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How to explain in five minutes or less what happens when the rich get tax cuts

December 18, 2017 at 8:58 am

A political cartoon and a parody of the second scene of Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode with politicians playing the main parts. A wealthy couple is having breakfast in a richly decorated room, the morning after a card party. (Wellcome Images/Wikimedia)

The corporate special interest group spin is that the rich will spend more if only we give them more in the form of tax cuts.

If people buy this story, then they think they’re doing the right thing by giving rich people tax cuts. That is, it doesn’t even matter if all of the benefits of the GOP tax bill are geared toward America’s wealthiest, because the wealthy will use this money to “create” more jobs as they say.

This is why it’s important to have a simple story about what really happens when the rich get tax cuts. Here’s how to explain in a way that makes it easy for people to understand in five minutes.

How corporate special interests socialize costs: moral hazard

November 26, 2017 at 10:43 am

One of the ways corporate special interest propaganda works is by framing reality so there are only two choices: one good, one bad.

The most common frame used is capitalism vs. socialism. The right is framed as a bunch of wonderful superhuman capitalists out to make the world better through their endless pursuit of profit over everything else. Meanwhile, the “left” is described as a bunch of horrible Venezuelan socialists destined to bring ruin to all of America with their irresponsibility and laziness.

Sadly, all too often we fall for this framing trap and find ourselves in the weak position corporate special interests want us to be in: fighting for something that a majority of people in the United States see as morally wrong.

One way to break out of this trap is to fight a different battle, to reframe the world as democracy vs. oligarchy. I’ve written before about how to make a strong argument for democracy as key to a vital economy.

Another way to do this is to talk about what it is that corporate special interests and the wealthy in our country really want: To privatize the profits while socializing all the costs and risk.

Seven ways the wealthy raise taxes on the 99 percent after cutting them for themselves

November 2, 2017 at 10:53 pm

One of the biggest lies told by conservative pundits is that one-half of Americans pay no taxes.

Conservatives like to throw around numbers, like the top 1 percent of wage earners will pay 45.7 percent of federal income taxes (from a 2014 report). This only tells a small part of the story.

For example, income tax accounts for less than one-half of federal taxes, and only one-fifth of taxes at all levels of government. Or that the top 1 percent receive 21 percent of total income.

What they also don’t tell you is that the 80 percent of taxes that aren’t income taxes tend to fall heavily on the the poor and middle class.

When you give massive tax cuts to the rich, as Donald Trump’s new tax plan proposes, what this means is that revenues will fall at the federal level. The federal government then cuts money to state governments, who cut money to local governments, who cut services and shift the costs onto the 99 percent.

What this strategy does is privatize profits for the wealthy, create stock bubbles, and push costs down to everyone else at the state, local, and individual level.

Here’s some of the regressive taxes that the 99 percent pay most of—and that are likely to increase if we write more tax loopholes for the rich.

The United States is becoming an extraction economy (like Puerto Rico)

October 20, 2017 at 9:19 am

While watching Trump troll us with Puerto Rico, one question kept popping up: why?

In some ways it’s obvious why he’s trolling us. He wants to distract us from what his team of billionaires is doing in Washington and control the news cycle.

But why troll us by going to Puerto Rico?

The answer is that he’s there to show us that they are poor and we are not, and that we should be afraid of ending up like them. In other words, he’s campaigning. He’s telling the country that he knows what’s best because he’s a rich businessman.

This is a variation on the corporate special interest group propaganda we see so much of: Everything that is good is business, capitalism. Everything that is bad is socialism.

Sadly, it’s working.

The reason it’s working isn’t because it’s right, but because so many people believe and repeat these terrible ideas about what’s made us a successful country.

Everyone I talk to knows something is wrong with our country. Yet many think the only people who know how to solve it are the “good” business people of our country. This is a big reason Trump won.

People don’t know why and how Puerto Rico is the way it is and they think we need people like Trump. What we need is a better story about why Puerto Rico is poor, how it’s run as an extraction economy, why this is bad, and why all the successful economies of the world tend to be democratic.

