Pull The Democracy Dismantling TPP Out Of The Shadows & Into Public Scrutiny
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Tax Evaders is a national project involving artists, game designers, researchers, protest groups, grassroots organizations and concerned citizens.
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Economist Arthur Laffer is touted as a go-to source of wisdom by conservative think tanks and corporate lobby groups in Washington state like the Washington Policy Center, Evergreen Freedom Foundation, National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Association of Washington Business. But a recent report shows Laffer’s economic prescriptions are more likely to hurt than heal our economy.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index. Written by Arthur Laffer and others and published by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Rich States, Poor States embodies the policy agenda that ALEC pushes to state legislators: reduction or abolition of progressive taxes, fewer investments in education and other public services, a smaller social safety net, and weaker or non-existent unions. These are the policies, ALEC claims, that promote economic growth.
But a hard look at the actual data finds that the ALEC-Laffer recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies – the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks. That is, states that were rated higher on ALEC’s Economic Outlook Ranking in 2007, based on 15 “fiscal and regulatory policy variables,” have actually been doing worse economically in the years since, while the less a state conformed with ALEC policies the better off it was.
That is true whether the outcome is growth in jobs or growth in per capita or median income. There is virtually no relationship between the ALEC ranking and state Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Further examination of the predictive power of other key components of ALEC’s rankings (income tax rates, existence of an estate tax, overall tax levels, right-towork status) shows that none had a statistically significant effect on growth in state GDP, non-farm employment, or per capita income.
Further analysis finds that key ALEC-Laffer claims contradict longstanding peer-reviewed academic research on how state economies grow:
- ALEC-Laffer claim that lowering state and local taxes produces much greater job growth; in actuality, such taxes are such a tiny cost factor for businesses, and come with higher taxes on others or lower quality public services, that such a strategy fails (see Chapter 3).
- ALEC-Laffer claim that a low top personal income tax rate is a key to small business success; in actuality, property and sales taxes – ignored by ALEC-Laffer – are far more important issues (see Chapter 1).
- ALEC-Laffer claim that high top personal income tax rates and the presence of estate and inheritance taxes cause large-scale out-migration of high-income individuals; in reality, migration has little to do with taxes, and there is no plausible case for state estate taxes affecting job-creating investment (see Chapters 3 and 4).
- The ALEC report asserts that state tax rates in many instances approach “Laffer Curve” territory, where tax cuts would actually increase tax revenue; in reality, tax cuts reduce revenue and result in the defunding of public goods such as education and infrastructure, which really do matter for economic development (see Chapter 5).
- ALEC-Laffer claim that wage suppression policies (anti-union “right-to- work” laws and the lack of a state minimum wage law) lead to greater job creation and prosperity; in actuality, such laws reduce wages and benefits but have little to no effect on job growth (see Chapter 6).
Overall, Rich States, Poor States consistently ignores decades of published research, making broad, unsubstantiated claims and often using anecdotes or spurious two-factor correlations that fail to control for obviously relevant factors. Indeed, the report repeatedly engages in methodologically primitive analysis that any college student taking Statistics 101 would be taught to avoid.
Consensus academic research derives far more plausible explanations for recent differences in state results. For example, instead of ALEC’s extreme policy recommendations, the composition of a state’s economy – whether it has large or small shares of the nation’s fastest-growing industries – is a far better predictor of job and income growth.
The evidence cited to support Rich States, Poor States’ policy menu ranges from deeply flawed to nonexistent. Subjected to scrutiny, these policies are revealed to explain nothing about why some states have created more jobs or enjoyed higher income growth than others over the past five years.
In actuality, Rich States, Poor States provides a recipe for economic inequality, wage suppression, and stagnant incomes, and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are the true foundations of long term economic growth and shared prosperity.
Originally published at Washington Policy Watch.
By Mark Taylor-Canfield
(From Mark’s Syndicated Monthly Column – “Weapons of Mass Distraction”)
Thank you to the editors for allowing me to tell the truth without censorship! Here’s another of my honest efforts to do just that. I only hope this piece doesn’t get me into trouble with my own publishers at other websites and/or the folks who control social media networks.
let’s face it, in the land of the free and the brave the press has suffered from corporate media consolidation and lack of funding for alternative media. Witness the recent demise of the progressive national radio network Air America. Many of those broadcasters are still lamenting their lack of access to the national airwaves, so many of them have gone to the web and started their own shows, sometimes livestreaming from their own bedrooms or basements. Al Gore’s experiments in alternative news coverage went under and was purchased by Al Jazeera, prompting numerous outraged remarks by right-wing pundits who accuse the cable network of being disloyal to America.
