Bootstraps Are The Keys To Freedom, Opportunity And Security

red boots“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of the anniversary of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King's birth, we are dusting off and updating this post to remind everyone why we can never give up fighting to win the war against the working poor in this country.

With corporate profits soaring to all-time highs, and wages at all-time lows, talking about why this matters is critical to righting our economy. And how we talk about it will determine if our words will resonate or fall on deaf ears.

Conservatives place a high priority on the values of discipline and self-reliance. For this reason, they are quicker to defend the wealthy CEO over the working poor. The wealthy CEO “worked hard” and therefore deserves his vast riches no matter the relative size or the effect on society. If the poor working-class man had worked as hard as the wealthy CEO, surely he would be a wealthy CEO himself ... or so they believe.

These are not values that Progressives will ever be able to change; they are hard-wired into the psyche of the Conservative thinker and are as matter-of-fact to the person holding those values as the Progressive values of community and shared sacrifice.

Because Conservatives hold these values so strongly, they have designed their political policies such that big corporations and the wealthy CEOs who run them are richly rewarded and the working poor are not. The fact that this causes “inequality” is of no importance to them because they believe that’s just how life is.

But the problem here isn’t that these Conservative values are wrong, because they really aren't — discipline and self-reliance are good things to have. The problem is that the disciplined hard-worker and the government-reliant undeserving are not who the right says they are. If we ever hope to get a Conservative thinker — which many independent, or “persuadable” voters are — to see that, the way we talk about who the real hard-workers are, is going to have to fit within to those Conservative values.

The good news is, we can do that!

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The Patient Protection Act Rollout Is Being Intentionally Sabotaged By Republicans

 

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The media have been buzzing with stories — many of them wildly exaggerated — of people facing higher premiums as a result of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But there’s a story about rates you may not have heard: According to Jonathan Gruber, a leading health care wonk at MIT, all private insurance premiums in the 25 red states that are refusing to expand their Medicaid programs will be 15 percent higher as a direct result of that decision.

But those numbers don’t capture the human cost. The reality is that conservatives are complaining about insurance policies being cancelled and the ACA’s error-plagued exchanges at the same time as they actively work to keep millions of poor Americans from gaining coverage under the law’s Medicaid expansion.

The victims of The Patient Protection Act’s implementation problems being hit the hardest, by far, are those whose incomes fall between the federal poverty line and the eligibility cutoffs in those 25 states rejecting Medicaid expansion. Not only will they be left uncovered, they won’t even be eligible for the generous subsidies that people earning slightly more than they do can use to buy insurance. It’s brutally unfair. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 4.8 million poor adults may fall into that coverage gap — about twice the number of people expected to pay more for their insurance when their substandard policies are cancelled.

And it gets worse. In 40 states, adults without children are ineligible for Medicaid regardless of their income level. In 30 states, the parents of children who qualify for Medicaid may not be eligible themselves. All of these people would be covered under Medicaid’s expansion, but they’re being left high and dry in the 25 states who have rejected expansion. And while the problems plaguing healthcare.gov result from mismanagement and a contracting boondoggle, those red state lawmakers who refuse to expand Medicaid are inflicting this harm intentionally, based solely on their [alleged] ideology.

In other words, they’re actively working to maintain America’s shamefully high rate of uninsured. And that comes with deadly consequences. Because, in this country, we do ‘let 'em die’ – we let the poor and the uninsured die from treatable illnesses every day.

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Reframing And Reclaiming The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act

Winning Words on Health care Reform and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: 

In this edition of The Winning Words Project, we focus on how to reframe and control the conversation around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which is now the law of the land. It's not about government, taxes, penalties or a website — it's about patients. Focus on people. Here's how to take Republican talking points away from them by pivoting to the Patient Protection part of the PPACA. 

In 2009, when polls consistently showed the majority of Americans wanted reform in our health care model, Republicans feared President Obama's reforms to health care would pass Congress with support of the majority of the country. In an effort to prevent the president from achieving any success during his term, they turned to their go-to word-master, Frank Lunz.

