STOP Framing "us"

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

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Why Occupy Wall Street? A former insider reveals the ‘game’ Wall Street is playing with our lives!

In her article, “Why I Had to Get Out: Confessions of a Wall Street Insider, Alexis Goldstein says, “before I occupied Wall Street, Wall Street occupied me.”  This insider writes about the ‘cultural indoctrination’ that occurs once a person is hired on Wall Street, stating that “Most of the message revolves around how hard everyone works, and how hard you are expected to work in return.” This type of messaging ties directly into the “frame” that the privileged folks on Wall Street somehow earn the money they make, and we shouldn’t “punish” their success.  She goes on to note, “This dueling masochism/machismo brings with it a tremendous superiority complex.  People on Wall Street truly believe they work harder than anyone else.”  “When you are wealthy and successful, you have a choice.  You can believe your success stems from luck and privilege, or you can believe it stems from hard work.”

This so called, “hard work” ethic on Wall Street is nothing more than getting ahead by selfishly manipulating and betraying others, including one’s own clients, and the very firm one works for.  “Wall street employees quickly learn that even their company is an enemy. To the firm, employees are a cost to be minimized, or a producer to be exploited.”  The secret to what we are framed to believe defines “success” is to become a knowing and willing participant in a culture of corruption that involves winning at any cost!  This winning at any cost attitude is pervasive and involves a ‘game’ being played on Wall Street where everyone seeks to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.   This is in line with the Ayn Rand philosophy being embraced by Paul Ryan and the rest of the modern day GOP.

“What this environment did to me is that I began to see everyone as a threat. From that idiot two cubicles down from me, to the moron on the other end of the phone (the client), to—more than anything—the faceless, imagined people on government assistance that I assumed (incorrectly) were causing such large percentages to disappear from my paycheck.”  Despite the insidious nature of this immoral view of reality that is detrimental to society at large, there is something we can learn from this insider’s courageous exposure of this sinister culture.  She is proof positive that people can walk away from this framed version of reality and join the rest of us that live in non-gated communities and actually care about one another. “The true key to getting out was taking off my blinders: meeting others who were outside Wall Street’s bubble.”

This Wall Street insider eloquently points out the distinction between what the culture of Wall Street believes in and how this differs from what the Occupy Wall street movement believes in.  She mentions that Wall Street believes in and embraces a culture of scarcity, which breeds hoarding, distrust and competition.   Occupy Wall Street on the other hand, seems to believe the opposite, she says, which breeds sharing, trust and cooperation.

“On Wall Street, everyone was my competitor.  They’d help me only if it helped them.”

“At Occupy Wall street, I am offered food, warmth and support because it’s the right thing to do, and because joy breeds joy.”

It appears that we all have a choice to make regarding the direction we want our country to go in.  We can vote for radical conservatives who embrace this psychopathic mentality of only being concerned with our immediate self-interest at the expense of everyone else, (as this former insider admitted doing) or we can Occupy Wall Street and help progressives change the rules of the game!

The “Slush fund” frame: Cover for the GOP efforts to raid the Public health and cancer prevention fund in order to transfer it up to the ‘privileged’ in America.

What John Boehner and the rest of the GOP are calling a “Slush fund” is the Public health and prevention fund that provides critical health services that all Americans depend on, especially women. The GOP is actively trying to convince the rest of us that we should be in favor of supporting an immoral bill that would eliminate 600,000 cancer prevention screenings for women across the country in order to prevent the student loan interest rates from doubling for college students. This stands in direct contrast to what Democrats are proposing, which is to simply end the taxpayer funded subsidies the oil industry receives. As it stands, the student loan interest rates are scheduled to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1, 2012, and so our elected representatives are faced with a moral choice.

This issue is fundamentally about the priorities we hold as a nation, and involves the choices our elected leaders make about what we value in America.  Do we value the health of women in this country?  If given the chance, would we choose to prevent our wives, mothers and daughters from getting cancer?  Or, do we value profit over people?  Do we value protecting the privileged in this country by placing a higher priority on oil subsidies for billionaires like the Koch brothers rather than preventing women from getting cancer?

