STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the tag “income inequality”

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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Paul Ryan’s “Path to prosperity” for the upper class is being paved by a “path to poverty” for the rest of us.

Paul Ryan and members of the GOP recently released their budget plan for America.  They are referring to this plan as a “path to prosperity.”  What they really mean is a “path to poverty” for everyone who is not in the top 1%.  After all, in the land of George Orwell, the “path to prosperity” can only mean one thing, it’s opposite, or a “path to poverty.”

This “path to poverty”, or GOP inflected austerity, is destructive to the working poor and middle class in this country, since it transfers wealth from all of “us” to a select few of “them” primarily by eliminating our social safety net.   This is accomplished by taking away guaranteed benefits currently being provided to protect the most vulnerable among us, including the poor, sick, disabled, and elderly populations, in order to give guaranteed benefits to the wealthiest among us, by permanently extending the Bush tax cuts for instance, which will add trillions more to a deficit “they” continue to pile on the backs of everyone else.

The irony is that the George Orwell Party has already “framed” the issue of taking from one group to give to another in their often-repeated “transfer of wealth” frame.  The radical right wing constantly repeats this Orwellian frame to convince the rest of us that Liberal Democrats are somehow taking from the rich to give to the poor.  In reality, the Paul Ryan budget plan and the rest of the GOP is in favor of what you would call Robin Hood in reverse, since their agenda is all about taking from the poor and middle class in order to protect and enrich the upper class.

Interestingly, the GOP’s plan for the money that will be generated by making drastic cuts to vital services affecting the working poor and middle class, such as ending Medicare, and handing over the Social Security trust fund ($2.6 Trillion) to the Wall Street Casino, will not be used to pay down the deficit, but rather to further pave the “path to prosperity” for a select few.  In this sense, Paul Ryan and members of the GOP are not necessarily lying when they say their budget will create a “path to prosperity”, they just left out the part about who will prosper and at who’s expense.

In order to get people on board with taking away guaranteed benefits that have been enormously popular ever since they were first enacted to protect the people from the abuses of the “privileged sector” in the past, the GOP must hide their true intentions by using positive sounding language when describing their budget plan and vision for America, and negative sounding language when describing anything that conflicts with their agenda.  It really is that simple!

In line with the memo Newt Gingrich crafted with the help of Frank Luntz, the GOP is using language such as “save” and “strengthen” in relation to Social Security and Medicare to present the illusion of being in favor of these programs.  In reality, the GOP is adamantly opposed to our social safety net, and regularly refers to such programs that benefit disabled children, the elderly, and the working poor, as “entitlement programs” that should be eliminated.  So, why should we believe Paul Ryan or any other Republican politician in Washington who claim they are in favor of helping our senior citizens, disabled children, and those who are trying to survive on non-livable wages?  The short answer is that we shouldn’t.

 

Poll-tested, Focus group approved! How Frank Luntz manipulates public perception.

The Motto Frank Luntz uses is “Its not what you say, It’s what people hear.”  What this means to Frank Luntz is that he is not manipulating the public if they choose to believe what he says!

In his “dial sessions” Frank Luntz asks people what their deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions are about whatever issue his corporate masters want him to focus on in order to manipulate public opinion to support their radical agenda of maximizing profit at the expense of the people.

Once he discovers how we really feel about these issues, he attempts to “frame” language in such a way that will bring about support for positions favorable to those who are paying him to manipulate public perception.  This is accomplished by using the feedback he receives from one focus group on another group of unsuspecting people in order to test this language to see how well it works!

Once he is confident, based on visually witnessing his manipulation tactics in action, (seen below) Frank Luntz then runs straight to the corporations, GOP, and other members of the “privileged sector” to brag about how well he did his job, and how effectively the use of certain language can be at manipulating people into supporting an agenda that is detrimental to their own well being.

The following clip is a great illustration of Frank Luntz’s dirty work in action!

Watch how excited he gets (like a kid in a candy store) when he discovers what language will work to manipulate the next batch of people with.