Reality check: Reporters Without Borders ranks the US as 47th on the world press freedom index. This number represents a slip from 19th in previous years. According to RWB this drop in status is a result of the arrests of journalists at Occupy Wall Street protests. It is a well known fact among occupiers that live video streamers have been targeted, raided and arrested by police at major OWS events around the country, including demonstrations in New York City during the OWS anniversary, and in Chicago during protests at the NATO summit last year.
Although freedom of the press is protected by the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution, it appears that the “fourth estate” has been placed under duress while trying to report major political news stories.
The latest insult to press freedom is the story of Shannon McLeish, a journalist and broadcaster from Daytona Beach, Florida. In December 2012, Shannon says she found out through Freedom of Information Act documents that her name is included on a “terrorist watch list.” Except for Chris Hedge’s column @ Truthdig or my own article @ Truthout, this story is not being reported by the national media.
A recent guest on Shannon’s radio program was Noam Chompsky. (Disclaimer: I have also been a guest on “AIr Occupy”.) I found the broadcasting crew to be authentic, altruisitic advocate journalists trying to get at the truth about what’s happening around the world and in this nation. Recent shows featured guests who discussed fracking, attacks on the power of labor unions and the civil rights implications of the National Defense Authorization Act. According to Liz Myers, co-host of the “Air Occupy” program, Youtube deleted their channel after they did the program on the NDAA. Youtube claimed the program had “violated community standards” but apparently they presented no specific complaint.
Add to this information the fact that at least a few other US activists have had their Twitter accounts deleted, and some folks have been banned from posting on any Facebook sites besides their own. The irony of indy activists using corporate owned social media platforms is not lost on me. Try criticizing Facebook or Twitter and see how long it takes to attract their attention. These are profit motivated websites – commercial enterprises that do not necessarily support freedom of political expression. One man banned from Twitter claims his account was deleted after he tweeted a statement made by Indian non-violence advocate Mahatma Gandhi!
I came within a hair’s breadth of being banned from writing at Daily Kos after I wrote an article about Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Luckily, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas decided not to allow me to be ostracized by outraged Democratic Party readers. The Democrats reminded me that Daily Kos is a pro Democratic Party website that is not interested in articles about the Greens. Obviously many Democrats still see the Green Party as a threat to their vote counts and they still blame Ralph Nader for the election of George W. Bush. Of course the editors have the right to choose the topics on their website, but I must admit I felt I had been censored. I can no longer write about the Greens at Daily Kos without running the risk of banishment. The site which Time magazine readers voted as “2nd best blog” in the US is not a completely open forum for discussion.
Besides the fears of banishment and government surveillance, reporters also have to face the very real threat of legal retribution from social network sites if they are courageous enough to criticize their policies. Calling Facebook or twitter “undemocratic” will not win you the admiration or respect of the administrators or owners. I will admit that I am very careful what I post these days. I was banned by Facebook from posting anywhere but on my own website for two months allegedly due to “spamming” activity. The truth is, I posted many political articles on sites around the world which are dedicated to politics and activism. I have never tried to recruit anyone for a campaign; I have never offered anything for sale; I have never endorsed any commercial enterprise.
And now, in an ironic turn of events, I may qualify as a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed against Facebook. The suit claims that FB included user’s posts and photographs in their ads without permission from the authors and photographers. By the way, Facebook completely denies this claim.
I take these issues very seriously because last year I won a major federal class action lawsuit against the Washington State Patrol after I was illegally detained and banned from covering protests at the state capitol in Olympia. Federal District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan ruled in my favor. According to his decision, the WSP had violated my freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Now I am corresponding with Reporters Without Borders, the Committee To Protect Journalists, and the Society For Professional Journalism. My task – document these abuses!
