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The Right Message on the Catfood Commission

letsgetitdone's picture
Thread: 

[OK, I'm de-sticky-ing this at lets's implicit request. --lambert]

[I'm leaving this sticky for the super comments thread, where contirbutors are doing what the old school blogosphere excelled at -- before the access bloggers became meme laundries for D factions -- Honing the message. -- lambert]

The progressive counter-attack against the President's emerging “austerity” political strategy and program is beginning to emerge. In the last few days, we've seen posts by Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson of Social Security Works, Jane Hamsher, Robert Kuttner, and Dean Baker writing against the thrust by the Administration, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and its network of related organizations, and the deficit hawks in the Congress, seemingly aimed at Social Security. These posts make or imply a number of points sometimes in the form of questions. They are:

-- The commission is unaccountable.

-- It meets in secret.

-- Its members will keep their recommendations secret until after the election, and then will present them to a lame duck Congress that is itself unaccountable.

-- That Congress will avoid open hearings, and debates, and also floor amendments in the House and Senate on the recommendations.

-- The Commission lacks diversity in both opinion and also in racial and gender makeup.

-- The Commission members appear to have already made up their minds that America's fiscal problems are mainly due to over-spending rather than under-taxing, and, even though they insist, that everything is”on the table” seem to have decided that military spending can't be cut.

-- The co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, based on public remarks they've made appear to have a clear agenda oriented toward cutting Social Security and Medicare.

-- Since the Commission appears to have already made up its mond about its findings, it's whole process is just a way of avoiding accountability in the upcoming elections. It's all just an end-run around the democratic process

-- The Commission is working very closely with Peter G. Peterson, a multi-billionaire who has been persistently seeking the end of Social Security as it currently exists for decades. Peterson is leading a public effort calling for Americans to get ready for “tough choices” on entitlements and has held a “Fiscal Summit”, funded press outlets, made deals with the Washington Pot and CNN, funded America Speaks, an organization whose purpose it is to educate Americans in the Peterson deficit hawk point of view through a series of town halls held across the nation, and, evidently, a Peterson-funded non-profit organization is funding Commission Staff.

There is no particular reason at this time to focus on Social Security, which is now in surplus to the tune of trillions of dollars, and is many, many years away from financial difficulty even from the point of view of the most avid deficit hawk.

-- Americans, when polled, have shown that they prefer tax increases to cutting Social Security benefits.

-- To protect our grandchildren, the Commission shouldn't be focused on cutting benefits and spending, but should be investing in providing jobs for parents and good educations for those grandchildren.

-- Peterson has set up a network to control the media environment and is “buying off” the Press. He has been setting it up for years and is playing a similar role in this area to the one The Kaiser Foundation played in the health care reform fight.

-- The Current budget deficit will be used to justify Social Security cuts.

-- Peterson is setting the agenda for the Commission which will take Defense cuts and Medicare expansion off the table as means to cut Government spending. Instead that agenda will formulate questions with only one answer, cut Social Security.

-- “It’s going to be important to tell the tale of Peterson’s inexorable march and diffuse the notion that the Commission is simply responding to temporal economic factors. This is class war, pure and simple. The rich against the poor. Hedge fund billionaires and defense contractors against senior citizens struggling to get by.”

-- As a cure for the financial crisis, austerity will be worse than the disease.

-- Obama is using his fiscal commission to seek “a bipartisan consensus on both spending cuts and higher taxes.”

-- The nations of the European Union are being used as an object lesson to justify the thrust for austerity.

-- “The budget deficit here and overseas does need to return to a more moderate level -- after we get an economic recovery.”

-- “In this context, it is insane to think that we can recover from a financial panic and an economic recession by inducing a worse recession in the name of fiscal soundness. For now, while the real economy heals, there is no substitute for aggressive central bank intervention to restore markets in sovereign debt. The right grand bargain is tough financial reform and limits on Wall Street--so that this crisis is never repeated. The wrong grand bargain is austerity for everyone else.”

-- To meet the present crisis, “. . . the new consensus in economic policy thinking is that we have to cut Social Security to establish our credibility with bond markets.”

-- But the crisis we're in now is due to the same people who were completely incapable of seeing the $8 trillion dollar housing bubble and the crash of 2008 coming, who persuaded us that we had to bail out the banks to save the financial system, and that we had to tolerate the outrageous bonuses that have accompanied the Banks getting back on their feet.

