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What Do Conservatives Want?
February 20, 2011 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific "cuts" is working within the conservative frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. George Lakoff, professor of linguistics at UC, Berkeley, analyzes the metaphors conservatives use to frame issues and exposes what they really want. (Previously), (previously), (more previously), etc.
posted by Obscure Reference (125 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
They want to kill jobs when what America needs is more jobs!
posted by fuq at 5:53 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any time you point out what conservatives really want, *that's* called class warfare. That sort of unseemly stuff isn't tolerated by the arbiters of political discourse.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 5:56 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Otherwise known as shifting the Overton Window. (Illustrated)
posted by Rhaomi at 5:56 PM on February 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


Why would Democrats (as opposed to liberals or [real] socialists) not want to help conservatives?
posted by DU at 5:59 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


We should take note, too, that in the vast majority of the punditry's frantic bleating about the sudden and unexpected budgetary crisis, military spending is not even mentioned; Not even to justify taking it off the table. It's just ignored. That's twenty-five percent of the budget we're not even willing to talk about -- and that doesn't even include the extra-budgetary defense money we don't even know about.
posted by steambadger at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2011 [32 favorites]


Speaking of framing, I think this FPP is highly editorialized -- as if, for example, only "radical" conservatives believe in cutting spending.
posted by shivohum at 6:09 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone who talks about deficit reduction without putting military spending "on the table" is looking to pick your pocket.

And I do mean anyone.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2011 [61 favorites]


A related thought I've had for a while:

A frequent conservative refrain is that the nation should be run like a business. But which business? A business at what stage? Is it a steady-state or declining business whose growth days are behind it? Or is an expanding business with the potential to be a real market leader?

If it's the later, then chances are, you're investing in it. You might even spend more than you earn -- that's right, running a business, particularly a growing one, doesn't necessarily mean you never have a deficit. The deficit is investment -- if you're spending it on the right things.

Why is Amazon.com the premier online retailer? Because the spent like crazy for seven years, investing in their fulfillment operations, investing in their customer-facing software, investing in relationships with publishers and manufacturers, investing in their brand and image. They're king of the hill now... not just of online retail. They have higher market capitalization than almost any retailer -- Wal-Mart might be the only exception.

So: are we investing in America?
posted by weston at 6:11 PM on February 20, 2011 [83 favorites]


Well duh. But the assumption is that democrats don't want this. It seems like they do, after all Obama is out there proposing budget cuts and so on. Why would he do that instead of pushing back against all the republican BS?
posted by delmoi at 6:16 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's only one real party in America: the party of rich people.

News at 11.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:17 PM on February 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


A frequent conservative refrain is that the nation should be run like a business. But which business? A business at what stage? Is it a steady-state or declining business whose growth days are behind it? Or is an expanding business with the potential to be a real market leader?

a business with stagnant growth rates, lots of cash, and some valuable fixed assets i.e. ready for a hostile takeover, reorganization, and liquidation.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2011 [23 favorites]


In believing there's such a thing as "Democrats" or "conservatives" you've already accepted so much framing that your chances of engaging in a real debate are basically gone. It's like defending or attacking an entire country single-handed, and you don't even live there.
posted by facetious at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


The danger in asserting that conservatives really just want personal responsibility, as Lakoff does, is that conservatives don't truly believe in the personal freedom that is typically assumed to be necessary under personal responsibility. So it becomes a bait and switch, personal freedom for personal responsibility. The latter then carries all the weight of sin and punishment, minus the personal fulfillment promised under personal freedom.
posted by Brian B. at 6:29 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The real question is, since the benefits of tax cuts for the ulta-wealthy only directly benefit 1,000 families or so in a huge way, and 10,000 families in a medium to minor way, why are so many millions of families on board with their agenda?
posted by cell divide at 6:30 PM on February 20, 2011 [21 favorites]


I love George Lakoff.
posted by ORthey at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think this FPP is highly editorialized -- as if, for example, only "radical" conservatives believe in cutting spending.

The only non-radical reason for cutting spending is to "balance the budget". But if your only possible solution to "balancing the budget" (in itself a pretty conservative goal) is cutting spending rather than, say, joining the civilized world's tax rates, then suprise: you are a radical conservative.
posted by DU at 6:32 PM on February 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh come on- it's not like this is even a real problem. There's Federal mints, right? So all the government has to do is print money to pay the bills. Got a trillion dollar deficit? Just print a trillion dollars- problem solved!
posted by happyroach at 6:33 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


cell divide, they have some kind of blind faith that through trickle-down economics, the reception of some kind of nebulous "freedom", and the idea that taxes are being cut for someone that it's going to benefit them somehow - even though there's plenty of evidence to show that it hasn't

that, and they think "the other guy" is going to be the one who suffers the negative consequences
posted by pyramid termite at 6:34 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


But if your only possible solution to "balancing the budget" (in itself a pretty conservative goal) is cutting spending rather than, say, joining the civilized world's tax rates, then suprise: you are a radical conservative.

That's clearly your opinion, and it's properly either posted as a comment, like you did, or on a personal blog, not in an FPP.
posted by shivohum at 6:35 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone who talks about deficit reduction without putting military spending "on the table" is looking to pick your pocket.

Picking your pocket is the least of it. At least no one gets killed that way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:36 PM on February 20, 2011


I know we're all making fun of the Republicans for not raising taxes, but neither will the Democrats.

Raising taxes, even if it's only on people with money to spare, is political suicide. The rich control the media, and will run ads and news reports raking any politician who raised taxes through the coals, even if it was a well-needed tax hike. And voters have been conditioned to see tax raises as automatically bad and unnecessary, so that kind of rhetoric will work.

The two parties are effectively playing a game of chicken to see who raises taxes to prevent national bankruptcy first.