To me it really comes down to a simple question: “Should US journalists be proud and satisfied with their status in society at this time?” As I have stated in my article at Truthout, these restrictions (along with the perceived harassment and threats) has silenced some editors, publishers, producers and reporters who are now afraid to cover controversial stories. I maintain that the result is self-censorship from folks who don’t want to lose their jobs or find their names on a government watch list.
Just a reminder – my favorite journalists Greg Palast, Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges have been forced to give up lucrative positions at major US media corporations in order to report the truth without restrictions. Palast now does investigative journalism for the BBC and Greenwald writes for the UK Guardian. It’s amazing that we still have a few strong independent voices left in this country – Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, Aaron Glantz and Arun Gupta, Matt Taibbi to name a few who deserve our praise for standing up against the establishment at a time when doing so could be very detrimental to both your psychological and financial health…
His Op-ed @ Truthout – Press freedom?
Mark’s Testimony Before The FCC – Effects of Corporate Media Consolidation
Mark’s Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit
The minister at my local Unitarian Universalist church said in a sermon that left-leaning folks should stop calling gun-rights advocates names such as “gun nut” and “moron.” She said that it sure is tempting to insult them, but it’s counter-productive.
Her words got me thinking.
After the sermon, I asked her about it. I said, during the civil rights movement of the 60s, didn’t protesters call their opponents names like “racist” and “bigot”? She said that during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s progress came from non-violent protest, not from name calling. Check your history, she said.
I discussed this issue with friends. One friend said, “I think name-calling is absurd unless your intention is to piss someone off. I think pissing someone off is absurd unless your intention is to escalate a conflict. I am a big fan of nonviolence.”
Another friend said
She’s right about the name calling being not productive. Still, when someone is stockpiling weapons to prepare for some apocalyptic event, or defend themselves against government tyranny or the UN, it’s kind of hard to pretend they are rational people with a legitimate point of view. I usually refer to them as “gun fetishists”, “paranoid”, and “delusional”. Sigh, I guess I will try to stick with terms like “gun enthusiasts” and “survivalists”.
Yet another friend said we should take the term “gun nut” seriously and treat these people as if they have a mental illness. We shouldn’t provoke them by calling them names. I responded, “Good idea! Let’s visibly and vocally treat them as deranged. That’ll really annoy them and make them look ridiculous. We can write condescending articles.”
Finally, Bill Moyer warned me that name-calling can backfire and generate sympathy for the target.
Is the minister correct about history of the civil rights movement? Are the minister and my friends correct about name calling being counter-productive? Moreover, are gun nuts really nuts?
Let’s start with the last question.
The psychology of gun obession
Are gun enthusiasts REALLY mentally deranged? It depends on which ones we’re talking about. Some gun owners are just hobbyists.
Who are the gun nuts? I’m referring to gun enthusiasts who collect weapons and who oppose restrictions on assault rifles, waiting periods, and ammunition. I’m referring to gun enthusiasts who imagine waging war against the US military. I’m referring to gun enthusiasts who treat the Second Amendment as if it’s foundational to our freedoms and a justification for easy access to assault-style weapons.
Back now to my question. Are gun nuts REALLY deranged? Well, are skinheads or the Taliban deranged? I rather think they’re just wrong-headed. They’re caught up in a toxic ideology. They may be somewhat paranoid and aggressive. I doubt that most of them are paranoid schizophrenic. Is the psychology of political zealotry akin to the psychology of religious extremism? Such extremism is different from individual psychosis. I bet, though, it shares some features.
I’ve heard gun nuts called gundamentalists. The name is apt, because to outsiders their obsessive devotion to an unreasonable ideology seems odd and extreme.
A psychologist friend said that gun obsession is “more likely a mood or anxiety disorder than a thought disorder like schizophrenia.”
There’s a huge range of ways that people can be stupid or mad, especially in crowds.
The best analysis of the psychology of gun enthusiasts I know of is by Peter Michaelson. In The Psychology Behind Mass Shootings, Michaelson describes the paranoia and violence of mass murderers. His description gives insight into the psychology of gun fetishes.
Negative emotions accumulate inside them, producing bitterness, anger, despair, and, finally, rage. Their rage, even when hidden from others, produces a third-rate sense of power that covers up their emotional entanglement in hopelessness and passivity. They crave power because they feel so powerless, yet in their dark negativity they can express only negative, destructive power. They seek death because they feel so powerfully overwhelmed by life.