-- These are the same folks who now tell us that we have to have austerity, and specifically that they want us to cut Social Security to please the bond markets, which really means, that they just want us to cut Social Security.

In the main, these are good talking points against the deficit terrorist effort. But, I can just see now how the proponents of these cuts will reply to them. They will say, well that's all well and good, however, everything we've done is all justified because there really is a very serious crisis on our hands, and that is the crisis of fiscal unsustainability, of rapidly increasing deficits, national debts, and debt-to-GDP ratios, which will eventually make it impossible for the United States to borrow money at reasonable rates to fund our deficits. As our interest bills go higher and higher over time, a greater and greater proportion of the Federal Budget will go to financing the debt, and the United States will begin to face solvency problems, because it won't be able to borrow and then we'll have a ruinous tax burden for everyone and austerity anyway. On the other hand, if we impose a measure of austerity now and show that we are credit worthy there will be no borrowing problem, and the austerity will be less extreme.

In short, they will reply, we have a real problem, and it is that we are proceeding on an irresponsible path, that will lead eventually to insolvency, because Governments, like families, can't run deficits forever, can they?

And then they'll go on to argue that even Bob Kuttner agrees that “The budget deficit here and overseas does need to return to a more moderate level -- after we get an economic recovery,” and even Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman believe that deficits can't be run forever, and that we need less Government spending in the long run, and even Dean Baker is on record as saying that deficits can be a real problem under certain economic conditions. So, we are talking about a real problem and the way in which we differ from you progressives who are arguing against our position is not that you don't think that deficits are a problem, but that you don't think they are one right now. So, how about compromising on setting in place a framework for reduction in Government spending when the time is right, years down the road. That way you'll be showing that you're fiscally responsible, and we'll get something important which is a set of controls on spending that can become operational when a measure like the debt-to-GDP ratio reaches a certain level that you and we can agree upon. And also, we can make small changes in Social Security that are not overly painful, but that build in a more responsible fiscal framework for the future.

To avoid an outcome and counter messaging like this, that is very likely to emerge from the political conflict over austerity, and to lead some bi-partisan compromise that includes cuts in Social Security, none of the messages we've seen from the posts by Altman and Kingson, Hamsher, Kuttner, and Baker are really sufficient. Messaging that can fight the kind of downward spiral of compromise that the deficit hawks are trying to set up has to go more directly at their assumptions. It has to argue along these lines.

1) There is no deficit problem for the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the US Government to respond to in the first place. We are looking at a fantasy problem whose purpose is to distract us from the real issue of the impact of specific Government spending efforts relative to the Public Purpose.

2) There is no emerging solvency problem either for any of our entitlement programs, or for any other US Government programs. The President, and the other deficit terrorists are wrong when they say: “we are running out of money.” That is another fantasy that cannot apply to a Government sovereign in its own currency and owing no debts to anyone in any currency other than its own.

3) There is no need for an austerity program, and there will be no solvency risk for any of our Grandchildren, or any debt burden that they will have the least difficulty in managing, even if the Government continues to run deficits indefinitely.

And 4) the whole deficit terrorist position of the President, The Commission, and the Peterson Foundation and related interest groups is based on an erroneous and misleading analysis of our economic situation. Being charitable, this may be because their understanding of the monetary system, and of economics in a fiat monetary system is equivalent to their understanding of the economics that apply to people and other entities that are users of currency rather than issuers of currency. That is, they are confusing the players using dollars with the scorekeeper of dollars, who has an unlimited amount of points.

Uncharitably, however, many of the deficit hawks may understand very well that there is no solvency risk for the Governments sovereign in their own currency, but they may prefer to maintain the illusion that there is, because they think that then they can profit more from international markets, and prevent the people of various nations from realizing that interest rates on Government debt instruments can be entirely controlled by the Governments themselves, and imposed on the international markets, just as the Japanese Government has imposed near zero interest rates for short-term debt since the 1990s.

Messages 1) to 4) need to be sent by mainstream progressive organizations, because they are the only ones that can prepare the way for the total victory we need over the deficit terrorists. The people of the United States need an expansion of entitlements and the safety net. Not a contraction. The economy needs this too as a stabilizer of aggregate demand and as a hedge against excessive recession. As a nation we cannot afford to have the Administration and the Petersons of the world gain one inch of territory on the issues of cutting Social Security and Medicare. To prevent that, we need to discredit "their problem" as a the fantasy it is, and persuade people that the problem is the recession and lack of full employment, not imaginary fears about insolvency, deficits, or inflation appearing in the midst of a near depression.