And defense is basically the same story. Aside from the rhetoric of "not supporting the troops" or "not keeping America safe," cutting defense spending gets rid of jobs. Specifically, defense contractor jobs that haven't been demonized like public servant positions. And just about every politician has some defense jobs that would suffer if defense cuts were to be made.

The current political system is basically oriented around using the US's good credit to pump money into corporations and defense contracts, with entitlement programs getting most of the blame for the deficit.

It'll be interesting to see how California solves its tax deficit issues, because the nation as a whole is probably going to need to do that, too, eventually.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:47 PM on February 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


Space Ploughshare and The Photon Keyne's.
posted by clavdivs at 6:51 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, I don't think it's wrong to say that it's a bad thing Democrats are proposing cuts. In a system as complex and huge as the US government, there's bound to be waste and inefficiency in some areas. The thing is nobody can agree where that waste is, and there are a lot of sacred cows.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:05 PM on February 20, 2011


I mean, I think it's wrong. Stupid double negatives.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:06 PM on February 20, 2011


I'm opposed to higher taxes because I like using my paycheck to buy things for myself. It's not very complicated, really.
posted by planet at 7:06 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


clavdivs: "Space Ploughshare and The Photon Keyne's"

Ugh, yes, we all know the Smashing Pumpkins are back together.

Obscure Reference: " George Lakoff, professor of linguistics at UC, Berkeley, analyzes the metaphors conservatives use to frame issues and exposes what they really want."

"more for us, screw you?"
posted by boo_radley at 7:10 PM on February 20, 2011


The US army spends one million dollars per soldier per year to fight the war in Afghanistan. You cannot have guns, butter and no deficits. The fact that this is not part of the discussion is a national disgrace.
posted by graymouser at 7:11 PM on February 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


Keep your money, planet; taxing the income of the top thirteen hedge fund managers in the country as income rather than capital gains would pay for a few hundred thousand teachers. —What's the order of magnitude spread on that, again?

But by all means, let's quibble over whether the basic tenets of Keynesian economics are undue editorialization.
posted by kipmanley at 7:17 PM on February 20, 2011 [34 favorites]


Democrats help radical conservatives

Gosh! How does this happen over and over again? Could it be Democrats help radical conservatives and not radical liberals because--no. Not that. It can't be. What could I have been thinking? My sincerest apologies. I'm sure all those highly educated, well-paid, well-meaning Democrats have simply wandered off the path with a heart by accident and as soon as we call them back to their true selves, they will stop helping radical conservatives and get down to ending the wars, stomping the corporations, shrinking the gargantuan gap between the rich and the poor, advocating the creation of government jobs programs, and doing whatever else it takes to pull us out of our death spiral. But before they can do that, it's up to you to call them back. Do it! Clap! Clap with me everyone! Clap!
posted by Karmadillo at 7:25 PM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Keep your money, planet; taxing the income of the top thirteen hedge fund managers in the country as income rather than capital gains would pay for a few hundred thousand teachers. —What's the order of magnitude spread on that, again?
Call me cynical, but somehow I think any actual increase would fall on wage-earning schmucks like me.
posted by planet at 7:26 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion.

I... how...

...

That actually makes me literally nauseous.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:28 PM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


while your cash is still good, buy guns.

(ta. off to buy shares in munitions and private military firms)
posted by Artful Codger at 7:42 PM on February 20, 2011


Hey! Something else that's awesome about Costa Rica. It's, uh, not the USA.
posted by notion at 7:46 PM on February 20, 2011


Speaking of framing, I think this FPP is highly editorialized -- as if, for example, only "radical" conservatives believe in cutting spending.

It's a quote from the article.
posted by Trochanter at 7:51 PM on February 20, 2011 [9 favorites]



The democrats suck at messaging. They suck at getting on the TV, summing up their position in short "Chevy's, baseball, and Apple Pies" sound bites, and actually standing for something and taking advantage of any political capital they have.

They could say Gov. Walkers latest assault on Unions on is a Big Government overreach that creates unnecessary regulation and diminishes the freedoms of working Americans.

But instead they say "well, the we'll agree to everything you ask, but please mister, don't take away collective bargaining!"

And gee, look where we are.

I don't send my representatives to the Capitol to share their paste and crayons. I want them to fucking fight for me.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:57 PM on February 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see how California solves its tax deficit issues, because the nation as a whole is probably going to need to do that, too, eventually.

California will probably solve its tax deficit issues by busting unions, slashing government programs, and dismantling the apparatus of state from the inside-out. No more government = no more taxes = no more tax deficit! Simple!
posted by jet_manifesto at 7:57 PM on February 20, 2011


The democrats suck at messaging.

The democrats are funded by the same people who fund the republicans. I like Lakoff's thinking, but these issues go way beyond messaging.

Campaign finance. Mind the elephant.
posted by Trochanter at 8:01 PM on February 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm in favor of paying taxes because not having a middle class and living in a third-world shit hole is not worth a few extra bucks in take home money.

It's not very complicated, really.

The fact is, the reason we have these budget problems is because corporations don't pay a fair share of taxes. And any attempt to raise taxes on corporations gets blurred in the media coverage here into the catch-all category of tax increase. Same for other simple steps we could take, like not excluding earnings over 100,000 from the social security/medicare contribution. If you make a million dollars in income, the entirety should be taxed for social security and medicare; you shouldn't get to pretend you're only earning an upper middle class income for tax calculation purposes when it comes to the most important social safety nets we have.

The only people anyone's been talking about raising taxes on are people who've already gotten more than their fair share of tax cuts in the last few decades. Those who earn more than 250,000 a year didn't just get one tax cut under Bush, they got two, unlike the rest of us.

