STOP Framing "us"

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

Archive for the tag “welfare for the rich”

Scott Winship and Paul Ryan know better than you! Their “solution” to poverty…Voucherize it!

In order to change the growing awareness among the general population that the GOP is too extreme and doesn’t care about people, Paul Ryan is attempting to alter this perception and enhance the GOP’s image by pretending to “solve” the issue of poverty.  Naturally, his first step is to seek the assistance from right-wing think tanks.  In this case, Paul Ryan is recruiting the assistance of Scott Winship, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who focuses on issues of income inequality and economic mobility.

In a recent interview, Scott Winship was asked how concerned he was with the disparity between the top 1% and everyone else.  Although he acknowledged that income inequality is real, he stated, “the evidence does not make me nervous that it’s a problem.”  He went on to say, “if you look at inequality between 1950 and today, it’s been not nearly so severe as between 1980 and today.”  This is correct, but he failed to explain why income inequality has been so severe since 1980.  In order to gain an accurate understanding of why income inequality (or lack of equality of opportunity) is a problem, it is essential to compare each of these time periods rather than lump them together in an attempt to distract people from realizing the truth.

There is a stark difference in how income gains in this country were distributed between those at the top and everyone else during these two time periods, which clearly impacted one’s ability to climb the economic ladder (ie., economic mobility).  As indicated in this interactive graph from the Economic Policy Institute, from 1950 to 1980 the bottom 90% of workers collectively shared two thirds of all income gains, while the top 10% took in the remaining third.  What about the period from 1980 to 2008?  As it turns out, the bottom 90% collectively shared only 2%, while the super rich, or top 1% took in two-thirds of all income gains!  This is the same percentage the bottom 90% previously shared when equality of opportunity was alive and well.

With so little income being available to the vast majority of workers in this country since 1980, no wonder the American dream is dead.  The rungs on the ladder of economic mobility have been deliberately broken over time to the point that most of the rungs are now completely missing!  Scott Winship even acknowledges as much by citing a statistic showing that if you happen to be born in the bottom fifth, there’s a 40% chance you will end up there as an adult, and only a 13% chance you can make it to the top two fifths.  Despite this admission, however, he stated, “contrary to what the left says, the evidence doesn’t clearly indicate that mobility has declined over time.”  Of course it has, especially since there is only a 5% chance this same poor person can make it to the top fifth.

Perhaps the reason he is in such denial has to do with the stated mission of his employer, rather than dealing with the reality of the devastating effects income inequality has on the vast majority of Americans.  The Manhattan Institute is a tax exempt, right-wing think tank with the stated mission of developing and disseminating ideas that enhance “economic choice” and “individual responsibility”.

These two “frames” conveniently allow Scott Winship, Paul Ryan, and other conservative politicians to focus their attention and our tax dollars on blaming the victim, and hence search for solutions that address this framed version of reality.  For instance, during the interview, Scott Winship was asked, “what policy ideas have you been considering with Paul Ryan?  His response was, “it’s really easy to reduce poverty if you just give cash to people but obviously, that causes people to work less.  It causes them to behave irresponsibly.”  That’s funny, because this is precisely what has happened in the opposite direction since Ronald Reagan took office in 1980 (e.g., welfare for the rich).

Scott Winship made it a point to mention that it’s necessary to raise taxes on the middle class in order to address poverty in this country, since he claims, “you can’t do what the left wants to do and continue to think that tax increases on the rich are going to get you there.” But, this is exactly how we got there in the past, as echoed by President Obama in a speech he gave recently, and is key to how we get there in the future.  It starts with reversing the devastating trend that has taken place since 1980, which involves giving cash to the super-rich (ie, tax cuts) at the expense of everyone else.  It’s important to point out that the main difference between the two periods mentioned earlier involves the tax rate on the top 1%.  In 1980, huge tax cuts were put in place by Ronald Reagan, dropping the tax rate on the top 1% from 70% to 28%, while doubling the tax rate on the vast majority of workers in order to pay for it.  This transfer of wealth has continued to the present day, such that in 2010, 93% of all income gains went to the top 1%.  This is truly startling and explains why the U.S. is no longer a country with equality of opportunity (ie., economic mobility), and instead is quickly becoming a third world country with escalating poverty rates, and accompanying social-ills.

What is Scott Winship’s advice to the GOP for resolving such issues?  Instead of increasing aid to those in desperate need as a result of this transfer of wealth, Scott Winship is embracing the Paul Ryan plan to drastically cut aid to the poor, voucherize medicare, cut social security benefits, increase the retirement age to 70, as well as cutting benefits to surviving spouses, and disabled children and veterans.  This key Scott Winship said, will be coming up with incentives “that are consistent with conservative values about personal responsibility and smaller government”.   Therefore, when viewed through the lens of these “frames”, it is impossible to see how immoral one’s actions have become.  Since Paul Ryan and Scott Winship are clearly operating under these frames, they are stuck trying to convince us that poor people are “irresponsible” and somehow to blame for their own poverty, rather than ‘seeing’ the reality that only 2% of income gains were available to share among 90% of the working population.  Unfortunately, this math makes it impossible for the average worker to make it to the top regardless of how hard one is willing to work, especially if they are born into poverty.