Even more we have to persuade people that numbers like the deficit, the national debt, and the debt-to-GDP ratio are not measures of government profligacy, but measures of the extent to which the non-Government economic elites have created a failing economy that must be supported by the automatic stabilizers we have in place to protect against the consequences of their failures. The values of these measures will become less frightening when we treat the real problem, the ruined economy. And, until then, their relatively high level presents us with no solvency risk, and no threat to the well-being of our grandchildren or the future of the United States. Finally, we must message about the unimportance and irrelevance of the deficit so that it won't continually be used by our leadership as an excuse for not solving American problems. If we fail to do that, we will be in a continuing fight over Government spending based on the very fact of it, every time we want to pass some progressive legislation, ignoring, in the process, the only relevant question about it, namely whether implementing a particular policy and the spending that goes along with it will benefit us or not.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability)

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

Comments

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

if we raise the limit at which point we stop charging social security to X, we will be solvent through Y. You have to give people information that they can build their opinion on. Let's say there is a donut hole, and we start charging for social security at $175k and charge through $500k. How long would that make the system solvent for (I don't know)? But we let people know how doing that changes the date at which solvency becomes an issue. We talk about the level of debt as related to the GDP during the Great Depression and how we quickly grew out of the debt in the 50s because of the high employment rate, high wage rate and high marginal tax rate.

One of the big mistakes Dems made in the estate tax discussion was not saying at the beginning of every discussion that you wouldn't owe a dime in federal taxes if the estate was under $675k. Virtually no one knew that, except people who had lost someone who was worth more than that. Everybody thought the cut off was under $100k - including me, and I followed the debate closely, We can't afford to let that happen again.

What has to be debunked is that the debt level is unprecedented and a threat, and that there is no way, short of cutting benefits, to stabilize social security. Those must be the first two talking points if we're going to defeat this.

For my part, I'm workin' on a Senior Vitals cooking show featuring the finest in pet food based cuisine.

Submitted by hipparchia on

if we raise the limit at which point we stop charging social security to X, we will be solvent through Y. You have to give people information that they can build their opinion on. Let's say there is a donut hole, and we start charging for social security at $175k and charge through $500k. How long would that make the system solvent for (I don't know)? But we let people know how doing that changes the date at which solvency becomes an issue.

solvency is not the issue at all. we do not need to take in any taxes at all to pay for social security. the 'solvency' problem is a completely artificial constraint that's been imposed on the program and has nothing to do with reality.

we can choose to keep this artificial constraint if we wish, in which case you are correct, it would be helpful to demonstrate how lifting the cap on ss taxes will make the ss trust fund solvent for all time, but what we're trying to do is get the message out that the ss 'trust fund' does not to be 'balanced,' and really it doesn't even have to exist at all.

For my part, I'm workin' on a Senior Vitals cooking show featuring the finest in pet food based cuisine.

and i am very much looking forward to seeing the show!

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

the talking point that Social Security becomes insolvent and benefits must be cut starting in 2045, or whatever that is. There must be a specific and factual counter to that statement. They're going to go for a generational divide here and we have got to come up with something that can be expressed in a couple sentences and that's easy to understand.

"well, if solvency is an issue starting 2045, (and I don't necessarily agree) and we'll have to begin cutting benefits, then let's raise the limit at which we stop charging. Let people who make over $350k (or whatever) pay into the system. IT's fair. People who make less than $96k pay on all their income. "

If that's their claim, then let them explain why it's unfair to raise more money. Americans prefer tax increases to cuts in benefits.

Submitted by lambert on

K.I.S.S. -- and I agree that the cat food video concept is brilliant and could and should go viral.

What I would try to do is show inter-generational unity.

Why not have "Grandma" should a twenty-something her cat food recipe? Like the way recipes get handed down from generation to generation? "First, I open the can...."

* * *

How many times do I need to say that it's not a solvency problem? Don't even raise the issue.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

I have to think about how to incorporate that. I love that idea.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

when it's taxes on the rich.