Also, don't forget: The French Revolution basically began in response to the French aristocracy suddenly deciding that they didn't want to have to pay their share of taxes anymore. It might be wise to take heed of history, if you're one of these radical anti-tax types who could really afford to be a little more charitable without going hungry if the mood struck.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2011 [36 favorites]


I'm opposed to higher taxes because I like using my paycheck to buy things for myself. It's not very complicated, really.

Why just oppose higher taxes, then? By your logic, why not oppose taxes altogether?

I often wonder why advocacy for low taxes in the United States never goes all the way.

I suppose because people also like to have things they can't easily buy for themselves with their own money. Like highways.

Still, some people seriously think you're entitled to your entire paycheck:

"For, as a criminal organization with all of its income and assets derived from the crime of taxation, the State cannot possess any just property. This means that it cannot be unjust or immoral to fail to pay taxes to the State, to appropriate the property of the State (which is in the hands of aggressors), to refuse to obey State orders, or to break contracts with the State (since it cannot be unjust to break contracts with criminals). Morally, from the point of view of proper political philosophy, “stealing” from the State, for example, is removing property from criminal hands, is, in a sense, “homesteading” property, except that instead of homesteading unused land, the person is removing property from the criminal sector of society—a positive good."

I guess the reason I thought of this in relation to this article is that I think Americans are more inclined to believe "taxation is theft" than "taxation is an obligation/duty/etc" and the discussion of this article really seems to confirm that.

Whenever raising taxes, or levying new ones, might seem like a good idea, you have to face all the people who would rather keep as much of their money as possible, however much this might hamper the establishment of social programs to help them put more money in their wallets.

They obviously don't believe the government can spend it any better than they can.

(if you live in the United States, can you blame them?)

So here we are, talking about paring down the government, because nobody's made a strong case for what Lakoff is suggesting: paying necessary taxes as a duty of citizenship, a duty which falls most heavily on the rich, as they are those who have benefited most from their status as Americans.
posted by edguardo at 8:06 PM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Your taxes also make the enforcement of any contracts and any civil or criminal laws possible. No taxes: No criminal justice system or regulated marketplace.

Free enterprise as we know it can't happen without taxes. Feudalism, various exploitative resource monopolies, and various forms of slavery, on the other hand, can and do happen in the absence of taxes. History offers plenty of examples.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:16 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think the anti-tax crowd is denying that taxation can be used for popular things. I think they are suggesting that the market can do many (or all) of those things better, and furthermore take issue with the idea that free enterprise needs taxation.

If taxation is essentially coercive, as guys like Rothbard believe, then it is by definition opposed to free and voluntary exchange, right?

So although enumerating the things that taxes can pay for is convincing to some, I think others have a fundamental reservation that remains to be overcome: the idea that taxation is just institutionalized extortion.
posted by edguardo at 8:24 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


edguardo: without a government to enforce contracts and regulate business practices, how could one ever hope to know whether they're getting their "entire paycheck" (whatever that means)?

What's to keep the boss who cuts your check from pocketing 99% of what should be a fair wage for your labor?

It's not as simple as saying you'd get to keep your "entire paycheck" in the absence of taxation because there's potentially no such thing as a paycheck at all in the absence of government and the taxation schemes required to fund it.

Indeed, before the labor movement, many people in the US did labor for no paycheck at all--sharecroppers toiled long hours in the fields for nothing more than the privilege of being allowed to live in a house that would never be their own, other workers found themselves on an endless treadmill of debt with wages that could only be spent on overpriced goods at the company store.

That's the alternative to government regulation and taxes. Not finally, magically getting to keep all that hard earned money the powers that be have been stealing from you, but very much the opposite.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:27 PM on February 20, 2011 [28 favorites]


Why just oppose higher taxes, then? By your logic, why not oppose taxes altogether?
Yeah, having lower taxes would be nice, but I'm trying to be pragmatic. Right now, I keep about 55% of my paycheck, and if that slips below 50%, it would be a bit of a psychological hurdle I guess.
posted by planet at 8:30 PM on February 20, 2011


I think they are suggesting that the market can do many (or all) of those things better, and furthermore take issue with the idea that free enterprise needs taxation.

And they are either hopelessly, tragically deluded (because just cracking open a history book would completely dispel these illusions with even a casual study because it's not like we don't have plenty of historical examples of what happens when the free market has been left to its own devices) or they are themselves crooks looking to make a quick buck off of some credulous hicks.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:31 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


P.J. O'Rourke had it right 20 years ago, when he wrote that since taxes were collected under threat of lawful force, you have to look at every expenditure through the lens of a simple question: "Would you imprison your grandmother for it?"

Because if grandma doesn't pay her taxes, that's what's supposed to happen right? So, you better have a good reason to ask for tax money, since the only to get it is to threaten to throw grandma in jail.

Seriously, try the grandma test yourself. It really clarifies the thinking.

"We need to re-pave I-95, grandma. That sounds reasonable. Pony up."

"Wait, you want how many ICBMs? No, I'm not asking grandma to open her checkbook for that. Go fuck yourself."

"Grandma, the school needs new books. Get your purse out."

"A federally funded program for what? Art? PBS? NPR? You want to throw grandma in jail so you can have Sesame Street commercial-free? Fuck that. Tell Elmo to sell some more toys to pay for it."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:32 PM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Planet: It's not your money. It's your debt to the public for services rendered. For instance the paved roads you drive to work on, or the education you received that made you employable in the first place, or the internet you are currently using to complain about your taxes (all of which, just for a couple of examples, were developed using the tax money of previous generations--who unlike you often paid them proudly as a matter of civic duty).
posted by saulgoodman at 8:36 PM on February 20, 2011 [35 favorites]


Planet: It's not your money. It's your debt to the public for services rendered.
Thank you, but this perspective does not interest me and repetition will not change my mind in the least.
posted by planet at 8:37 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love these threads where Americans argue about why the boat is sinking instead of suggesting actionable ways to stop the boat sinking (because there *are* no politically acceptable, actionable ways to stop the boat sinking).