Because their weak self-regulation compels them to continually recycle negative emotions, they hold on to grudges. These grudges and grievances accumulate in them, giving them a feeling of substance, a place of being to which they cling in the chaos of their inner conflict.
In a later, even more incisive analysis, The Double Barrels of Gun Mania, Michaelson says that guns “provide two psychological defenses–the double barrels of self-defeat–that make their ownership so desirable. One barrel discharges the illusion of safety and the other the illusion of power. Why do so many gun owners grasp at these illusions or inner defenses?” He goes on
Such gun enthusiasts are unconsciously determined to validate their inner fears. Rather than resolve the inner conflict that produces their fears, they make them seem legitimate by emphasizing emotionally the dangers and menace that might exist in their towns, neighborhoods, and workplaces.
Guns don’t represent true power. If America were taken over by an immoral force–a financial elite, for instance, that bought off and corrupted our politicians–gun enthusiasts would be standing around casually, blithely ignorant of non-violent dangers, fondling their weapons only for the defense of their self-image.
Hold onto that image of gun lovers fondling their guns. Michaelson concludes:
This nation’s preoccupation with guns is not so much fear-based as passivity-based. We don’t connect well enough with our better self and the higher values of integrity, courage, wisdom, and compassion. On an inner level, many people allow their inner critic to be the master of their personality and to pass judgment on their worthiness. Inwardly, they’re emotionally weak and defensive, familiar with feeling helpless and overwhelmed, yet desperate to exhibit some pretense of assurance and power.
This is neurosis, not mental illness. A neurotic person is prone to being negative, defensive, fearful, anxious, and reactionary. Too many gun advocates are seeing the world through their neurosis. In many families, it’s often the most dysfunctional or neurotic individuals who set the tone for the family and hold sway over it. Only determined intervention by healthier members of the family can save the situation. The American family needs our intervention in many areas of national life, beginning with the enactment and enforcement of wise gun regulation.
Another consideration is the insanity defense: if we said that gun nuts really are insane, we’d presumably have to resolve them of responsibility for the ill effects of their obsessions. But I don’t think we want to take that step. Gun nuts need to be held accountability for the irrationality and harmfulness of their obsessive devotion to guns.
On bad ass name-calling
So, since gun nuts are just neurotic blockheads, they’re fair game for name-calling. But if they were truly deranged (psychotic) then, yes, we should medicate and hospitalize them. The problem is that there’s a huge range in the middle.
In general, I think we progressives emasculate ourselves and fail to take advantage when we have a leg-up on a situation. We’re inappropriately passive, in view of the viciousness of our political enemies.
Consider how effectively right wingers eviscerated liberals like Mike Dukakis and Jimmy Carter, and how they Swift-Boated John Kerry.
Consider how Rush Limbaugh successfully badmouthed liberals to the point that we now call ourselves “progressives.”
And it was all based on lies and distortions. We’re correct about these gun nuts, and yet we’re still are hesitant to call a spade a spade — or a nut a nut.
Why is it that conservatives’ criticisms, slanders, and insults stick, but when we go on the attack, our words bounce off or revert back onto us? Their arrows hit the mark. Ours bounce off. They win, we lose.
Consider how much damage our ideological opponents did to the nation and the world.
They start senseless wars, sell off the US Treasury to crooks, threaten the world ecosystem, enable massacre of helpless children, turn the country into a police state — and we’re not allowed to call them names, because we might hurt their feelings?
In 2008, when Bush and the Republicans were at the nadir of their popularity, it seemed possible that the Republican Party and their crazy, destructive ideologies would be out of favor for years to come. Instead, Obama’s bipartisanship helped revive them, and the Tea Party went on to win the 2010 midterm elections. What a disaster!
We progressives need to get some balls! We need to stand up for ourselves, not in a paranoid way, but in a self-assertive realistic way.
I’m not calling on us to attack our opponents with violence and guns. I’m calling on us to loudly and clearly speak truth to power and violence. There’s a risk that we’ll demonize them and become oppressors ourselves. But there’s also a risk that we fail, due to passivity, to stand up for what’s good and reasonable.