However, the simple point we need to get across is that the Government is not like you me, and your family because it is the creator of its own money, not the user of Government money as we are. So it has no solvency problem, because it can always make more. Since Social Security and Medicare are Government programs they have no solvency problems. All we have to do is continue to maintain the authority of the Government to spend on them.

Submitted by gmanedit on

In Session 2 of the conference recording, a speaker said governments impose taxes to make people pay them in government currency—to legitimate the currency.

Money is a consensual delusion.

This is going to be hard to explain.

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

or whatever we call money, in the same way other groups have legitimized conch shells, beads, gold, etc...these are items that have no real intrinsic worth to people or society, they are just an agreed-upon representation or measure of worth...so, by agreeing to pay our taxes with our own (fiat) money (or conchs, etc) we make it a standard of measurement of worth. (It's simple, I know, and probably wrong, but it works for me).

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

warren has a great bit in the beginning of his session (3), that goes something like this (see hipp for the transcript when available):

I take my business cards out here, and these are twenty dollars a piece, if anybody wants to buy any. No? Any takers? No? OK.

All right, well if anybody wants to stay after and help clean up the carpet and tidy up the room, I’m going to pay one per hour. Or five per hour, or whatever, one per hour. Anybody want to stay and help? OK, not a lot of takers.

Then I add one more thing: Look, there’s only one way out of here and there’s a man at the door with a nine millimeter machine gun. OK? And you can’t get out of here without five of my cards.

Now things have changed. I’ve now turned litter into money. Now, you will buy these, you will work for these things if you want to get out. The man at the door is the tax man and that’s the function of taxes.

also for more in depth reading on this idea see see "The Buckaroo Program" and "BerkShares, Buckaroos, and Bear Dollars: What Makes a Local Currency Tick?," both by L. Randall Wray

..............

This is going to be hard to explain.

completely agree. but not, i think, because it's technically difficult. it's a paradigm change and that takes time to process. i think it was randy who said something like some of his students read his book and have said it's like putting on a pair of glasses that make the whole world look different and it take months of getting used to in order to start making sense, in a new way, of the world.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Warren Mosler's man at the door with a gun (see selise's comment) makes the value of money more than a consensual delusion.

is a political fact that lies at the basis of the economic system. The political fact is that the Government has the means of more or less legitimate physical coercion of the rest of us, so if it requires that we use its money to pay our taxes, the need to comply or suffer the consequences is where consensus on the value of money begins.

Submitted by gmanedit on

I'm thinking of an elderly woman (or man) in conflict: She's hungry, her cat is hungry, and there's one can of catfood. Maybe she splits it with him.

Seriously. I feel a responsibility to feed my cat first. I can't explain belt tightening to him.

Don't you tear up at those animal shelter commercials?

Submitted by lambert on

Since I deprecate caps in comment subject lines, I'll repeat:

  1. IT'S NOT A SOLVENCY PROBLEM
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If we adopt that frame, we're lost. That's why the MMT perspective is important. Or do you think Hamsher, the career "progressives", and the access bloggers are going to do any better on this than they did on the so-called "public option"? The tell is that when Bush was doing this, WKJM was all over it. Daily stories, daily everything from all of 'em. And it actually worked. Now, not so much. Even assuming the best of intentions, they all lost a year trying to figure out if Obama was really a progressive or not. But anybody who was paying attention knew what the Ds intended, from the beginning.

Submitted by Anne on

Iron Chef America parody???

The Secret Ingredient is: CAT FOOD!!!

Based upon the Japanese cult sensation, Iron Chef America carries on the legend of Kitchen Stadium and the famed "secret ingredient." Each week, world-class chefs battle the legendary Iron Chefs of America: Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto, Cat Cora and Michael Symon. Alton Brown serves as Commentator and Mark Dacascos is Chairman.

Link

Might make for an interesting format.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

This would take some money to pull off but it's a brilliant idea. If I can get Senior Vittles up and running, let's have a talk about this,

Submitted by gob on

With apologies to Hipparchia, Mosler, Auerback, and all the counter-conference folk, I'm posting this quote from my still incomplete (soon, soon) transcript:

[Mosler] It's probably fair to say that the losses from unemployment over the last two years just in terms of lost output are far higher than all the costs of all the wars the US has ever fought in its history combined. Seriously. That's just gone forever. Plus the ongoing losses because it's all path-dependent. Once you change your path, you've lost it, the growth rates have to be much higher to get back onto path.

