STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the tag “privatization”

Why the GOP’s vision for America is a dangerous one! The true source behind Paul Ryan’s nightmare budget

The only way to adequately understand the motivation behind the modern day conservative and the George Orwell Party (GOP) is to become familiar with the vision of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy is largely guiding their actions.   Gary Weiss wrote an article recently about this very subject, entitled, “ The Horrors of an Ayn Rand World: Why We Must Fight for America’s Soul“, in which he discussed what the world would look like if we adopted an Ayn Rand vision for America.

As indicated by Gary Weiss, Ayn Rand’s vision includes a world with NO Social Security, NO Medicare, NO Medicaid, NO public schools, NO public hospitals, NO regulation of any activity that runs counter to one’s self-interest, basically, NO public anything Weiss says, “Just individuals, each looking out for himself, not asking for help or giving help to anyone.”  Thus, the motivation behind the GOP’s actions is based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand and involves a single focus of pursuing one’s immediate self-interest to the detriment of society, the environment, and anyone or anything that gets in the way!

The GOP’s vision is one that is strictly concerned with protecting and enriching members of the “privileged sector”, while the rest of us struggle with the consequences of their immoral actions.  Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have described in detail, the effects such consequences have on our society as a whole.   Briefly, they include more negative social outcomes for all of “us”, such as high rates of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, incarceration rates, decreased levels of trust and community involvement, and of course, dramatic increases in poverty.  This is in contrast to increases in positive social outcomes for a select few of “them”, such as more corporate welfare, increased bonuses, and additional wealth, power, and influence to perpetuate the status quo of income inequality based on the philosophy of pure selfishness above all else!

Those in the top 0.1%, who are born ‘privileged’ want to use tax payer money to benefit themselves and the corporations they run, while claiming “we’re broke” and can’t afford to pay for the sick, the poor and the elderly, or anything else for that matter that uniquely benefits the rest of us, including, but not limited to the following;

–        Hospitals to care for our families when they get sick

–        Schools to educate our children

–        Social safety net for our disabled, elderly and sick populations

–        Environmental and safety protections for (food, air, water)

–        Worker rights, safety standards, livable wages, unemployment insurance

However, since the items mentioned above do not further enrich members of the “privileged sector”, they are “framed” as “entitlement programs” that are contributing to a “welfare state”, or dependency on Government, in order to justify their plan to either completely eliminate, or provide a path to privatization, as can be seen in Paul Ryan’s “path to prosperity” for the top 1% plan.  The frame needed to convince the public to go along with this plan to continue providing welfare for the rich is none other than the standard talking point of Government is inefficient and can’t do anything right.  The logical conclusion of this “Government inefficiency” frame is that the so-called ‘free’ market can do a better job.  Therefore, we should profitize it, so the “privileged sector” can enjoy more wealth at our expense.  (Perhaps, we should start using the word profitize when referring to privatization efforts, since privatization amounts to more profiting at the expense of the people.)  George Lakoff suggests using the term profiteering to refer to the same concept.

It’s important to understand that the various frames being used are intended to misinform and scare the public into supporting radical right wing initiatives (ie, tax policies and budget proposals) like the Paul Ryan immoral budget plan that will devastate our social safety net (eliminate Medicare, ‘profitize’ Social Security), eliminate public education, and get rid of environmental regulations that currently protect the air we breathe in order to contaminate the water supply for millions of people, as well as pollute our lungs and the atmosphere with toxic chemicals (see keystone XL pipeline), all so a select few in the “privileged sector” can reap enormous profits at the expense of the health and well being of the people and the planet in what “they” would like to see as the Divided States of America.

The simple but ugly truth is that Paul Ryan’s budget plan is a realization of Ayn Rand’s vision, which is based on the immoral value of selfishness and greed at the expense of all else.  It should be noted that Paul Ryan was so impressed with the philosophy of Ayn Rand that he attributed his interest and eventual career in politics to her influence.  In fact, it has been reported that Paul Ryan actually instructs his staffers to read the philosophy of Ayn Rand prior to coming to work for him.  His way of litmus testing the help to ensure everyone is on the same unethical page. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, Paul Ryan is desperately trying to make the horrors of an Ayn Rand world into a reality.

Mitt Romney reveals his party’s ‘moral budget priorities’ for America at the CPAC convention: More profit for the ‘privileged’ at the expense of the ‘public’.

Although budget and tax policy may not seem like very exciting topics, budgets are extremely important since they are essentially moral documents.  The budgets we set for ourselves and the tax revenue we use to fund them reflect our shared values as a people.  Just as our parents and grandparents budgeted and paid for the things we publicly share today, such as the paved roads and bridges we drive on, the public schools we send our children to, the hospitals we go to when we get sick, and the court system we use to protect the public by prosecuting those who violate the social norms and values we share.

These are just a few examples of what our ancestors thought were necessary and worthy values, so they decided to act on this information and budget our tax dollars to pay for these things in order to serve the common good.

Unfortunately, there is another group of ‘privileged’ individuals in society, who prefer to be separate from the rest of us by walling themselves off in gated communities, who choose not to send their kids to the same schools we do, and who don’t want to pay for the heavy use and abuse of the common good we all help pay for.

In fact, this privileged group of super-wealthy elites does not want to protect the rights, or support the values of anyone who is not a member of the “privileged sector.”  This is reflected in their adamant opposition to participating in our Democracy by refusing to contribute any tax revenue to help solve the problems they are responsible for creating.  The so called “debt crisis” Republicans constantly refer to was caused by the same two budget and tax priorities Mitt Romney supported at the CPAC convention.

The primary values favored by Mitt Romney and the Republican party are simple. Increase the size of Government through unsustainable military and war spending, and more tax breaks for members of the “privileged sector.”

In order to accomplish this goal of valuing profit over people, it becomes necessary to decrease spending and impose ‘austerity’ measures on the rest of us by eliminating or privatizing the social safety net (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), deep cuts to public education, to include mass layoffs of teachers, cuts to our health and safety systems, including denying access to healthcare for people in need, laying off firefighters and police officers, and eliminating food, air and water safety protections.  Basically, the destruction of our shared value system in order to satisfy the greedy needs of the “privileged sector.”

Mitt Romney admitted to supporting these values by favoring a budget and tax policy that is against raising taxes on the super-wealthy, ”Tax hikes are off the table”, his support for an unsustainable level of military spending, “I will not be cutting our military budget” and imposing austerity on the rest of us “without raising taxes, I will finally balance the American budget”.

In the end, Mitt Romney and other radical Republican politicians are getting away with their skewed immoral priorities by framing Democratic opponents for their actions.  Budget and tax policies that are designed to increase the size of Government in order to protect and support the “privileged sector” are being framed as “tax & spend” policies that increase the size of Government to protect and support “welfare recipients.”

Unfortunately, many people believe these “frames” and actively support policies and programs that they mistakenly think will uphold our shared values.  Instead, what tends to happen is that a belief in these frames leads people to support the very budget and tax policies that are detrimental to our health and well being.  Policies that reflect underlying values that are diametrically opposed to the shared values we hold as a nation, and only serve to further enrich the already wealthy and powerful “privileged sector.”

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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