“This is going to work, watch. This will work.”

“I told you, the words work, the words apply to the policy, this is how were going to sell it!”

“LOOK AT THIS”, he says.

He then brags to the person interviewing him, “I will be able to walk to this electricity company on Monday and be able to say to them your policy makes sense and here is the language to explain it.”

The next step Frank Luntz takes to ensure he can effectively manipulate public opinion is to cunningly craft questions using the language that worked in the focus groups to create surveys, or polls to further test these frames.  Interestingly, Vice President Joe Biden is catching on to the GOP’s use of such tactics.  Vice President Biden recently gave a speech on C-span where he called out the GOP for their use of Frank Luntz style poll-tested language to sell Paul Ryan’s “path to prosperity” for the top 1% plan.  After all, he says, “today’s new Republican party is fixed on one thing, additional tax cuts for the very wealthy.”

The feedback Frank Luntz receives from both the poll-tested language and focus groups are later used against the public at large through the right wing echo chamber.  This is where all forces unite, so to speak, against the public, in a well-coordinated fashion to endlessly repeat (ie, echo) the latest batch of Frank Luntz “frames.”  The echo chamber consists of the corporately controlled media, radical right wing talk show hosts, and members of the GOP, all of whom are ‘believers’ in this radical agenda of placing profit over people.

Since this agenda primarily benefits the “privileged sector”, or those in the top 1%, Frank “The Liar” Luntz’s services are required in order to manipulate public opinion in favor of this radical agenda by creating the perception that the status quo of income inequality is somehow good for us, despite actual evidence based research that proves the opposite.  In this sense, the “frames” Frank Luntz ends up crafting are Orwellian in nature, since the exact opposite of what the frame suggests is true!

A prime example is the “liberal media” frame.  In reality, a handful of corporations control the media, including what we read in newspapers, see on television (particularly Fox news), and hear and the radio (90% of which is right wing).  Therefore, what we have in this country is a “corporate media” that benefits the radical right wing, not a media that is controlled by the left, which is what the Orwellian “liberal media” frame suggests.

Making sense of the “George Soros” frame: It turn out George Soros is being “framed” for Rupert Murdoch’s actions.

Glenn Beck has persistently attacked George Soros by name, depicting him as the puppet master for everything that is wrong in society, when in fact Rupert Murdoch is to blame.  Glenn Beck is simply “framing” George Soros for Rupert Murdoch’s actions.  Actions that largely benefit the top 1%, or “privileged sector” at the expense of the bottom 99%.

In an interview with Fareed Zakaria, George Soros was asked what he thought about Glenn Beck’s endless pursuit to paint him as the puppet master.  Soros indicated that Glenn Beck is projecting what Rupert Murdoch is doing through Fox news.

Fox news makes a habit out of doing this says Soros, “it has imported the methods of George Orwell, you know – ‘newspeak’, where you can tell the people falsehoods, and deceive them.”

Glenn Beck even goes as far as making the outrageous claim that George Soros literally helped put people in ovens during the holocaust in Nazi Germany when he was just a small boy.  This statement is way out of bounds, not to mention utterly despicable.  However, like other radical right wing talk show hosts, Glenn Beck serves a purpose for the “privileged sector”, which is to use negative language to evoke strong emotions because this tactic works!  The use of emotions is a very powerful motivator, especially when combined with Orwellian newspeak.

A prime example of this tactic working can be seen here, describing how Byron Williams intended to kill people at the ACLU and Tides Foundation after watching Glenn Beck depict George Soros as the puppet master.

It appears that profiting at the expense of the people (which is what George Soros is being “framed” for) is viewed by Bryon Williams, and other believers of the Orwellian right wing “frames” as totally unacceptable, and warrants the motivation necessary to start a revolution in this country.   The problem is that people like Bryon Williams are getting their information, or misinformation from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox news network, and end up placing their anger in the wrong direction!

