STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the tag “right wing”

It’s Time We Embrace An “Economy for Everyone”

Growing our economy has become a key focal point in political discussions in recent years, and has important public policy implications moving forward.  In the name of “economic growth” and the pursuit of “pro-growth” policies, we have implemented a series of austerity measures that have been devastating to the public at large, while protecting and further enriching the wealthy class in America.

The term “economic growth” is a frame designed to convince us that we all benefit when our economy grows, and that the best way to do this is to give wealthy people more tax breaks, or “tax relief”, which is another frame.  In other words, we are all expected to pay more in taxes, so the wealthy class can pay less!  A recent study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) does a great job at exposing both right wing frames.

The CRS study specifically analyzed 65 years worth of data between top tax rates and economic growth.  Although the top tax rates wealthy people pay have never been lower during this time period, the study found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth.  Another fascinating discovery was that a correlation was found between reducing the top tax rates and increased concentrations of wealth for this privileged class.  In other words, voting for “tax relief” in the past has led to a transfer of wealth over the past 65 years from millions of hard working Americans to a few affluent families.  It’s clear from these findings that providing “tax relief” in the name of pursuing “economic growth” is actually harming our economy by unnecessarily privileging the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Another interesting element of the “economic growth” frame involves the belief that with hard work anyone can become successful and achieve the American dream.  This is also known as social mobility, or equality of opportunity.  Unfortunately, America is no longer the land of opportunity it once was, and many people are coming to the realization that the American dream is now a myth.  Joseph Stiglitz, an award winning economist, wrote an article on this very issue recently called, “Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth

where he discusses how the U.S. has less equality of opportunity than nearly every other industrial country.  After pointing out that children of affluent families are inclined to experience better health care, education, and nutrition, Stiglitz noted, “in some cases it seems as if policy has actually been designed to reduce opportunity…”, particularly with respect to education.

This is what a focus on “pro-growth” policies has gotten us.  A lopsided economy where a few affluent families are able to send their kids to the best schools, receive the best health care, and live in enriching and non polluted environments, while the rest of us deal with the aftermath of austerity measures aimed at cutting funding for our children’s schools, losing our health care, and not having equal access to enriching environments.  The repetition of this frame by the modern day Republican Party, Fox news affiliates, and pundits on the right is used to gain public support for policies that prevent and outright reduce equality of opportunity for the majority of people, while convincing us to believe in the myth of the American dream.  This is what “pro-growth” policies mean.  They are intentionally designed to benefit the privileged at the expense of everyone else.

It appears as if some on the left have also started to adopt the economic growth frame.  In an effort to combat the utter failures of trickle-down economics and correct the deficiencies it has brought about, they too have adopted similar language arguing in favor of “middle-out” economics.  Unfortunately, being in favor of middle-out economics is still advocating for “economic growth”, and will continue to ensure we adopt more of the same “pro-growth” policies that are causing many of our social and economic problems.  Instead, we need to embrace an “Economy for Everyone”.

In their book The Spirit Level, epidemiologists’ Wilkinson and Pickett, brilliantly illustrate how we are currently experiencing material success, but social failure in the U.S.  This is largely a result of reaching the limits of what economic growth can provide to wealthy countries, as well as the undeniable contribution of inequality of income that exists within the U.S.  In fact, according to the authors, “economic growth, for so long the great engine of progress, has in the rich countries, largely finished its work.”  Today, we are witnessing an overall decrease in health, happiness, and wellbeing of millions of American families, among many other social ills as a result of one single factor; the difference in income levels between the have and have nots.  Such a discrepancy between material success and social failure suggests that, “if we are to gain further improvements in the real quality of life, we need to shift attention from material standards and economic growth to ways of improving the psychological and social wellbeing of whole societies.”

In order to successfully increase the overall health, happiness and well being for all American families, we need to advocate for and spread the message of an “Economy for Everyone”.  An economy that works for everyone takes all of our needs into consideration, and reduces the level of inequality across income groups, which is the single largest contributor to our current economic and social failures.