Unfortunately, the choice that an overwhelming majority of conservatives in the House of Representatives made when faced with this choice was to continue protecting oil subsidies for people like the Koch brothers.  After all, the Koch brothers were born privileged, and believe they are ‘entitled’ to free money from all of us, so their children can be born privileged too.

Why did the GOP pass this bill?  The obvious reason is so they can continue protecting and enriching the ‘privileged’ members in society, who fund their re-election campaigns.  More importantly, however, the GOP passed this bill because it is in line with their ideological vision for America.  This vision involves the pursuit of one’s self-interest to the dismay of everyone and everything else, including the destruction of the environment.  To make matters worse, conservatives are making sure we continue to use taxpayer dollars to rely on dirty, unsafe fuels of the past, even at the expense of preventing women from getting cancer!

It’s obvious that no one would be in favor of denying potentially life saving screenings for women to prevent cancer.  This is morally wrong, and goes against the values we hold dear in this country.  This is exactly why the GOP created the “Slush fund” frame to make it appear that Democrats are being selfish and are engaging in corruptive practices in order to line the pockets of special interests.  When viewed through the lense of this frame, who is going to support the use of a “slush fund” for private gain?

The incredible irony here is that this is exactly what members of the GOP are guilty of doing.  The GOP is literally “framing” Democrats for their actions, since they are completely selfish and are engaging in corruptive practices in order to line the pockets of special interests.  The GOP “Slush fund” is enormous in scope and was set up to purposely transfer wealth from all of “us” to a select few of “them.”  This and other frames are being used to justify inflicting draconian budget cuts on all of us, while they laugh all the way to the banks that they own with their latest tax cut.

For a visual of what this transfer of wealth into the GOP “Slush fund” looks like, take a look below.

This is the what happens when we vote for conservative politicians in Washington. Our choice to vote for the GOP leads to a “path to prosperity” for the top 1% that is being paved by a path to poverty for the rest of us.

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!

Government programs are working to benefit nearly half of all Americans, so radical Conservatives are trying to put a end to this by “Framing” them as “Entitlement programs” that should be eliminated.

Ed Shultz did a segment last Friday on the Ed show highlighting our lack of knowledge when in comes to the role of Government in providing benefits to average working families, called what Government programs?

As is turns out, 48.5% of Americans, nearly half of all people in this country benefit from Government programs.  The problem is that the very people receiving these benefits are not aware of it!

According to a New York Times poll, 44% of people receiving Social Security, 43% of people receiving unemployment benefits, and 40% of people receiving Medicare benefits claimed they have not used a government program. As correctly pointed out by Ed Shultz, “almost half of the people who collect these entitlements do not recognize that they are using Government programs, and Republican candidates feed off of their lack of awareness”

This is accomplished through “framing.”  The social safety net benefits described above, as well as other middle class benefits are being framed as “entitlements” in order to convince people to vote against their own well being by supporting the elimination of these so called, “entitlement programs.”  The “entitlement program” frame suggests that your hard-working tax dollars are funding the bad habits of lazy people who don’t want to work!  Even worse, this frame suggests that the Government is behind this effort to weaken our nation by giving people things they feel entitled to rather than requiring them to earn it like everybody else.

Let’s forget for the moment that entitlements like Social Security, for instance, are called entitlements for a reason.   Working people pay into this Government program their entire lives, and thus are ‘entitled’ to receive these benefits when they retire.  Despite this reality, the word entitlement is literally being redefined by the radical right wing in this country to fit the frame described above in order to justify the elimination of any benefit not going to the top 1%.

Watch how effective this framing effort has become.  Pay particular attention to how the rhetoric of the “entitlement program” frame is used to convince people that the benefits half of us unknowingly receive and depend upon are somehow destroying America.

Mitt Romney – “Even if we could afford the ever expanding payments of an entitlement society, it is a fundamental corruption of the American spirit.

Rick Perry – “I will work every day to try to make Washington D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can”

Newt Gingrich –  “It is the left, which has abandoned and betrayed the poor, because its safety net is actually a spider-web and it traps people in dependency.

Michelle Bachman – “Were deluding ourselves if were embracing a dependency culture.”

Rick Santorum – “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

If only the people in the NY times poll knew that these radical Conservative politicians were talking about them!