Interestingly, the motivation to stop the top 1% from further oppressing and exploiting the people in Egypt and Tunisia, for instance, has led to revolutionary uprisings in this region, beginning with the Arab spring.

The same type of motivated behavior aimed at preventing the “privileged sector” from profiting at the expense of the people is also occurring in the United States.  This movement is known as Occupy Wall Street, or 99% vs 1%, and is currently spreading throughout the world!

And of course, all of these movements are being “framed” by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire as a bunch of Socialist, Marxist, and Communist’s, who are trying to wage war against America.

This is how Glenn Beck is “framing” the uprisings all across the globe.

“The war is just beginning”

“Shoot me in the head if they try to change our Government”

“You have to be prepared to take rocks to the head, the other side is attacking”

“There is a coup going on, grab a torch, drive a steak through the heart of the bloodsuckers”

“They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered”

In the end, the radical right wing is attempting to “frame” George Soros for the actions of Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire.  Take a look at Rupert Murdoch discussing his global media enterprise and how he tries to use it to shape public opinion.

When asked if he was using his global media enterprise to shape public opinion in favor of the war, Rupert Murdoch replied, “we’ve tried”, then started to laugh.  He followed this up with, “Clearly public opinion NOW, has grown very, very tired of the whole enterprise.” (emphasis added on NOW)

This is a joke to Rupert Murdoch and his loyal puppets like Glenn Beck and others, who willingly import the methods of George Orwell with the intention of manipulating public opinion to support an ideology that is based on the principle of profit over people, and in the case of war, profit at the expense of people’s lives!

As George Soros put it, “people need to be aware that they are being deceived.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to know how to live longer, happier and healthier lives? Help bring the documentary based on The Spirit Level to life.

It’s almost official: The Spirit Level may be coming to a theatre near you! Researchers from the UK have linked nearly every major social problem we experience in the United States to just one thing.  This short clip explains it all!

Sam Pizzigati, editor of Too Much outlines the illuminating research proposed by the authors of The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.  Together, these two British Epidemiologists have compiled irrefutable evidence revealing the devastating impact income inequality has on entire societies.  For a quick summary of their evidence, take a look at the graph below.

As illustrated in this graph, the United States is literally off the charts in every major social ill experienced.  We lead the world in having the highest percentage of our population behind bars, we have the highest rates of depression, homicides, an alarming number of citizens with drug and alcohol addiction, an obesity epidemic, high teenage birth rates, high infant mortality rates, and the lowest levels of trust in our fellow citizens, and despite repeated framing attempts, the United States also has the lowest level of social mobility compared to most other industrialized countries throughout the globe. All of these negative social outcomes are a result of a system of income inequality that is detrimental to our health and well being, and is destroying the communities we live in.

Simply put, we are being framed? Nearly all of “us” (99%) are being framed, literally and linguistically by a select few of “them” (1%) to believe in and adopt an ideology based on a system of income inequality that threatens our way of life.  Once “framed”, people tend to ignore relevant facts regarding the devastating consequences of income inequality, and eventually become advocates of this system that is purposely designed to benefit a few of “them” at the expense of all of “us.”

“If you want to know why one country does better or worse than another,” as Wilkinson and Pickett note simply, “the first thing to look at is the extent of inequality.”  “People in more equal societies simply live longer, healthier, and happier lives than people in more unequal societies. And not just poor people in these societies, Wilkinson and Pickett emphasize continually, but all people.

And the nations that do the best, on yardstick after yardstick, all turn out to share one basic trait. They all share their wealth.  Unfortunately, we have been led to believe that a more equal distribution of income, framed as a “redistribution of wealth” is bad for society.  In reality, as this evidence based research shows, the exact opposite is true!

Fortunately, there is light at the end of this tunnel.  As this research shows, a more equal distribution of income has been proven to drastically reduce the social ills experienced within countries, and will lead to a happier and healthier society for all.  Therefore, pursuing policies that advocate for a more equal distribution of income, or cutting income inequality in half, as Wilkinson and Pickett advocate, is a great place to start.