Rather than focusing their attention on increasing equality of opportunity for all, Scott Winship and Paul Ryan believe that providing people in desperate need with vouchers will not only magically “solve” our poverty epidemic, but it will make parents take “personal responsibility” by allowing them the “economic choice” of spending a limited sum (ie., voucher) that will run out in place of guaranteed assistance.  So, rather than rely on existing anti-poverty measures that are proven to be effective at reducing poverty, and leveling the playing field with progressive tax policies that will surely increase one’s chances of achieving the American dream, the GOP plan is to provide poor people with vouchers, since this approach fits the “frames” of the Manhattan Institute, and the GOP’s immoral approach to governing.

David Cay Johnston sheds light on two critical “frames” conservatives use to manipulate us: Government “Picking winners and losers” and a “Transfer of wealth.”

David Cay Johnston wrote an article entitled, “Taxed by the boss” where he discussed the implications of the more than 2,700 companies in the Unites States that are keeping the state income taxes they are collecting from hundreds of thousands of workers for themselves.  So, in case you were wondering why states are laying off teachers, firefighters, and police officers, among other drastic cuts to social services that affect millions of people’s lives throughout the country, look no further than the corporate socialism taking place, as pointed out by David Cay Johnston.

To make matter worse, big banks and businesses like Goldman Sachs, J.P Morgan, and Mitt Romney’s former company Bain Capital, are enriching themselves by a process known as “job piracy”, where one state diverts taxes in order to lure an employer from another state to relocate if they promise to create jobs.  The problem is that no jobs are ever created.  Instead, the money is transferred in an upward direction from workers to the corporate bosses in the top 1%, as indicated in the report by the taxpayer watchdog organization, Good Jobs First.  This report also discovered that “deals cut with states over the past two decades diverted $5.5 billion from public purposes to private gain.”  Talk about a transfer of wealth!!

Big businesses are getting away with diverting the taxes they collect from workers to enrich themselves because radical right-wing Governors like Chris Christie, who tops the list, has personally transferred a whopping $251.2 million from average workers to those in the “privileged sector”, who believe they are entitled to it!  No wonder why Chris Christie was being groomed for a spot in the Whitehouse.  He has done the most to enrich the privileged few at the expense of everyone else.  David Cay Johnston calculates that this transfer of wealth amounts to $80 per household in corporate welfare average families are spending to subsidize shareholders of the big banks and large corporations in the United States.

According to David Cay Johnston, “these deals typify corporate socialism, in which business gains are privatized and costs socialized. They also mean that Government picks winners and losers, interfering with competitive markets.” So, it turns out that radical right-wing Governors, in support of an ideology that advocates corporate socialism, are actively “picking winners and losers” (big business is always the winner) which amounts to a “transfer of wealth” from all of us (ie, workers) to a select few of them in the privileged sector (ie, CEO’s and shareholders).

Those of us who watch Fox news or listen to Glenn Beck, or some other radical right-wing talk show host are being framed to believe that Government is “picking winners and losers” in an attempt to benefit lazy people on welfare programs, which serves to create a society of dependency on Government.  Following this logic, believers of this frame are further inclined to believe that a “transfer of wealth” is occurring from the so-called successful people in the top 1% to those who are lazy and don’t want to work hard in order to carry out a socialistic agenda.

The problem with this logic and the rest of the radical right-wing frames is that the opposite of what they say is true!  In this case, Socialism is alive and well in America, as indicated by the Good Jobs First report and David Cay Johnston’s take on this issue.  However, the problem is that it’s only being applied to the top 1% instead of being used to benefit all of us!

The irony here is that the fear of socialism is being used to scare people away from supporting policies and programs that will benefit us all.  A prime example is the current ‘Budget for All being introduced by the progressive caucus in the House of Representatives.  This budget is more in line with our nation’s moral values, and will benefit all of us, as well as help prevent the abuses of power that lead to examples of corporate socialism mentioned above.

As expected, Allen West (R-FL), a conservative member of the tea party, initiated the latest socialism scare by telling people in a town hall recently that there are approximately 80 representatives in the House that are members of the communist party.  Although communism and socialism are not the same, they are used interchangeably as if they were in order to increase the fear effect, I presume, so people will not vote for it!

Unfortunately, if we continue to believe the conservative “frames”, we will never know the benefits that other nations currently enjoy, such as living longer, happier and healthier lives, not to mention being better educated, less stressed, depressed and anxious, as well as having the safety and security of knowing our family members will be taken care of if they get sick, or become disabled for any reason.  All of these benefits are not fantasy, but reflect the reality of countries that adopt moral budget priorities, and implement a system based on socialism for all, not a select few.

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