Luntz, known for his "Say This, Not That" and "Never say/Instead say"-style handbooks, which are distributed throughout the Republican party, saw from his focus groups that it would be impossible to fight against the many improvements that people saw as much-needed benefits in the then-pending Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

So his advice to communication strategists within the Republican party was to tell Republicans to lie—to loudly and repeatedly shout about an imaginary "government takeover."

Flash forward to today. The constitutionality of the Patient Protection Act has been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, yet Republicans are still stuck in repeal mode, lying about the law, and pretending that the website is the law, when the website is just the website, not the law itself.

Dave Weigel of Slate noted last year that Republicans have reprised Lunz's dishonest script from 2009. 

Luntz:

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4 Reasons You Should Embrace The Language Of An 'Economy For Everyone'

embrace.pngGrowing 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. 

  • An Economy for Everyone ensures we all benefit, not just the affluent

The term "economic growth" is a right wing frame designed to convince us that we should focus our attention on the overall economy, thereby taking our focus away from growing our own families' income.  It's designed to mislead us into believing that we all benefit when things like GDP grows, or the stock market goes up.  We've been conditioned to cheer those kinds of "economic indicators," even though their measure has little to no benefit to the average working family.

GDP per capita is not a measurement of the standard of living in an economy; however, it is often used as such an indicator, on the rationale that all citizens would benefit from their country's increased economic production. Similarly, GDP per capita is not a measure of personal income. GDP may increase while real incomes for the majority decline. ~ Wikipedia

Once we've been convinced of the need to grow our economy, the next step is to convince us that the best way to achieve this is to give wealthy people more tax breaks. But the wordsmiths know you will object to giving rich people breaks, so they re-framed it as "tax relief" to make you feel that the privileged folks are the ones who are suffering and need relief.  Since the government can't operate without income, the actual burden ends up falling significantly harder on us.  In the end, we pay more in taxes, so the wealthy can pay less!  

A recent study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) does a great job at exposing both right wing frames: "economic growth," and "tax relief."  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 than 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. 

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The New Republican Party: Plus Ça Change ...

oldelephant.pngIs this the new Republican Party, fearlessly transforming itself after failing to roust the Muslim Marxist Mau Mau Marauder and losing seats in both houses of Congress?   Is this the GOP’s painful soul-searching in the face of its accelerating demographic march into national irrelevancy?

Really?

Is this all they got?

Meet the members of the new old Republican Party»

View as a single page »

 

 

 

 

 

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Michael Takiff is the author of "A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him," published by Yale University Press. His writing has appeared on the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as in The Nation and Salon. We are grateful that he has generously allowed us to publish his work here, as well. Find other articles by Michael at The Winning Words Project here. 

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A Look Back At One Of Abe Lincoln's State Of The Union Addresses

lincoln.pngThe severity of our nation's divisions is most visible in how they have manifest in the gaping distance between the wealthy elite whose income is derived from capital investment, and the average worker whose income is derived from the investment of their labor.

The speech President Obama will give tonight about the State of the Union is being billed as devoted to the Economy and a "Rising, Thriving Middle Class." Given this focus, it seems apt to look back at the State of the Union Address given by then-President Lincoln in December 1861.

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What We Want Is What We've Earned

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Governor Chris Christie thinks Bruce Springstein "feels guilty that he has so much money, and he thinks it's all a zero-sum game: In order to get poor people more money, it has to be taken away from the rich."

In a country where worker productivity has been on the constant rise for decades, but compensation for their work has stagnated (or gone down relative to the cost of living), the notion that anyone wants to "take" anything from the rich is stunningly wrong. I can't imagine how much anger one must be harboring to frame a quest for fair compensation for increased productivity as "taking" instead of what it is: earning.

A prominent governor in the wealthiest country in the world should not be denigrating poor people by positioning them as "takers" and not human beings who happen to be in a different station in life than he's fortunate enough to be in, and who deserve to be spoken of and lobbied for with as much dignity and respect as anyone else in this country.

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The New Republican Party: Plus Ça Change ...

oldelephant.pngIs this the new Republican Party, fearlessly transforming itself after failing to roust the Muslim Marxist Mau Mau Marauder and losing seats in both houses of Congress?   Is this the GOP’s painful soul-searching in the face of its accelerating demographic march into national irrelevancy?