[Auerback] And millions and millions of dollars a day, every day, our countries are forgoing. Millions of dollars a day. Inflation will never go anywhere near that.

[Mosler] Well, if we have twenty percent unemployment, I know not everybody's equally valuable, but it wouldn't surprise me if the losses were twenty percent of GDP every year, or something close to it.

[?] Maybe that's the graph we need.

(My emphasis, and I hope I've identified the speakers correctly.)

Indeed, I'd like to see that graph and help propagate it all over the internet.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

i'm dying for the transcripts (says the 13 year old in me) -- not to put any pressure on you or anything :)

i hope to have the last segment of the video in hand tomorrow, and i've been madly editing the rest, figuring out new tools for sharing long form video, etc. next i want to start making short youtube clips from the edited video for people (you, lambert, all the writers we know and don't know. maybe even non writers like me) to use to write posts around. but i need the transcripts for that -- so people can tell the me the start and end point of the clip they want a youtube of. i'm also going to provide mp4 files for downloading, so the world (i hope!) can make their own youtube clips, but the files are BIG and a lot of people aren't going to be able to do it themselves.

Jay's picture
Submitted by Jay on

No No no No No. You don't counter them with reasonable-sounding, rational, wonkish, paragraph-long bullshit. Why oh why is it that the people who understand the problem can never find the messaging to drive their point through?

WHO RUINED THE ECONOMY?

FIRST THEY CAME FOR 750 *BILLION* DOLLARS OF YOUR MONEY, AND CONGRESS GAVE IT TO THEM WITH THE TARP PROGRAM.

NOW THEY WANT TO TAKE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY. THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM YOU SPENT YOUR ENTIRE WORKING LIFE TO PAY INTO.

NOW THAT IT'S YOUR TURN TO RETIRE, THEY WANT TO STEAL THAT MONEY AND GIVE IT TO THE SAME PEOPLE WHO RUINED OUR ECONOMY.

TELL [CONGRESSCRITTER X] THAT IF S/HE'S WORRIED ABOUT DEFICITS, S/HE SHOULD STOP GIVING TAX BREAKS TO HIS/HER BILLIONAIRE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS. TELL [CONGRESSCRITTER X] TO STOP RUINING AMERICA'S ECONOMY.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

I agree 100%.

The mistake here is in the assumption of good faith-that were we able to provide Orzag, Bowles, Summers, with sufficiently compelling arguments, they would change their position and policy.

In fact, we should see this as a classic instance of "argumentum ad baculum": which side "wins" the argument is the one which makes the most convincing position but the one can most effectively exert naked force.

What this means for our side is that we should have long since gone beyond writing policy papers, arranging conferences, arguing on blogs etc. We should be taking a cue from the Greeks and organizing demonstrations and strikes-and not just your usual "non-violent, peaceful" demonstrations, seriously disruptive demonstrations imposing a significant, tangible cost on the institutional forces which are ultimately responsible for the imposition of neo-liberal austerity.

On a tagentially related point-this also goes for the apocalypse in the gulf.

Why the hell has no one yet torched a BP station? What's the matter with us?

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

Orsag isn't going to change his mind. People aren't going to have counter-information in their head. Yes, you have to say all those other things, but people must know the basic facts in addition to the other stuff.

What we must avoid is a situation where the basic facts (the amount at which the estate tax kicks in) isn't known by most Americans and so they believe that we must do something because the other are filling their heads with stuff.

Senior Vittles is going to focus on President Obama's Cuts to Social Security. Obama's name is going to be mentioned several times in every video. I'm going to link him over and over and over again to seniors eating catfood and living in cardbaord boxes - something they're all going to be insanely happy about.

Submitted by lambert on

... based on both principle and pragmatism, I have to say I think that torching a BP station is a really lousy -- and self-indulgent -- idea.

I'd also observe that anybody who's advocating that in a public forum is either (a) not serious about it or if serious (b) tactically and strategically has a good deal to learn.

Finally, I haven't made NV a moderation policy, because I'd rather have ideas subject to Darwinian competition. But I'm also not having Corrente shut down because of people proposing hare-brained schemes.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

1) Property destruction is not violence.

2) Current strategies and tactics (most notably, those which are encompassed within the term non violence) have not even begun to approach to what is required to impose the costs which force concessions by governing elites.