Given the nature and scope of the problem we face in this country, it is imperative that we help independent film artists bring this evidence-based research to a theatre near you!

The consequences of not having an equal distribution of wealth in the U.S., and what the Occupy Wall Street movement can do about it.

The level of income equality in this country has been in a reversing trend since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.  However, many people will not know this by listening to Fox news, or some other radical right-wing talk show host, including Glenn Beck, who had this to say on his blog.

This is Glenn Beck’s attempt to create further division among us by perpetuating the latest right-wing “frame”, which states that 47% of Americans pay no income taxes.  This of course, is another Orwellian frame designed to convince all of us to take out our anger and frustration on the poorest and most disabled among us.  After all, these are the people who make up the 47% Glenn Beck is referring to.

Instead of looking up at the upper class who are truly responsible for our economic hardship, this frame ensures we look down at the very victims of income inequality, and ignore the fact that we are currently experiencing the largest transfer of wealth in the history of this country from the working poor and middle class (all of “us”) to a select few in the upper class (“them”).

David Cay Johnston does a beautiful job of summing up what is really happening in this country, being led by those in the upper class, or the top .1%.

Although each of the 9 things David Cay Johnston discusses are enlightening, I would like to focus on #5, which states, “And (surprise!) since Reagan, only the wealthy have gained significant income”  This disheartening reality ties into what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about, and why it is critical to understand there is a class war being waged against all of “us” (99%) by a select few of “them” (top .1%)

Now, why do I say the top .1% instead of the top 1%?  Well, this chart from the Economic Policy Institute says it all!

Between 1979 and 2005, households at the bottom fifth of the income scale have seen an average, inflation-adjusted income growth of just $200. Importantly, that does not represent an average annual increase in income of $200, but rather, an increase of $200 over the entire 26-year period. By contrast, a small number of households at the top 0.1% of the income scale saw average income growth of almost $6 million over that same period

Why is this important? Well, because the 26 year period prior to 1979 paints an entirely different picture.

“These latest patterns of extremely uneven income growth stand in stark contrast to the period between 1947 and 1973, when income growth was distributed roughly equally across income classes, with the poorest 20% of families seeing income growth at least as fast as the richest 20%.”

So, what does this mean to the average citizen?  Why should anyone care about the income inequality that is illustrated in this article, or by what David Cay Johnston has to say?

Here’s why –  Prior to the current trend that has taken place ever since Ronald Reagan took office, a significant portion of our citizens (1 in 3) held a high paying union job.  Everyone was doing well, including those at the very bottom.  During this time period, those in the bottom 20%, in terms of income distribution, saw their incomes grow at a pace equal to those in the top 20%.  As a result, 1 parent could work and earn enough to support the entire family.  People could afford to purchase a home, save for their children’s college fund, and retire with the comfort of knowing they were secure in their old age due to the pensions they were receiving.

Of equal importance, there was less poverty, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, imprisonment, obesity, teenage pregnancies, etc.  Why?  Because the more equal the distribution of income is in a society, the less social-ills seen in that society.  (See the about section of this blog).  Notice there is no Occupy Sweden movement taking place.

As a result of the increasing income inequality trend that has taken place over the past 30 years, our political system continues to favor the top .1% at the expense of the rest of us, not only in terms of our wages, benefits and pensions, but also in terms of the social-ills mentioned above.

The only chance we have to reverse this devastating trend is if the Occupy Wall Street movement is successful, and we go back to a time when all segments of the population grow at an equal rate.  After all, an equal distribution of income is what enabled the creation of the ‘middle class’, which is now being systematically destroyed.

Bottom line:  Income inequality is the problem, and income equality is the solution.  In my opinion, income equality ought to be the primary focus of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Why we should ALL be in favor of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

The protests currently spreading throughout the country in support of occupy wall street are nothing short of amazing!  People are fed up with the current political system we have that primarily supports the top 0.1%, while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet!