Ezra Klein pointed out in this segment that, in some cases, “The most expensive Government programs are not the one’s for the poor,” but involve other benefits such as home mortgage interest rate deductions, and not paying taxes on employer provided healthcare benefits.  These are benefits that most people don’t even think of as Government programs.

The problem is that we are not aware of these facts!  Instead, we are becoming aware of the frames, which are repeated constantly on Fox news and other corporately controlled media outlets for the sole purpose of convincing us to vote against our self-interest by supporting Government programs that will strip us of these benefits, and shift costs from big businesses and the super-wealthy to average working families.  If the frames are successful at convincing people, then we will soon have no social safety net, we will pay even more for healthcare costs, and we will not be able to deduct our mortgage interest during tax season, among other benefits we do not currently recognize as being a result of Government programs.

 

 

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.

Marco Rubio attempts to “frame” our social safety net as weakening our nation. Who really has a sense of entitlement?

Ed Shultz pointed out the other night on his show how Marco Rubio accused our cherished Government institutions such as Social security, Medicare and Medicaid, as weakening our nation.  This is an example of an Orwellian style frame designed to convince us of the opposite of reality.  In reality, these programs are examples of social safety nets originally put in place by President Roosevelt shortly after the ‘great depression’ to protect the citizens of this country (all of “us”) from exploitation by a select few of “them”.

We pay into programs like social security with our own money, and thus are ‘entitled’ to receive this money when we retire from working our entire lives.  Programs like this help make us stronger as a nation due to the financial security it provides in later years, not to mention maintaining a vibrant middle class.  It also serves to protect us from a select few at the top who seek to do us harm.

But this is not the story you may have heard or are being told by advocates of the top .1% in this country, such as political pundits and right-wing radio talk show hosts, who pander to the richest among us.  These individuals are actively trying to convince us of an alternate reality, a framed version of reality that involves a belief that Government programs are making us weaker as a nation.

Programs that help strengthen and protect working families, the sick, the poor and the elderly are presented as being inefficient and ultimately rewarding laziness.  We are being convinced that protecting and caring for our sick children, and providing a social safety net for our grandparents must be cut down in size in order to stop those who feel ‘entitled’ to something they didn’t earn.

This frame is also used to justify the current austerity measures being inflicted across the nation by implying that those benefiting from these programs (nearly all of us) are somehow contributing to the moral and cultural decay of our nation.  In reality, the real cause of our nation becoming weaker is a direct result of the sense of entitlement felt by the top .1% in this country, which produces income inequality, and truly represents the weakening and moral decay of our social fabric (see about section).

The newly elected extreme right-wing state Governors are telling us that we are broke and need to cut vital public services that we each depend on daily.  In addition, our jobs are slashed, our wages reduced, our work hours extended, our benefits and pensions cut, all so we can transfer wealth up to the ruling class, who believe they are entitled to receive it! The plain, but ugly truth is that there is a class war in this country, and “they” do not care about all of “us”.   The super-rich in this country are extremely selfish and believe they are entitled to all of the wealth created in this country.  Take a look at this trend.

As can be seen in this graph, nearly all of the wealth generated in this country is going straight to the top .1%.  In order to continue this trend, and extract wealth from all of us, they spend billions of dollars in think tanks and language experts to devise appropriate frames to convince all of us to believe in the opposite of reality, or what I call a framed version of reality.  In this sense, the poorest among us are literally framed for the actions of the richest among us, and the rest of us are framed linguistically to believe it.

The bottom line: The poorest among us are blamed for having a sense of entitlement instead of the richest among us, and this belief is repeated over and over on the corporately owned media with the sole purpose of convincing us of this framed reality.

So, are we weaker as a nation due to a sense of entitlement?  Actually, yes!  However, as indicated above, there are two versions of reality.  In the framed version of reality, the poorest among us are causing all of our problems, and in plain old reality, the richest among us are to blame.

The key to stopping this madness is to first recognize that we are being framed!  The Government institutions discussed above are vital to our strength as a nation and should be upheld and fought for, just as they initially were when implemented.

Second, we should call out the political pundits and right wing talk show hosts whenever they use these frames against us.  Simply turn on fox news on any given day, or listen to right-wing talk radio and post a comment, or send me an email (stopframingus@gmail.com) and let’s get the discussion going.

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