3) If you aren't interested in discussing (though not necessarily on this blog or even publicly) those tactics which will be effective, politics is simply an intellectual game, and a fundamentally unserious one at that.

4) For some interesting reflections on Gandhian non-violence and how it has been debased by accomodationist left, I would recommend this discussion by Norman Finkelstein, someone who has thought about the subject a great deal.

5) This will be my last word on the subject.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

like torching a BP station are hard to predict. But when the underlying conditions are there, things like that can happen anytime.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Marketing is EVERYTHING.

I've been saying this for months. Shiny graphics. Sound bytes. This is what America wants and needs.

Monetary policy is NOT INTERESTING. That's something I learned when I got into IT. No one cares how it works. They just need to know IT WORKS.

Here's an approach for you:

RICH PEOPLE FIRST.

When President Obama says you need to give up the benefits you've earned and paid into for a lifetime, tell them RICH PEOPLE FIRST.

When President Obama says you need to pay higher taxes to help save the economy, tell him RICH PEOPLE FIRST.

When President Obama says you need to do with even less to help save the economy, tell him RICH PEOPLE FIRST.

Why don't we ever ask rich people to sacrifice for this country?

President Obama, stop punishing poor people. We've given our homes, our jobs and our lives for this country. It's your turn to give. It's Congress' turn to give. It's corporate America's turn to give.

RICH PEOPLE FIRST.

Submitted by lambert on

RL calls, so this comment is going to deteriorate rapidly as it goes along:

A talking point is like an onion that gets bigger as you take layers off. The outer layer needs to be as simple as possible (and no simpler). The inner layers need to contain increasing levels of evidence and reasoning, as well as a coherent (mind you, that's not the same as being true) world view. That's how the right did it, on behalf of the rent seekers, starting in the 1970s). Policy falls out of the world view hidden at the core, and the outer layers (think Newspeak) make it literally impossible to articulate, or even conceive of, true alternatives. Hence all that progressives will do is ameliorate the neo-liberal consensus. You can think of the onion as containing in itself all the possibilities for conversation on the subject, from simplistic to theoretical. Again, that's how the right did it, so we know it works. So the idea that "monetary policy is not interesting" (for some class of poster, the members of which are perfectly free to post on matters that do interest them) may be true, but it's also completely irrelevant. That's like saying "Austrian economics is not interesting" or "the Schlieffen Plan is not interesting." What that really translates to is "my enemies' worldview, which predicts all they will say or do, is not interesting, and need not be understood or countered." How odd!

What MMT gives us is the inner core of the onion -- a worldview that not only has the great merit, IMNSHO, of being true, but from which the policy outcomes we seek will flow.

We can't fight FOX by being a different FOX! They have more muscle than we do. So, inventing a "counter-chyron" is a recipe for FAIL. It's an onion skin with no core.

Take "rich people first" as a message. Why is that FAIL?

1. It's static and not dynamic. The issue is not wealth as such, but the process by which wealth is created and distributed.

2. It's not sellable. Plenty of Americans want to be rich, and see nothing wrong with it. In fact, if somebody gets rich in a way that doesn't involve usury, for example, it's hard to quarrel with (cue separate discussion of capitalism v. communism/socialism/marxism in the 20th century).

3. It's very easy for Versailles to divert that slogan for its own purposes, since it has no core (see above). Populism that nebulous is very easy to co-opt, to "rich Gays", say, or
"rich Jews," say, or, at the most, against a few sacrificial victims before a return to business as usual.

Simplicity is very hard to achieve. Being simplistic is quite easy. Being simpler than possible (vacuous) is even easier.

So, I invite the proponents of vacuous slogans like the above to apply their considerable intelligence and energy to talking points that will actually work. We're trying to help create a third pole of American politics. Just because words fit on a placard doesn't mean they'll do that.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

that will stand up to scrutiny. 100% agree. You're doing that. You don't need anyone's advice on that score.

But I am not talking about myself, whether I find monetary theory interesting or not. I am happy to wonk along with all of you if you'd like. I talk to real people in real life, and they don't find it interesting. What time in real life do working people have to discuss the arcane points of MMT? You may find it vacuous, but these people have two, three jobs and families. They DON'T HAVE THE TIME to be convinced by all of this. You are asking far, far too much of people in general. You have to catch their attention first - their attention that is being pulled in 75 different directions every second of the day.