Really?

Is this all they got?

*          *          *

Speaking in Charlotte to the Republican National Committee, Lousiana Gov. and presumed presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal issued a clarion call: “We must stop being the stupid party,” he proclaimed.

Upon deplaning in Baton Rouge the next morning he vowed to seek repeal of the bill that allows state funds to go toward teaching Louisiana children that once upon a time cavemen played fetch with dinosaurs, some of whom may have been fire-breathing dragons.  “What the heck was I thinking when I signed that stupid thing?” he wondered aloud.  After lunch he appointed a blue-ribbon commission to study the danger posed to the Louisiana coastline by manmade climate change. “Boy,” he said, “would it be stupid to ignore 99 percent of the world’s scientists or what?”

(Note to The Washington Post and Breitbart: The preceding paragraph is made up.)

Jindal actually went on to say in Charlotte that Republicans had to knock it off with the “offensive and bizarre comments.” And then, “We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. ... We have to stop dumbing down our ideas ...”  This after suggesting that most of the federal government could be replaced by “a handful of good websites.”

Not as “offensive and bizarre” as last year’s Todd Akin-Richard Mourdock traveling war-on-women freak show, but dumbed-down?  And really, truly, deeply stupid?  Oh, yeah.  Soon he’ll be forgetting the third federal department he wants to fling upon the ash heap of history.

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How Republicans Are Getting It Disastrously Wrong: It's The Message, Not The Messaging

whispering.jpgFor decades Democrats struggled to get their policy positions across against the superior messaging strategies of the GOP, who were masters at mind manipulation through focus-group-tested words and phrases steeped with moral resonance. This finely-honed skill-set has won them elections based on people's enthusiasm over the notion that they could be the recipients of "trickle down economics" from the rich; their fear of so-called "Death Panels"; their loathing of dreaded "Death Taxes"; and their anger over their alleged "Right to Work."

With massive resources built up over many years, GOP Strategist Frank Luntz has long been the party's go-to guy for their universally-used talking points. The fact that they pretty much have one guy to whom they turn for their "winning words," and that they are disciplined enough as a party to fall in line behind the use of specific catch phrases, has kept them head-and-shoulders above Democrats who have often been described as akin to "herding cats" when it comes to staying on message.

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Lincoln Warned Us Not To Surrender Our Political Power To Corporations

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While the nation's eye is turned to Washington as they move the fight over honoring our promise to pay the debt we have already incurred to yet another day, and with Republicans attempting to tie this obligation to gutting Survival Security programs, we are losing sight of the fact that our debt isn't really our biggest problem in this country; it is merely a symptom. Our lack of will to stand up for average Americans’ right to thriving wages with the same ferocity we fight for the one percent's ability to reap their billions is what has not only created a significant portion of our debt, but is the moral failing that will eventually destroy our economy — and perhaps even our nation — once and for all.

"Let them [who labor] beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, 'til all of liberty shall be lost."

These words of warning were issued by Abraham Lincoln in his Annual Message to Congress on Dec. 3, 1861, but could just as easily have been spoken 33 years ago in cautioning against Reagan’s supply-side “voodoo” economics; a policy that would go on to concentrate all of America’s future earnings into the bank accounts of the elite one percent, rendering average Americans powerless in their struggle for economic advancement.

Or they could have been uttered 19 years ago, cautioning against electing a Republican Congress that would not allow workers an increase in minimum wages for two ten-year stretches (1981–1990 and 1997–2007), during which their advancement was, for all practical purposes, impossible.

Or perhaps 15 years ago, cautioning against electing yet another Republican-controlled Congress; one that would force the repeal of the Glass-Steagall safeguards for our savings and investments, leaving us vulnerable to the catastrophic loss of our personal wealth at the hands of Wall Street “banksters.”

At each of these times, we had an opportunity to deny political power to those who continued to “fix new disabilities and burdens upon” us or surrender our own political power to them. And each time, we chose surrender.

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