I’m also not calling on us to just use name calling. To be effective, you have to first present a reasoned argument why someone’s ideas are bad or silly. Then, if they persist in holding them and if the ideas are harmful, call them names. We call someone who’s very smart “a genius.” We call someone who’s very dumb “stupid.” Why not use the label if it fits?
Gun nuts’ paranoia and unreasonableness threaten our safety. They are allied with some pretty unsavory people — gun manufacturers, for example.
Let’s everybody carry a gun — to work, to school, and to shopping — then we’ll all be safer, right?
Right wing policies threaten our economic and environmental well-being and the safety of people throughout the world.
The Canberra Times published a copyrighted cartoon by Pope showing gun lovers in a playground taking care of their guns as if they were children. “You don’t realize how precious they are ’til someone tries to take them away…” one guys says as he cuddles his gun in a blanket.
See this link for more images about gun nuts and their stupidities.
I bet gun nuts sleep with their guns. They fondle their guns and make love to the barrels with their tiny dicks. lol. No wonder they’re called “gun lovers.” He he he he! See this video by Bill Maher for some more ridicule of gun nuts: The Home of the Brave. Guns seem to be phallic fetishes that compensate for inner weakness and rage. As Bill Maher says, both gun nuts and the Pentagon have too many guns and want even more. The obsession with violence, militarism and guns seems endemic to America’s ideology of exceptionalism and aggressive individualism.
We need a multi-pronged attack on conservatives, utilizing almost all weapons in our arsenal, including logic, shaming, humor and insult, but excluding violence and guns. The aim is to repudiate their ideas in the marketplace of public opinion and to “disarm” them by showing that their ideologies are based on unhealthy emotions and attitudes.
I plan to do more research about topics brought up in this article.
There are actually significant, interesting issues here, about the psychology of mass movements, mechanisms of political change, and methods of marketing and propaganda.
Addendum: I’ve been looking for articles concerning the topic of political name calling. Despite the promising name Does Name-Calling Politics Improve Your Argument? doesn’t give useful arguments, in my opinion.
If ever an industry needed good PR, it’s coal.
The industry can’t hope to promote its own coal export schemes in the Northwest so instead it buys support from local consulting and PR firms willing to do coal’s dirty work. By taking money from Big Coal, these firms—many of which have carefully groomed reputations for sustainability and public-interest work—have themselves become a part of the coal industry.
Most of these firms might rather not have the public know about the work they do, with the blinds pulled down, on behalf of out-of-state coal giants. After all, their livelihoods depend on appealing to green-minded governments, nonprofits, and businesses in the Northwest. So as an exercise in letting in the sunlight—and as a sort of caveat emptor for clients—here is a look at the Northwest’s homegrown coal industry.
The world’s largest independent PR firm, Edelman operates with a dizzying hypocrisy that is on bold display in its Seattle office. Although CEO Richard Edelman says publicly: “I do not subscribe to the use of front groups to cover up the true intent of a client,” the firm is in fact the shadowy force behind the newly constituted front group Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports (ANJE). The Seattlepi.com calls ANJE an “astroturf” group for its work supporting the proposal to ship 48 million tons of coal each year from Cherry Point.
Edelman has a well-documented history of astroturf activities and although its name is mentioned nowhere on ANJE’s glossy website, multiple news agencies (here and here) report that the firm manages the group. In fact, Edelman vice-president Lauri Hennessey identifies herself in public—and is routinely cited in the media—as a spokesperson for ANJE (here, here, here, and here). (Hennessey also runs her own PR firm—Hennessey Communications—where she touts her environmental values.)
Seattle-based Berk Consulting takes coal money. The firm produced a economic analysis for Millennium Bulk Terminals, the company that wants to ship 44 million tons of coal annually from a site on the Columbia River. Opponents have disputed the Berk study, arguing that it fails to consider traffic impacts and economic costs, both public and private.
With offices in Seattle and Washington, DC, Nyhus Communications features a website with rotating photos of renewable energy projects and green hero Van Jones. Yet Nyhus also carries water for coal interests, working with Arch Coal (p73) to promote coal shipments from Longview. Nyhus is also actively involved with Move Forward Washington, a newly minted group that emphasizes coal among other exports. (One founding member of the group is Millennium Bulk Terminals.)