All people know is that they voted for change and they didn't get it. All they hear from politicians is "well, you've got to tighten your belts, pay higher taxes, do without music or an arts program in your school, go without firefighters and policeman and teachers, and oh guess what, we're STILL NOT GOING TO HELP YOU IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM."

People in America used to know that rich people were the enemy. Just watch any movie from before about 1984. This idea of worshiping the rich has run its course, I believe. It's clearly "full of fail."

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

I don't think it's any coincidence that the decline in concern for the plight of poor people coincides with the disappearance of poor people on TV.

I remember growing up that there was a dirth of shows on TV that depicted the struggles of being poor, or at least lower class. Good Times, 227, Archie Bunker, Maude.

Now, if you see a poor person in a TV show, they are usually a criminal(The Wire), or set in an alternate reality(True Blood). Or, people who realistically would be poor, like a single black mother of two(on a new show called "Are We There Yet") are shown to have achieved a level of affluence that isn't typical(not that having depictions of black families not living in poverty isn't a good thing, Family Matters was one of the first that did this, IIRC, and it was awesome in it's time).

These days our TVs are populated with reality shows about entitled affluent teenagers, and their quest for the perfect tan/party/shoes, or scripted shows about the same thing. Or reality shows about entitled affluent housewives. Or scripted shows about entitled affluent housewives/doctors/scientists.

I think this lack of cultural representation has had an effect on the way our society views poor people. When you could turn on your TV, and see a struggling family, you remembered "There but for the grace of (karma, God(dess), Buddha) go I...." Now, it's all too easy to forget that.

This is part of the reason why I can't get behind lambert's exhortation to turn off the TV, though I totally agree about starving the parasites of rent. Yet, TV is such a powerful force in our culture, that for all of us to turn it off, would leave that powerful weapon in the hands of our enemies. If we don't watch and utilize the TV, who will create the content that opens eyes and changes the way we view our world.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

And no, it's not a coincidence at all. It is part of the messaging of the oligarchy/patriarchy. No one is poor unless it's their fault. Be rich, be on teevee, or be no one.

I think the tide is turning on this point of view. Look at the midterms. Look at the rise of right-wing populism. Look at the rebellion against supposedly "Democratic" politics as usual by those of us here, elsewhere in the blogosphere, and so many of our friends, relatives and acquaintances IRL.

One could substitute the "Wall Street vs. Main Street" meme for the "Rich People" meme in the message above. People will understand THAT all right. That's why when Hillary first said "Wall Street vs. Main Street," it went around like wildfire.

When the transcripts are ready and the web site is beefed up with all the wonky goodness, I could create a teaser video for MMT. That's how I'm hoping to help. Oh, and also - I can help find a spot for a New York City conference, when all participants are ready to go.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

When the transcripts are ready and the web site is beefed up with all the wonky goodness, I could create a teaser video for MMT

if you want/need any of the teach-in video email me at gmail dot com and i will find a way to get it to you.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

It would be great to have an NYC Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In.

Submitted by lambert on

... with the right talking points; and we should probably be learning from Mosler (and the transcripts when we publish them). The talking points are made and not found. They need to be made. That's what we are all trying to do, all of us. I don't think that your suggestions work, for reasons stated. In addition, they've defeated. That's what "they used to know" means. The definition of insanity applies to us as well....

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Detailed answers with more wonk than almost every other politician I have ever encountered. (I must have seen her speak live 5 times and she was very much detail oriented.)

Remember who voted "for change"? It was the elite PBR drinking progressives who wanted the "uneducated" "bubba" out of the Democratic party. Or was that not the case? I understand people are busy, but that doesn't explain the dynamic that went on in the primary where the wonk got the people who weren't supposed to be as sophisticated, while the vacuous, cleverly packaged person got the supposedly sophisticated voters. And in general the progressive blogosphere--which went heavily to Obama--are folks who seem to have plenty of time to read blogs all day. Messiahs on crackers aside, can you explain this observation to me?

What I'm saying is that we need to reevaluate our audience. We need to stop confusing the intellectual laziness of progressiveness with busy people who want answers. People may be busy, but they want more information than just "universal health care". "Medicare for all" may have been simple but it also contained in it a lot of information beyond a compact slogan--everyone has an idea about Medicare. Personally, I'm not surprised that "Medicare for All" was almost completely absent from the debate because its actually a high-information slogan.