In addition, the PEW research center recently found that 90% of Americans want the government to do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity.  With equality of opportunity, we can overcome many of the hurdles that are artificially placed before us under the guise of “economic growth”, and once again ensure America’s standing in the world as the land of opportunity.  Therefore, spreading the message of an “Economy for Everyone” should be a no-brainer, and this language will hopefully replace any future discussion of “middle-out” economics.

The challenge facing the adoption of this new language comes from policy makers and political pundits, who (perhaps unknowingly) are keeping the “economic growth” frame alive.  Consequently, a focus on economic growth primarily benefits the affluent at the expense of everyone else, reduces equality of opportunity, and stands in the way to a achieving a happier and healthier society.

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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).

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.

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.

 

The Right loves to talk about taxes. The Right loves to talk about freedom. The Right really loves to talk about how taxes diminish freedom. They frame the issue as such:

Written by Guest Blogger, Greg Hopely

I am a consumer in a free market society.

I’m free to buy stuff, of all cost and variety.

But when the government taxes me, they take away my freedom

To buy the things that I want, even if I don’t need ‘em.

They also argue that by taxing the wealthy, the “job creators”, they will not have the incentive to altruistically invest in the productive capabilities of the economy. They won’t “create jobs” if you tax them too much. It is not only a falsehood, it’s economically dangerous. However, they know that even though the American people can stomach a lot of terrible things, they wouldn’t be too happy about people openly flaunting their wealth and their greed. So the Right needs to come up with a “frame” to create moral, in addition to practical, aversion to the “burden” of taxes. They do this by framing it as a freedom issue.

One should not let this go unchallenged. Does progressive taxation really create a burden on the spending habits of the wealthy? Would a progressive redistribution of tax investments really compromise freedom? Or could it enhance freedom? Here we can look at a very interesting economic principle: the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility of Income (or Wealth). What it means, essentially, is that the more income one amasses the less satisfaction they get from receiving more money. It is based on the concept of utility. Utility is the satisfaction one gets from consuming a product or service. So if I get money, I am happy. However, utility eventually hits a ceiling. The more money one has, the less utility there is for collecting more money. This is the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility of Income. If a person is a millionaire and receives $100, it is not a big deal for them. What’s another $100? But if I am making minimum wage, trying to pay rent and buy food, an extra $100 could make all the difference in the world. Therefore, the poorer one is –the more utility they get from an increase in income. The richer one is –the less utility.

The rich can only spend so much money. Beyond material satisfaction, one cannot realistically spend more without severely diminishing utility. This means that progressively taxing the surplus wealth of the rich will not seriously affect their spending habits. It will not hurt society. The contrary is actually true.  The amount of utility gained when a poor person receives an extra dollar far outweighs the utility lost when a rich person loses a dollar.  Ultimately, the overall utility of the society increases. More equality = more happiness. It is interesting to note, that the richest countries in the world are not the happiest countries in the world. The happiest countries in the world happen to be a handful of European and Scandinavian countries, which have the highest degree of income equality.

Nor does progressive taxation inhibit freedom. Indeed, it enhances freedom. The greater “utility” the poor and working classes have, the greater access they have to power resources. They would have greater access to education, have a higher degree of social cohesion, have increased freedom to bargain for higher standards of life and work, and, most importantly, would not be in such dire straits that they are forced to throw themselves at the whim of the undemocratic world of corporate capitalism without just recompense. Society as a whole would have more to invest into the country to ensure a stable quality of life for all (with free, high-quality healthcare, education, clean air, food, and water, labor rights and safety standards, etc.). Individuals would be free to live the lives they choose. The economic conditions that hold back so much potential and waste so many resources would no longer have a hold over the people.

I recommend everyone look into the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility of Income, don’t just take my word for it (I’m not an economist after all!) You may find that it makes practical sense. Beyond practicality, however, there is potential to create a new framework for thinking about freedom. No longer would the Right be able to monopolize (which they love to do) the word for their own purposes. It is time to increase the utility of freedom for all.

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