Gallatin Public Affairs
Gallatin is a natural fit with the coal industry. The firm has a history of pushing through controversial projects, including Monsanto’s Blackfoot Bridge phosphate mine and Formation Metals’ Cobalt Mine proposal. So it’s no surprise that Gallatin has gone to work for Millenium Bulk Terminals’ coal project in Longview, Washington.
The most troubling dimension to Gallatin’s role may be partner Bruce Gryniewiski. He’s the former head of Washington Conservation Voters and a current board member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway. He says that he joined Gallatin to “win support for even the most controversial projects.”
He’s trying to do just that. Gryniewiski is the prime mover in Gallatin’s efforts to put 44 million tons of coal on the Columbia River each year to be burned at power plants in Asia. He is listed as lobbyist and also as a spokesperson for the coal company.
A Portland-based economic consulting firm, ECONorthwest has a long history of work supporting conservation, so many were surprised to learn the firm took money from Ambre Energy to produce an economic impact analysis. ECONorthwest’s analysis has become a key piece of support for the Morrow Pacific Project, a complicated scheme to move as much as 8 million tons of coal annually in barges on the Columbia River for onward shipment to coal plants in Asia.
Headquartered in Portland, Gard Communications is the public face for Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific Project. The firm produces a range of publicity materials and president Brian Gard himself appears to be acting as Ambre’s press flak for the project. Gard has the distinction of being the only Northwest consulting firm so far to attract attention for its coal work when several Portland groups protested it.
Headquartered in Seattle, the Strategies 360 consulting group has done some worthy environmental work in the past, even sponsoring Ecotrust‘s annual leadership award in 2011. Less well known is the firm’s work in the coal industry. Matt Steuerwalt, former climate and energy adviser to Gov. Gregoire, was the lead lobbyist for RailAmerica’s plan to ship 5 million tons of coal from Gray’s Harbor to Asian power plants. After months of delay and confusion, the plan collapsed.
Drawing a line in the sky.
Climate activist Bill McKibben makes a forceful case for divestment—removing fossil fuel companies from big institutional portfolios, helping to starve them of the cash they require to continue damaging the global climate.
Yet divestment need not be all about multinational fossil fuel corporations. It could take the form of withholding support from the consultants and publicists who act as the Northwest front for coal exports. What if Portland State University stopped working with Gard Communications? What if Forterra backed away from Nyhus? What if the Seattle Parks Department severed ties with Berk, and King County fired ECONorthwest?
Imagine a Northwest where local governments, nonprofits, and farsighted corporations drew a sort of line in the sky, refusing to do business with the coal industry—including its local agents. Losing even a client or two might be enough to induce more local firms to refuse coal money. Denied Northwest connections and credible local advocates, the hugely destructive export plans would have more difficulty gaining traction in a region that has long prided itself on its growing clean-energy economy. Perhaps this form of divestment could speed the day when all of Cascadia says “no” to a dirty, climate-wrecking fuel whose highest and best use is to hold up the ground in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.
If you are concerned about the proposed coal trains coming through our city and region, you are invited to help create overpass light brigade-style signs to let more people know about the Seattle public hearing on Dec. 13. The Backbone Campaign is generously providing expertise as well as some materials. We’ll be creating signs over two evenings, so please join us* on one or both nights.
Monday, Nov. 26 from 5:30-7:30 (THIS coming Monday!)
Southwest Branch Library (9010 35th Ave SW; 98126)
We’ll make 2 signs:
“COAL = POISON”
“COAL HEARING DEC. 13” (We’ll project them over I-5 before the hearings, sign-up to help hold signs!)
Here’s a description on the process of this type of sign-making:
These signs are effective — and expensive. If you want to make a financial contribution to this project, please make a donation to the Backbone Campaign to help cover the costs of supplies. Note the category “Light/Projector/ Tactical tools”. You can also send checks to:
PO BOX 278
Vashon, WA 98070
The Backbone Campaign is a 501(c)3 nonprofit public charity, so all contributions are tax-deductible.
I’m reading Thomas Frank’s Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right. Great book! Depressing.