I see this on an almost daily basis. I don't expect people to have enough time to fully appreciate the minute details of altered transport of ions across cell membranes, but you know what? They are almost *always* interested in more information than "I study epilepsy". From my experience talking to people, policy is not a whole lot different. Despite all the chants of "Change we can believe in" by progressives, how many times did you hear "what's he gonna change?" People's jobs (or lack thereof) and livelihoods are most likely more important to them than which razor to buy so I'd bet they are more willing to take time to listen to more quality information than they are given credit for.

Submitted by lambert on

This really needed saying, and I didn't say it, or even figure out how to say it.

And this approach did succeed in winning a majority of the D popular vote, despite a daily, nay hourly drumbeat of WWTSBQ.

In fact, I'd go so far as to call that a blueprint. Warren?

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

As annoying as it is to admit, Obama's simple slogans were high-information too. That's why they worked. Admittedly, he was lying, but we all knew what "Change you can believe in" and "Hope" meant. They meant "I'm not Bush. I'm going to be the first AA President, and most of you have been waiting for that your whole lives. I'm going to do everything differently. You can relax now, our long national nightmare is about to end."

And he said quite a bit about how he was going to change things, too. Not in nearly as much detail as Hillary, true - no argument there, I laughed at people who said that he was a policy wonk - but he did say things like "I will overturn DADT," "I will bring our troops home from Iraq in X months," "I will sign FOCA first thing," etc. etc. etc.

He was not content-free, he was just lying. Obviously lying, in my opinion, but lying nonetheless.

In your world non-intellectuals are more curious than intellectuals. I disagree. A lot of very, very inquisitive and bright intellectuals were bamboozled by Obama. (I am talking about people I know, not paid cheerleaders in the media.) It has nothing to do with judge-y words like "laziness." It just has to do with how you perceive and process the information contained in the marketing campaign.

Hillary didn't need a catchy slogan because we knew her already. If a product's been on the market for decades, you don't need to sell as hard. However, she did have a simple narrative, after Super Tuesday when she realized she needed one: "I'm one of you." It was backed with delicious wonkishness, but that was her message. And yes, it worked.

Submitted by gmanedit on

that can be spun out to have only the most tenuous connection to reality. (Economics is a prime example. As the joke goes: Assume a can opener . . . And don't get me started on how deconstructionism made studying literature a bore and a chore.)

Most of the people I spoke with actually were not inquisitive. They knew nothing of Rezko or Exelon or the Illinois health coverage legislation that Obama turned into a study group. When I told them, they refused to look for themselves. But they prided themselves on their idealism.

Too late in life, I realized that I should have become a theologian. What a sinecure, spinning unfalsifiable tales about the unknowable.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

He was not content-free, he was just lying. Obviously lying, in my opinion, but lying nonetheless.

Why can't we start impeaching president's for lying, both to get to the White House and during their tenure there? One or two such impeachments, and we'd have a lot less lying to contend with.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

Personally, I'm not surprised that "Medicare for All" was almost completely absent from the debate because its actually a high-information slogan.

it was also challenged by a 45+ million dollars and a multi-year campaign that was designed to make it absent from the debate.

and it wasn't busy non-policy wonks who were targeted by that campaign. it was progressive bloggers and their readers.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

I don't get it. What is the problem with my argument if we all know that high information slogans work? That's all I'm trying to say. Aren't we on a messaging thread here?

In order to sell this completely counterintuitive theory that goes against everything we've all been told for decades, you will need a slogan, a hook, a gimmick. This doesn't mean your product is bad. Is Medicare for All bad? I sure don't think so.

Ah well. Later Correntians. Keep up the good fight! And selise, I will take you up on that offer re: video.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

i did not mean to suggest i had a problem with your argument. only that "medicare for all" was, i think, a special case in that i didn't know so much about the con (the cost, the length and depth of planning, etc) that went into co-opting progressives especially progressive bloggers (hmmm. maybe that needs some scare quotes).

i suppose though, now that i think about it again, i should assume we're always going to be dealing with such cases -- where there is a massive, well funded and long running propaganda campaign.

i guess i just convinced myself i was wrong and that there may be no special cases. it may be that the false neoliberal msg will always be as well funded, planned and targeted to co-opt or at least confuse us. which apparently is not so difficult with me.

and anyway, i don't know what kind of slogans work, but i do like lambert's onion analogy.

p.s. re video: GREAT!

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