Now, many of you, especially those who identify with the Tea-party, may be thinking that I have a descent job, and this doesn’t affect me, or I work hard for my money, so why can’t others just do the same? 

Well, the short answer to this question can be seen in the amount of income our society generates, versus how this income is distributed among all of us. 

This article from Mother Jones pretty much sums it up!  As illustrated in one of the charts, the vast majority of people in this country, roughly 90% of us only earn 30K, while those at the very top (.01%) make 27 million per year.   What’s interesting about this astonishing figure is how this group is making their money.  The current system we have is set up for their benefit at our expense, which is why 99.99% of American citizens will have ABSOLUTELY NO CHANCE OF BEING IN THIS GROUP!! 

Another interesting fun fact is that those in the top .1% used to pay 70-91% of their income in taxes.  This was not an isolated time period in history.  This top tax rate has been in effect ever since we implemented taxes in 1913.  The very implementation of this top tax rate enabled the creation of what we all know of and recognize as the “middle class”.  During this time period 35% of the population was unionized, which meant that people were paid higher wages, and could afford to purchase the products they were making.  The distribution of income was more equalized, and the overall health and well-being of the citizens of this country was increased. 

In the past 30 years, however, this pattern has reversed.  Descent union wage jobs have been eliminated, or outsourced, pension plans have been eliminated or dwindled to next to nothing, wages have become stagnant for the majority of workers, the minimum wage has not been raised to account for inflation, or to ensure a living wage is provided for working families.  This new pattern has been taking place despite the actual doubling of our economy during this time period.    

Why?  Well, for the same reason the occupy wall street protesters are showing themselves and allowing their voices to be heard.  To prevent the top .1% from exploiting all of “us”, so “they” can continue their lavish lifestyle.  There is a name for this.  It’s called  income inequality, and it is something we all should be familiar with. 

The bottom line:  Occupy wall street is something all of us should be a part of, especially if we are not in the top 0.1%.  After all, the system is set up to exploit the rest of us.

Obama’s been framed! His speech contained many common frames used by those at the top to convince us of a framed version of reality.

 Although the President should be applauded for his efforts in discussing a means of putting Americans back to work, he unknowingly reinforced a set of common “frames” used repeatedly by the radical right-wing and other advocates of the top .1% to convince us of a framed version of reality that supports the status quo of income inequality.  It’s quite possible that President Obama’s advisors were not aware of the relevance of framing in shaping our understanding of the world around us when offering assistance in crafting his speech.  More specifically, how the use of such frames trigger a specific mind-set in the observer, such that only the framing elements make sense, and all other relevant facts to the contrary are miraculously, and quite conveniently ignored. 

The consequence of activating the radical right-wing frames is that more and more people are being “informed” of a world view that is causing the very destruction of our economy, our well-being, and the overall health of our nation.  Let’s take a look at how Obama has been framed!

                President Obama acknowledged the following frames.  There is wasteful spending in Government.  Regulations are putting an unnecessary burden on businesses.  The corporate tax rate is the highest in the world.  Businesses need certainty in order to hire again.  We need to help the job creators.  We need to get our fiscal house in order.  We need to cut taxes, and Free-trade agreements will help us create jobs and save our economy. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the frames he activated, and discuss how they are contributing to the status quo of income inequality, and what this means for all of us.    

1.   First and foremost is the issue of cutting taxes.  The common frame with respect to taxes is that we need to provide businesses (big businesses) and people (really rich people) “tax relief”.  As George Lakoff pointed out, when these words are used in conjunction, tax relief assumes there is an affliction that requires some sort of relief.  Take hurricane or disaster relief for instance.  Obviously, an area hit by a hurricane would require some sort of disaster relief, as in aid to the victims, relief from suffering, etc.  So, the words “tax relief” creates the frame of taxes are bad, and anyone who provides relief from taxes is the savior and deserves praise.  Likewise, anyone who attempts to raise taxes, which does not fit the frame, is viewed as inflicting pain, or responsible for causing the affliction.  