This is the system working, folks.

The government will continue to run a deficit and incur debt (monetized by the Fed indirectly by buying treasuries from the Primary Dealers) while fretting about minor cuts that make no substantial difference until one of two things happens: either the bid collapses on US debt, forcing interest rates into the stratosphere and causing an inflationary spiral, or the currency collapses, forcing huge austerity measures of the kinds that are necessary right now and plunging the country into a deflationary spiral.

The third possibility, which is what the gummint is pretending will happen but won't, is that US productivity and GDP will steadily grow the country out of its deficit position.

Basically what we're seeing here is the failure of fiat currencies. I'm not arguing for a return to the gold standard -- that can't possibly work -- but the public has not yet woken up to the astounding transfers of wealth that are now taking place as private debt is socialized and currencies are debased.

With the Fed pumping 6-7 billion dollars EVERY DAY into the accounts of the Primary Dealers via debt repurchases, there's no wonder that the stock markets continue to surge ahead and commodities are soaring into the stratosphere. There are only two possible ends to this story. One is inflation, as the commodity run-up feeds through into the price of everything, and interest rates rise to keep the deficit monster fed, and the second is collapse as the bid dries up on, well, everything.

Countries go bust like rich people go broke. At first very slowly, and at the end very quickly.

Wisonsin? Just the beginning.
posted by unSane at 8:37 PM on February 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Planet: Wow, then just stick to Fox News and leave your blinders on. I, too, make it a point never to consider perspectives that challenge my preexisting beliefs in any way. I find that makes me a better adjusted and more balanced person.

And I haven't repeated myself, so it's kind of odd you would preemptively assume I would. I might try to argue along different lines, but I wouldn't repeat myself. I'm not like Fox News in that respect.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:41 PM on February 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Wow, then just stick to Fox News and leave your blinders on. I, too, make it a point never to consider perspectives that challenge my preexisting beliefs in any way.
Considering that I've never watched Fox News, I find it easy to believe you make a point never to consider perspectives that challenge your preexisting beliefs.
posted by planet at 8:44 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's to keep the boss who cuts your check from pocketing 99% of what should be a fair wage for your labor?

Organized labor, maybe? Why do you need elected representatives and appointed police chiefs to collectively bargain?

Seeing as various states have often opposed the goals of the labor movement, the labor movement is quite accustomed to fighting its fight without help from the government, and indeed, with its active opposition.

My question, more fundamentally, is this: what justifies the collection of a tax?

Cool Papa Bell presents a way of deciding if particular taxes are acceptable, but not for justifying taxation itself.

saulgoodman, you offer a possible justification:

It's your debt to the public for services rendered. For instance the paved roads you drive to work on, or the education you received that made you employable in the first place, or the internet you are currently using to complain about your taxes (all of which, just for a couple of examples, were developed using the tax money of previous generations--who unlike you often paid them proudly as a matter of civic duty).

Which, to me, raises the question: if the government is the sole provider of a service in a country which none of us chose to be born in, how far does that obligate us to the state (or to fellow taxpayers/citizens)?

The Soviet Union was, nominally at least, the provider of all employment, education, infrastructure, whatever. What did citizens of the Soviet Union owe to the state? What kind of 'societal debt' are we born with here in the U.S.?
posted by edguardo at 8:44 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. Thank you, but this perspective does not interest me and repetition will not change my mind in the least.

2. Considering that I've never watched Fox News, I find it easy to believe you make a point never to consider perspectives that challenge your preexisting beliefs.

3. wut
posted by edguardo at 8:46 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


This article's a nice try, but it's wrong and doesn't say anything new. Lakoff invalidates his own thesis early on in the argument by acknowledging the contradiction: these guys are fine with corporate subsidies and a publicly-funded military.

Modern conservatives have no interest in "individual responsibility" in any sphere, personal or public. If they cared about the responsibility part they'd actually want their idols to take responsibility for crimes and failures. They didn't care when Reagan broke the law and dealt arms to an enemy. They didn't care when Bush et al. lied them into two wars they couldn't win. They didn't care about their unpayable debts or irreconcilable deficits. They didn't care when Carl Rove committed treason. They don't care when religious leaders turn out to be hypocrites and swindlers as long as they get a weepy redemption story out of it. The only thing that made them sort of care about personal responsibility is when Foley and his cronies turned out to be kiddie fuckers. And when that happened many tried desperately to re-brand him as some kind of crypto-liberal.

All they want is "tough love" inflited upon the weak by implacable parental figures. Simple as that.


(because there *are* no politically acceptable, actionable ways to stop the boat sinking)

"It's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism."
posted by clarknova at 8:49 PM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Considering that I've never watched Fox News, I find it easy to believe you make a point never to consider perspectives that challenge your preexisting beliefs.

Well, if you ever do watch it (which I don't recommend), you'll find that you've perfectly expressed the kind of attitude it nurtures.

And boy, you sure got me. You're clever. And selfish. And wrong.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:50 PM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Which, to me, raises the question: if the government is the sole provider of a service in a country which none of us chose to be born in, how far does that obligate us to the state (or to fellow taxpayers/citizens)?

If your family is the sole provider of a service, when none of us chose to be born into our family, how far does that obligate us to our family?

There was a time when the idea that being Americans meant being part of a large extended social framework, similar to a family but much much larger, was actually taught in schools. As part of civics lessons. You know, those classes they had where they taught you about how voting works, how local, state, and federal government work, where they talked about things like civic duty and civic obligation.

