proof that union workers support “right to work” legislation.  For those who are unaware, Frank Luntz is the consultant/pollster who specializes in the creation and use of deceptive language to convince the general public to vote against their well being by supporting bad legislation.  “Here is the question Luntz’ pollsters asked union members across the country…”

Please tell me whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: “Workers should have the right to decide whether to join a union. They should never be forced or coerced to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.”  Responses to this single survey question was offered as proof that 80% of union members agree that right-to-work is the best policy.

Wait a minute.  Notice the obvious deception in trying to convince us that “right to work” literally means forcing someone to join a union.  This question is framed in such a way as to practically guarantee the desired response.  Responses are then used to justify implementation of radical legislation that destroys the very rights and freedoms the GOP claims to be protecting.  It is important to note that this survey by Frank “The Liar” Luntz was commissioned by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, whose motto is “Defending America’s workers from the abuses of compulsory unionism since 1968.” With a slogan like this, no wonder they commissioned a professional liar to make sure their biased “facts” fit the frame.

This “right to work” frame will be endlessly repeated via the right wing echo chamber, just like Scott Walker’s abysmal jobs record, to ensure that as many people in Wisconsin as possible hear this distorted version of reality which suits the needs of special interests and billionaires.  If repeated often enough, neuroscience research tells us that many Wisconsin voters will likely reject the facts in favor of the frame, since this is how framing works! For a glimpse of the disastrous effects that work-for-less laws actually have in states where framing efforts were successful, take a look at the research conducted by the Economic Policy Institute.

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.

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!

Mitt Romney literally “frames” President Obama for his own actions of supporting out-dated and failed policies

What would you do if you were running for president and it was becoming clear to voters that all you offered were old ideas, and failed policies, while your opponent was getting traction on his theme of introducing new ideas, and sound policies? Pinning it on the other guy sounds like a good place to start.

In a campaign speech yesterday in Michigan, Mitt Romney literally “framed” President Obama for his own actions of supporting out-dated and demonstrably failed policies.   This was accomplished by the linguistic framing he used when he repeating the word “liberal” in a derogatory fashion several times in relation to our current president.

In fact, judging by the repetition of the L-word, perhaps Mitt Romney’s communication team reached out to the well-known GOP pollster and spinster, Frank Luntz for precise instructions on how to use this language most effectively.  By most effectively, I mean in a way that packs the biggest emotional punch to stir up our emotions and blame the wrong person!

As reported in the Business Insider, here is a snapshot of this framing effort in action.  To illustrate the reality of what is occurring, as opposed to the framed version of reality team Romney is trying to create, I made a side by side comparison reflecting both versions.  This way, the truth behind what Mitt Romney is trying to do becomes clear, provided we are re-direct the frame in order to assign proper blame.

Framed version of reality: “President Obama chose to apply liberal ideas of the past to a 21st century America.  Liberal policies didn’t work then, they haven’t worked over the last four years, and they won’t work in the future. … ”

In Reality: Mitt Romney will choose to apply conservative ideas of the past to a 21st century America.  Conservative policies didn’t work then, they haven’t worked during the eight years of Bush’s presidency, and they won’t work in the future. … ”

Framed version of reality: Old-school liberals saw a problem and thought a government-run program was the answer. Obamacare is the fulfillment of their dreams. …

In Reality: Old-school conservatives saw a problem and thought a corporate-government run alliance was the answer. The Romney loop-hole is the fulfillment of their dreams. …

Framed version of reality: The liberals of the past raised taxes, often with little thought of how they would hurt small business, and the economy. …

In Reality: The conservatives of the past lowered taxes on the super-rich often with little thought of how they would hurt everyone else and the economy. …

Framed version of reality: Old-school liberals envisioned government guiding and providing every need of every citizen. …

In Reality: Old-school conservatives envisioned the corporate-government alliance as guiding and providing every need of the privileged class. …

Liberalism once taught that unions would ensure lasting prosperity for workers. … (This was and still is true today!)

What does it say about the fiction of old conservatism to insist that good jobs and good schools and good wages will result from policies that have failed us, time and again?

It says, we should become aware of framing, and realize whenever we hear Mitt Romney and other GOP members discussing “liberals”, they are really describing themselves!

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).

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