In reality, taxes are the responsibility of everyone in this country to ensure the safety, protection and empowerment of us all.   High tax rates on the top .01% are what helped build our nation through times of war and uncertainty, and helped sustain what are known as the commons that we all have come to love and depend on in daily life, such as roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, fire and police protection, and of course, the internet.  The commons are what make us unique.  The knowledge that we can send our kids to school to receive a descent education, that we can receive care when we get sick, and most importantly the thought of knowing that we all pitch in to ensure everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is comforting to us.  As the President rightly pointed out in his speech, “No single American built this country on their own”.

2.  Regulations basically fit the same profile as mentioned above with taxes.   According to this frame, regulations are bad, and anyone who implements them is preventing businesses from creating jobs.  This ties into another classic frame of “Let’s get Government out of the way” so we can help the private sector solve our problems.      

In reality, regulations offer all of “us” protections from the exploitative practices “they” engage in through the corporations they own; including ignoring safety standards (BP oil disaster), polluting our air, water, and land via toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere (Co2 emissions, not to mention the more devastating Nitrous Oxide and methane greenhouse gases) fracking for dirty energy, and other means of ignoring regulations that were put in place to prevent “them” from poisoning our communities.

3.   “Wasteful spending in Government” and “Getting our fiscal house in order” frames inform us that Government is inefficient and spends money frivolously, and that we have a “Spending problem in Washington” (a related frame soon to be discussed in a separate post)   

Together, these frames assume that the Government is literally incapable of doing anything right.  This frame has become so prevalent that the common tendency when discussing anything related to the Government is regarding how slow or inefficient it is, how easy the jobs are, or how brainless the people are who work in any Government capacity.  This is a result of a concerted long-term strategic effort to “frame” Government as inefficient and wasteful in order to convince us that the private sector is the answer.  The advocates of the top .1% even go as far as hiring people who are diametrically opposed to the Government agencies they are tasked with running.  Thomas Frank wrote about this in his book, The wrecking crew.  

In reality, the waste in Government is in programs that are or have become partially privatized.  Our healthcare system is a prime example.  We are the ONLY industrialized nation on earth that has a for profit, privatized healthcare system that benefits the top .1% at our expense, literally!!  All other industrialized nations have realized that healthcare is a right not a privilege for those who can afford it.  In fact, it is illegal in these other countries to profit from someone else’s pain and suffering.  After all, the only way to profit is if coverage and care is denied.  One more useful fun fact is that 33% or “waste” in our healthcare system goes straight to the top .1% in the form of executive compensation, big fancy offices, private jets, and bonuses, of course. 

The bottom line:  In the framed version of reality, the Government is the problem and is preventing businesses and the private sector from helping all of us achieve the American dream.  If only we can get Government out of the way and reduce the burden on businesses by eliminating agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and other obstructive Governmental over-reaching regulations, and implement Free-trade policies to create jobs and to enhance economic growth.  Government should lower the personal and corporate tax rate on the job-creators, and since Government is inefficient and wasteful, privatizing everything is the way to get our economy moving in the right direction, and to ensure prosperity for all.  

So, you see, all of these frames tie together and paint a picture or a specific mind-set (framed version of reality) that supports the radical right-wing ideology and further leads to the implementation of policies that favor the rich at our expense.  The goal of this framing effort is to convince us to assist them in eliminating any and all social protections and regulations that currently prevent “them” from exploiting “us”, to permanently lower taxes on the super-rich, to maintain lasting and deep cuts to our social safety net, to continue outsourcing our jobs to those who are most easily exploitable, to reduce and eventually phase out pension plans completely, and to implement many other rigid policies and programs that support the status quo of income inequality.    

Bottom line: By acknowledging and repeating the language of the common frames used against us, we are essentially advocating for this world-view ourselves.  A world-view that ensures we all feel pain, so they can enjoy social and economic gain.

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