Being part of a country means, pretty much, that you participate in that country. In the best of countries, that participation takes place on as level a playing field as possible for all citizens. The US doesn't have a very level playing field, and has a lot of people who should be participating instead feeling disenfranchised. Whether through the circumstances of their lives or their own choice.

I think the best thing we could do for our society is have people stop selfishly focussing on the end of their own nose and look at the very big picture. From that vantage point, taxes are not only sensible, but might even be welcomed.
posted by hippybear at 8:54 PM on February 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Organized labor, maybe? Why do you need elected representatives and appointed police chiefs to collectively bargain?

Well, without laws to support the rights to organize, organized labor isn't nearly as much help as it used to be, thanks to globalization (though I think it still could be). And the labor movement also led to actual labor laws that have improved conditions for working and middle class people. Those kinds of laws--any laws--need properly funded governments to exist. That means taxes.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:55 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


unSane,
Well then we stop selling Treasury debt. We don't have to sell it to raise funds. That's a holdover from the gold standard. As Prof. Stephanie Kelton put it:
In contrast, the government is the issuer of its currency. It is not like a household. It doesn’t have to raise money by borrowing or collecting taxes in order to spend. Those of us in the private sector have to earn or borrow dollars before we can spend. The government must spend first. And we say this, and sometimes people have a hard time understanding that. How can the government spend first? How can it not spend first? How could the government collect taxes, in dollars, first? It first had to have spent those dollars into existence. The spending has to come before the payment or the collection of taxes. The government must spend first. Government spending is not (we use this term a lot) operationally constrained by revenues. It doesn’t need tax payments and bond sales in order to fund itself. It is not operationally constrained. The only relevant constraints are self-imposed constraints. We talked a little bit about this earlier, things like debt ceilings. That’s a self-imposed constraint. Rules that prevent the Treasury from running an overdraft in its account at the Fed. That’s a self-imposed constraint. It is a constraint that is imposed by Congress. Rules that prevent the Fed from buying Treasury bonds directly from the Treasury, so-called monetizing the debt, is a self-imposed constraint.
For more on this, check out the Corrente Modern Monetary Theory archive.
posted by wuwei at 8:55 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, I have no idea why Lakoff and his ilk act surprised about Donkeys accepting the Elephants' frame. The same ringmasters are writing thier campaign checks after all.
posted by clarknova at 8:56 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Those are good questions, edguardo, but I don't know if they could ever be reduced to simple answers. There's little doubt most Americans are born owing a substantial debt to previous generations of Americans, since we're born into a system that benefits us in countless ways merely by accident of birth. It seems to me if we aren't even talking about meeting our obligations to future generations of Americans anymore, we're definitely not doing as much as those who came before us did.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:24 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my opinion, "I don't want to pay taxes for things that our country needs to function" is basically an extension of the "fuck you, I've got mine" attitude.

Really, that should replace "e pluribus unum" at this point in our history.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:34 PM on February 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Also, I have no idea why Lakoff and his ilk act surprised about Donkeys accepting the Elephants' frame. The same ringmasters are writing thier campaign checks after all.
Even that makes it sound surprising (and a bit paranoid). It's much simpler: it's not a Republican frame, it's the frame that's been openly accepted by both parties for decades.
posted by cdward at 9:35 PM on February 20, 2011


Well, without laws to support the rights to organize, organized labor isn't nearly as much help as it used to be, thanks to globalization (though I think it still could be). And the labor movement also led to actual labor laws that have improved conditions for working and middle class people. Those kinds of laws--any laws--need properly funded governments to exist. That means taxes.

The strength and effectiveness of collective bargaining does not rest on the existence or non-existence of labor laws. Collective bargaining and other forms of worker's action cause those laws to come about. Delegating such responsibilities to the state disempowers unions and presumes to give legitimacy to labor policies enacted by people who've never worked an honest day's work in their life. It "disorganizes" organized labor by placing the responsibility of improving the plight of workers in the hands of politicians, and thereby leads to the dissolution of existing and effective non-state means of bargaining. Why maintain an independent and vigilant worker's organization you don't need? "The state will do it." "There are laws now." What you're talking about is the reason organized labor isn't much help these days, I think.

If your family is the sole provider of a service, when none of us chose to be born into our family, how far does that obligate us to our family?

What do I owe my neighbors for? They helped pay for the roads I drive on, for sure, but they paid for them under threat of imprisonment for tax evasion. Forgive me for not being overwhelmed by their generosity. I owe them for what they do for me voluntarily, I think.

Parents choose to have children and choose, hopefully, to treat them well and raise them up right. That's worthy of someone's gratitude, but I'm not sure how useful the analogy is when we're talking about an entire nation. The "United States," whatever that really means, has a tenuous relationship to me personally, I think. I don't think the United States cares about me, and I think ruling classes in general only provide services and liberties on threat of revolution. Hardly out of an overflowing generosity of the type you would find in a loving family.

I think the best thing we could do for our society is have people stop selfishly focussing on the end of their own nose and look at the very big picture. From that vantage point, taxes are not only sensible, but might even be welcomed.

Only if everyone agreed that tax evasion was in every case wrongdoing. These days, with so much of every tax dollar going to murdering people in foreign countries, I can hardly blame someone for wanting to get off the grid.
posted by edguardo at 9:35 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


P.J. O'Rourke had it right 20 years ago, when he wrote that since taxes were collected under threat of lawful force, you have to look at every expenditure through the lens of a simple question: "Would you imprison your grandmother for it?"