It tells the vivid story of how right wingers were able to quickly recover from the disasters of the Bush Administration and to reinvent themselves by 2010 as the saviors of the middle class. In short, Republicons had crashed the economy and corrupted and bankrupted government, but they were able to lay the blame on Democrats, who got a shellacking in the 2010 midterm elections.
Frank’s book inspired me to summarize the Republicon con game.
The entire conservative movement is based on a brilliant con scheme. Conservatives corrupt, mismanage, and bankrupt government, enriching themselves and their friends with public funds. Then they blame Democrats and Big Government for the resulting mess — for example, for the sub-prime crash and subsequent bailouts. They can get away with it because they have enough money and control of media to market their lies and to convince low information voters to vote against their own self-interest. Their analysis contains a germ of truth: government is corrupt — yeah, it’s corrupt because Republicans and their conservative Democratic allies made it so and do everything in their power to keep it that way.
The Republicons are masters of propaganda. They construct vivid, compelling alternate universes, populated by imaginary demons who must be battled to the death. Frank shows in detail how right wing agitators such as Glenn Beck portray Obama and government as eager to take away peoples’ rights. According to them, average Americans are the victims of these faceless bureaucrats and left wing ideologues who are intent on destroying everything that made America great. In particular, if only America returned to a truly free market, unencumbered by taxes and regulation, then true freedom and prosperity would return. It was government regulations and bailouts that caused the sub-prime crash, according to this narrative, just at was FDR’s New Deal that (allegedly) worsened the Depression.
The right wingers have explicitly adopted the vocabulary, images and methods of leftist radicals, to pretend to be the saviors of the People. The victims who deserve sympathy and protection are the entrepreneurs and capitalists who create jobs. Leftists are the ones who are out to take away your money and give it away undeserving, lazy people and corrupt corporations. The Tea Party patriots and their Republican allies will save America from Big Government and the Left who are socialist or fascist, or both. Socialized medicine is the biggest bugaboo for the Right, though the health care plan that Obama settled on was close to the one that the Heritage Institute had earlier proposed and that Mitt Romney implemented in Massachusetts.
This upside-down narrative is a pile of steaming crap, but they make it just believable enough that lots of low information voters buy into it. The Republicons are so good at acting outraged. They’ve convinced tens of millions of Americans that their imagined worlds are real. Even when their ideas lead to disaster, they are able to blame their ideological opponents.
And if the GOP are unable to convince enough voters to believe their narrative, well, then they just steal elections.
The Democrats have not done a good job at holding them accountable or refuting the propaganda.
Which is why the failure of the Obama Administration and the Democratic leadership to prosecute Bush Administration crimes doomed the Democrats to ineffectiveness. Progressives were correct to be so concerned about impeachment. Failing to prosecute meant failing to expose the truth and failing to educate the public about who’s to blame. It set the stage for the GOP revival. Looking forward meant looking forward to GOP control of the House in 2011 — and possibly of the White House in 2013.
By 2008, the GOP leviathan had been severely wounded. It was brought back to health by the Democrats’ “bipartisanship.”
So much for being nice.
Perhaps we need to recruit the power of Hollywood and entertainers and poets and novelists to market our version of reality — the realer version! Eventually, reality will win — for example, with climate change. But the sooner the better. (I’ve considered building a Museum of Accountability.)
I think there are five pillars enabling the Republicons to get away with their con game:
- Money (the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, Koch brothers, corporate funding of elections, revolving door in D.C., concentration of wealth, drowning Uncle Sam in a bathtub of debt)
- Media and marketing (Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the Wall Street Journal, think tanks)
- Alliance with social conservatives (abortion, gay marriage, guns, etc)
- Organization and motivation (millions of right wing shock troops are passionate about working for the cause)
- Willingness to lie, steal, and bully.
Perhaps one can add a sixth pillar: the stupidity and ignorance of the average voter.
And a seventh pillar: the ineffectiveness and disorganization of the “liberal class” as a counterweight to the Republicons. Too many Democrats are compromised by money. Labor unions are weakened. And universities and the media are bought out.
It’s gonna take many years to fix.
I want to concentrate on marketing our version of reality (item #2 above). This will chip away also at items #3 and #4. Liberal religious folks should directly target #3 by showing how Republicon policies are inconsistent with basic tenets of morality.