Seven global warming predictions that have come true

September 5, 2017 at 10:11 pm

The strategy of oil industry lobbyists when it comes to climate change is to undermine trust in scientific predictions. We tend to call them “deniers,” but this doesn’t really describe the strategy accurately. The strategy is to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

They do this by:

  1. Creating their own “research” at corporate think tanks
  2. A false equivalence of research on both “sides” (best illustrated by John Oliver)
  3. Hyping fears that this will hurt jobs
  4. Turning it into a tribal Republican vs. Democrat issue
  5. Labeling predictions as “alarmism
  6. And pointing out instances where predictions didn’t come true

All of this succeeds in creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt. When talking to anyone who questions climate change, we should keep in mind that the issue we’re dealing with isn’t a scientific one. It’s overcoming those aforementioned emotions.

Toward this end, let’s talk about a great New York Times article titled “Should You Trust Climate Science? Maybe the Eclipse Is a Clue” that approaches the topic from the perspective of overcoming the fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Universal health care would save $17 trillion

July 26, 2017 at 9:29 pm

$32 trillion. You may have seen this number in corporate media coverage and Republican propaganda. It’s the estimated cost of universal health care over a 10-year period.

It’s a big number—a big, scary number. So hacks like the editorial board at The Washington Post use it to scare people with titles like “Single-payer health care would have an astonishingly high price tag.”

Not just high—astonishingly high.

Of course what the editorial board of The Washington Post leaves out (though you think they’d know better) is any comparison to what we’re currently spending.

Compared to what we’re currently spending, universal health care or single-payer health care would save us $17 trillion over 10 years.

A reason to believe—and why this is important to the Democratic Party

July 12, 2017 at 9:13 pm

I get that we can’t run Bernie Sanders in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. I get that you have to start where people are rather than where you want them to be. I get that people don’t vote based on policy; instead, they tend to vote for who they like. I get that corporate special interests dominate our media.

I can explain much of this to people who I talk to about the Democratic Party. I can explain how they are better than Republicans.

Nevertheless, I’m struggling—especially when I talk to my friends on the left, the people who are fighting the grassroots fight. Especially because the right is speaking to the left. The right is telling them that the reason the Democratic Party is losing is because it’s not “left” enough.

I don’t think this is true (and will explain why below), but it doesn’t matter. If enough people believe it and drop out because of it, it’s going to hurt Democrats. In the past election, one of the reasons Trump won was because of the attacks from both the right and the left. The right gave people a reason to believe. The attacks from the left gave people a reason to disbelieve.

Ralph Nader wrote an article recently in The Intercept arguing that Democrats need to get rid of the crusty old people in the party with bad ideas. Setting the irony aside, things do need to change. But getting rid of people like Nancy Pelosi (arguably the most powerful Democrat in Congress right now) seems right up there with some of Nader’s other brilliant ideas—like how the left should work with libertarians. (Have you ever tried to work with someone who is so paranoid that they don’t trust any attempts at working together, Ralph?)

Nader’s idea that “policy precedes message” is wrong, and this leads him to a lot of not-so-great ideas. But he makes a valid point that things need to change. Here are a few thoughts on how.

How conservative propaganda works in America: The signal and the noise

June 8, 2017 at 8:17 pm

We’ve heard a lot about Russian meddling recently. What we don’t hear about is how more than 50 years of corporate special interest group propaganda fattened the U.S. up, priming our country for Russian influence on the 2016 election.

Let’s think about conservative propaganda using a communications concept: signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).  

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is a measurement used in communications to compare the level of desired signal to the level of background noise.

In analog communications, such as AM/FM radio or analog television broadcasts, a high SNR ratio means that you will receive a signal with little static or interference.

To enable effective communication, you want to maximize your SNR ratio—more signal, less noise.

Seven questions for Michelle Dillingham, Cincinnati’s neighborhood candidate for city council

May 10, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Michelle Dillingham and Noreen Loftus-Spilman at the Women’s March in Cincinnati.

We spend a lot of time talking about what we want our elected representatives to do for us. In order for our representatives to have a shot at doing anything, however, they first have to get elected. This doesn’t just happen. It either takes a lot of money or it takes a lot of supporters or most often, some combination of both. It takes a community to get people elected.

In Cincinnati, no one better represents this idea to me than Michelle Dillingham, our neighborhood candidate for city council. Michelle graciously agreed to talk about her community and what it means to her.

Of all developed countries, America self-invests the least because of tax cuts for the 1 percent

April 18, 2017 at 12:30 pm

As tax day (April 18) approaches, it’s interesting to consider the lie that America is “overtaxed.”

The average developed country reinvests 34 percent of its gross domestic product back into the country and its people.

As of 2014, America only invests 26 percent, which puts it ahead of Korea, Chile, Mexico, and exactly zero other developed countries.

What does this do?