Because if grandma doesn't pay her taxes, that's what's supposed to happen right? So, you better have a good reason to ask for tax money, since the only to get it is to threaten to throw grandma in jail.
That's very muddled thinking. Its like saying theft shouldn't be illegal because you would have to put grandma in jail if she stole something. We put people in jail for tax evasion, not, I don't even know what we would be hypothetically putting people in jail for in your example. The correct example is whether or not you'd throw your mother in jail for using fraud to prevent those things from happening. Would you? Most people wouldn't. But then again, most people wouldn't rat out their family members unless the straight up murdered someone or something like that. So how is that even a valid thought exercise?

When it comes to taxes, conservatives need to get over it. Most of the really rich get rich through rent seeking and other nonsense anyway.

It's this randian ideology that makes people obsessed with being greedy bitch misers. Just get over it. Seriously.
posted by delmoi at 9:37 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's this randian ideology that makes people obsessed with being greedy bitch misers. Just get over it. Seriously.

Leftist anarchism opposes taxation too. You don't have to be a Randroid to be against taxation. You just have to dislike coercion (a lot).

Putting grandma in jail is a pretty good example, I think.

If you can justify imprisoning your nearest and dearest for not doing it, then you've probably got a pretty strong case for doing it. In this case: paying taxes.
posted by edguardo at 9:43 PM on February 20, 2011


I'm pretty sure that my grandma is happy to pay taxes to help the less fortunate and to do all kinds of things that make our nation better that PJ O'Rourke would disagree with. Your analogy sucks.
posted by Skwirl at 9:55 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess the good news is, if we nobody pays taxes, we can't be put in prison for it because there will be no funds to pay for the prisons.

But then, there would also be no law enforcement. So those neighbors you don't owe anything to will be free to draw a gun on you and take whatever of yours they want. Or you can also be armed and shoot them when they try to do that, which then leads their family into a blood feud with you and yours, and eventually the revenge cycle spirals out of control...

I'd say, what you owe your neighbors is the same respect you feel they owe you. You have much in common, starting from the moment you leave your front porch, and everyone who contributes to that common space (through taxes) are afforded, in theory, the basic right to live your life unmolested, and to have community backup (through police and legal systems, paid for by taxes) if they do overstep their bounds into your life.

The social contract is tangled and messy, but nearly all of us are happy to have it. I know I pay taxes to pave the roads every time I fill up my gas tank, but I'd rather pay that way than have to carry change in my pocket because every street light has been turned into a toll booth to pay for that block's worth of street maintenance.
posted by hippybear at 10:03 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, the whole social contract thing is sort of about how we agree to give up certain of our rights to a government in order to have things that benefit everyone. That's kind of what taxes are all about.

The only reason coercion comes into the picture is when some muddles thinker or total asshole decides that he or she should be able to take advantage of the benefits of being a citizen without contributing.

This, I think, still serves as the ultimate symbol for what the "free market" system of paying for public services looks like.

I mean, we've seen centuries of examples of how the wealthy, greedy and stupid treat citizens when given the chance. Suggesting that the free market can solve the problems as well (or even better) than a government system can is like suggesting that a drunken teenage boy would be a better person to drive the baby home than his sober mother - if I can paraphrase a PJ O'Rourke quote.

Didn't the free market capitalists just create one of the biggest economic nightmares in our countries history? They're the ones who should be taking care of us?

No thank you. Given the choice between have the Koch brothers (for example) rule over us directly or their toadying political representatives rule over us by proxy, I'd choose the latter. We can vote them out. I'm even willing to pay some taxes so that their toadying political representatives can have a salary.

There's no social contract between any of us and Koch industries. They don't owe us anything. The government does because of the social contract thing. And as long as we pay some taxes, we keep a buffer between ourselves and those scumbags.

And, if you happen to think the Koch brothers are awesome, don't you at least want to pay for a buffer between yourself and George Soros?
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:05 PM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


The correct example is whether or not you'd throw your mother in jail for using fraud to prevent those things from happening. Would you? Most people wouldn't.

The point is, to restate it a different way, is that unfair taxation would lead people to commit fraud or otherwise subvert the legal pressure, and then society doesn't work for anyone. So you have to devise a means of taxation, and a rationale, that is fair and logical.

You wouldn't attempt to tax someone for a frivolous purpose, because that's unfair, illogical and would lead you to throw grandma in jail for failure to pay your stupid tax to fund your stupid project.

It's this divorce from reality that is at the heart of the problem -- that leaders don't view taxes and expenditures as actual solutions to actual problems, like who the fuck is going to pave I-95. It's all just so many political footballs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:33 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Funny you mention the firefighter story. It makes a fella think of Crassus sending his water waggons round to your burning building and, if you agreed to sell out to him, putting out the fire, and if you didn't agree, letting your building burn to the ground. Crassus became Rome's richest citizen via this form of real estate bargain hunting.

The reason I mention it is that wealth tends to coalesce; and with wealth, power. We pay taxes so we have a say as to whether Crassus gets to acquire wealth any old way he wants.

Your taxes enfranchise you. Then you get to vote over what granny has to pay for.

It's taken 6000 years for society to get to this state and it wasn't easy.
posted by Trochanter at 10:34 PM on February 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


You just have to dislike coercion (a lot).

I think you also have to be a little bit naive, though. The idea of a society based entirely on consent seems unworkable, and to me, complaining about the tyranny of taxation itself seems more or less equivalent to complaining about the tyranny of traffic conventions. You can get away with less, and sometimes when you do you perhaps you can find new efficiencies, but often it turns out that minima have costs too.

If you can justify imprisoning your nearest and dearest for not doing it, then you've probably got a pretty strong case for doing it. In this case: paying taxes.

I actually feel like this is fair enough. The "grandma in jail" thing phrasing is certainly a bit loaded, and we can get into the problems common to any categorical imperative. But the basic idea is more or less implicit in the idea of rule of law, and lefties are really no stranger to the idea, particularly when they're talking about law enforcement.

