STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the tag “Richard Wilkinson”

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 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.

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!

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