But there's a flip side to this, of course. For example: do we really want our nearest and dearest to have to rely exclusively the mercies of the incentive-driven entities who care nothing about them for health insurance?
posted by weston at 10:37 PM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


The point that Lakoff is trying to make has already been proven countless times on this thread - i.e. it's the way thoughts and questions are framed via the "Metaphors We Live By"

Lakoff is a cognitive scientist. What he's trying to accomplish - and introduce in a palatable way - is the hard-wired reality of why one or another individual thinks the way they do about politics, fatherhood, education, crime, etc. etc.

I have spent some professional time in the world of cognitive science, now largely influenced by the phenomenal imaging (fMRI) abilities available to researchers.

It turns out that very early experiences meld with our conceptual selves to form hard-wired filters that mediate all reality. We're talking here about real physical pathways in the brain, no some abstract aether.

For those who are intrigued with this research, I can think of no better place to start than Lakoff's book entitled The Political Mind. This book is not a page-turner, and it does tend to be somewhat repetitive, but a serious read of the book will help one gain a real understanding of what Lakoff has discovered about cognitive metaphorical filters and their influences on certain kinds of preference. Once one has a basic understanding, and a toolset provided by Lakoff, one can go forward with language-based and other approaches to effectively combat the ultra-conservative rhetoric that has taken over our national dialogue.

Those of us who are inclined to a more nurturing view of life need to read Lakoff's work. It will help one gain immensely useful political perspective, as well as help one understand why a person is an ultra-conservative (or ultra-liberal). In doing so, one learns how to meet arguments and rationales from perspectives that have an opportunity to reframe those metaphorical filters nd thus, really change minds.

Until we start to use this good science to our advantage, all our talk about change amounts to spitting in the wind. Read Lakoff's book, or go get a really good summary somewhere; it's one of the most important books about political thought (and life) in the last three decades. Last, Lakoff's conclusions are based in science, not in political preference or bombast (btw, Lakoff does lean left, but that's irrelevant to the science).
posted by Vibrissae at 10:45 PM on February 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


The trouble with facts, of course, is that facts backfire. What we should be doing is framing (i.e. creating a context for lies) that will open the Overton Window on our side of the aisle.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:04 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't send my representatives to the Capitol to share their paste and crayons. I want them to fucking fight for me.

I'm assuming you're telling your representatives this as well? I am.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:59 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Planet: Wow, then just stick to Fox News and leave your blinders on

I don't think I have to be a Fox News drone to reject the notion that the taxes withdrawn from my paycheck are not "my money" but rather "a debt to the public for services rendered."

I'm happy to pay taxes and I support progressive taxation. But it's damn well my money. Practically that may be a fiction, but conceptually I insist on it. The government isn't collecting on a "debt." It should have to justify taking that money from me (and anyone else).
posted by eugenen at 12:24 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thank you, but this perspective does not interest me and repetition will not change my mind in the least.

Ladies and gentlemen! Please be upstanding and stick your fingers in your ears for a rousing chorus of the conservative anthem "La, la la! I can't hear you!"
posted by Grangousier at 1:06 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"La, la la! I can't hear you!", ... sung during a short break of the liberals singing "We ain't gonna listen."
posted by Ardiril at 1:12 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't help but think that the fact that my public school education (in what appears to be a relatively high quality district, good enough to get a school in the top 10 of that Newsweek list awhile ago, although I realize that's not exactly a scientific measure) did not include any meaningful classes on civics or why exactly we pay taxes, or what's different about the United States prior to the civil war and income tax and today, or basically anything that prepared me to have an informed position on whether an arbitrary tax I don't personally pay is good or bad. It's my general impression that this is not exactly an uncommon situation with people in their late 20s like myself, and I can't imagine it's getting better.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:17 AM on February 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


In fact, this is what I do remember from my "civics" class which was just a few days of a generic social studies class.

* What an obsolete voting booth looks like.
* That you have to get a permit to hunt & fish in certain areas of the state.
* Incredibly tedious detail on why it is absolutely vital that everyone register for the draft.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:20 AM on February 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is quite obviously true, even though Lakoff has a bit of a radical bent lately. Even Obama discusses the deficit in terms of its metaphorical frame, wherein responsible adult legislators must reign in the budget so they are in the black. "Entitlement" is a great example of how the deficit frame invokes a parenting mapping: a seemingly inconsequential word convinces us that fickle, childish voters must give up things they cling to, as if entitlements are ice cream sundaes Daddy President can't afford right now.

It's a bitter irony that a metaphor which relies on our collective understanding of the middle class family experience is being used to dismantle what little remains of that class.
posted by mek at 2:27 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


First, I am a fairly consistent lefty. Second, I'm on record many times as saying that I believe that framing is a big part of our problems.

That said, I think that most of the "solutions" pondered from the left (even though I agree with a lot of them) are too overthought - too intellectually driven. Facts and figures simply won't motivate a sizeable chunk of the population.

Watch most Tea Baggers interviewed and you'll see their responses are not reasoned and intellectual, they are clannish and visceral. They've been told over and over again that they have been attacked and insulted, and they have responded on that level. Facts will likely never sway most of them.

When progressives in the street are interviewed, the result is kinda the opposite of above. There's almost always a sense of desperation to get out as many facts and figures as possible. Not that that's wrong; I just don't think it sways enough people.

The first way to gain some ground is something I try to do everyday on a personal basis - kill 'em with kindness. Don't get baited, but always speak your mind as serenely as possible. The second way is do exactly what people in Wisconsin are doing. Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and organize.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:51 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm happy to pay taxes and I support progressive taxation. But it's damn well my money. Practically that may be a fiction, but conceptually I insist on it. The government isn't collecting on a "debt." It should have to justify taking that money from me (and anyone else).

And this right here nails one of the primary reasons why so many people are so antithetical toward taxes. Government has failed to properly justify the expenditures.

Since everyone else here is speaking in broad brush strokes, so will I: a great many people will agree that we need to collectively share the cost for roads, for electrical infrastructure, for schools, for sewer and water systems, for police, fire, EMS and a judicial system. I don't think that there is much disagreement there from the majority of people. Sure, you'll have your moonbatters who think that the government has no right to anything in their pocketbook, but that's the fringe. Let's talk about the 80-90% who agree that these basic necessities can and should be funded properly.

This is about the limit of what a great many people will agree upon. Unfortunately, we then have a system of government, based on people who are fallible and make mistakes and make bad decisions. This sours the public's mood toward giving more money to support even these basic needs. Thinking in terms of The Leviathan, you get a central authority who begins to demand more, justify itself less and becomes self-perpetuating. This occurs over time, slowly, like proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water. Then one day everyone wakes up and realizes, "shit! I'm paying how much in taxes for what? when did this happen?" and everyone is up in arms.

Case in point is my community in the Cleveland suburbs. Already a hot bead of corruption, Cleveland/Cuyahoga County may be economically depressed, but there sure is a lot of money moving around up here. In my community, the city decided to use eminent domain to purchase a strip mall for "redevelopment". Of course, they bought at the peak of the CRE market in 2006 and have yet to get anywhere with it, all the while paying close to $20 million in bonds, associated interest, legal and cleanup costs. The residents have been asked to pony up additional taxes to help cover the budget shortfall that has resulted from the lost tax revenue from this strip mall, along with the interest burden and associated costs.

At the same time, the local school board decided to let the superintendent of schools "retire", then be re-hired at the same salary so he can collect retirement along with his full pay. All during a time when the board emphatically stated just before a levy that no money from the levy would be used for salaries, just to maintain the number of teachers in the district.

On top of that, the entire Northeast Ohio region has been shellacked with a settlement with the EPA causing everyones' sewer rates to increase 12% annually through the year 2030.

So, at the end of the day, when someone comes to me and says, "come on, it's just a little bit more in tax revenue", I'm at the point where I seriously don't care what it goes to support or how little it may seem: every little bit has added up to a lot for middle wage earners in my area. On top of that, I look at how the money is being spent and say no more.

Yes, we all want to help the kids, drink clean water, drive on nicely paved roads and see the police patrolling. However, the bigger the budget, the bigger the waste, and at least in my neck of the woods the waste has grown far too big for me to stomach.
posted by tgrundke at 5:13 AM on February 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


"I'm opposed to higher taxes because I like using my paycheck to buy things for myself. It's not very complicated, really."

I get what you're saying, but wanted to offer a slightly different viewpoint - I looked at my salary after taxes as the "real" paycheck, in the same way that I consider the "real" price of an item at the store to be cost plus sales tax. Sure, your employer says that you're getting X dollars, but the result of that exchange taking place in America means it will really be X minus Y dollars. If X minus Y dollars is not enough, can't one negotiate or find a job where that amount is acceptable?
posted by dubold at 5:15 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


But it's damn well my money. Practically that may be a fiction, but conceptually I insist on it.

For years, many wealthy employers in America shared this attitude about the wages owed their employees. Why should they have to give their money to the low people who worked in the fields on their behalf? So they didn't ever pay them, but devised elaborate mechanisms to hold them effectively in a permanent state of debt bondage. So if you think you've got it bad now with "your money" being taken for taxes, just imagine how much worse it could be if the general attitude were universal and applied to other areas.

In other words, just because you still insist on seeing it as your money, doesn't make it so. And in fact, since that way of viewing it conflicts with a fundamental reality that is ultimately beyond anyone's power to change (the only two things that are inevitable, after all, are Death and Taxes), it's not IMO a healthy way to look at it.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:28 AM on February 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have never understood people who have such strong opposition to the idea of taxes. I live in a poor, rural county, and I know my area is desperate for my property taxes. The schools desperately need my school taxes, even though I don't have kids. The roads are in horrible condition, so I live in hope that some of my taxes will go towards improving the roads in my neighborhood and on my most frequently used routes.

When I was working, I was comfortably enough off that I could pay all my bills and my taxes, too. I could have sought to lower my taxes through getting my property reappraised at it's real value, but really, the taxes are so low already that I felt guilty trying to get them lowered. Now I'm pursuing this because I'm no longer working and every bit helps.

But how exactly do people expect to get the benefits of civilization without paying their fair share? Is it because poor people might get to use the roads, too? I don't know why we don't call people out for the antisocial and supremely stupid idea that we'd be better off without taxes. I think all those people obviously live in an area with a well-funded government. When the potholes are two feet wide and a foot deep, maybe you'll be motivated to dig in your pockets.
posted by threeturtles at 5:33 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Q: What's to keep the boss who cuts your check from pocketing 99% of what should be a fair wage for your labor?

A: Organized labor, maybe? Why do you need elected representatives and appointed police chiefs to collectively bargain?

Well, I just LITERALLY broke my ass falling off my chair laughing.
posted by Mister_A at 5:34 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


When did this myth about the benevolence of corporate leadership start? Remember this: Today's corporate leaders are the same people who torture and murder their political opponents, the same people who publicly behead others, the same people who order young men to fly jets into towers. They are not nice people and they will would murder any one of us for a buck. Their sole desire is power and its exercise.
posted by Mister_A at 5:43 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Today's corporate leaders are the same people who torture and murder their political opponents, the same people who publicly behead others, the same people who order young men to fly jets into towers.

Really? The same people?
posted by dubold at 6:14 AM on February 21, 2011


Maybe when Americans can't drive on their highways, can't rely on electric power, can't obtain decent health care, can't buy food without it giving them food poisoning, can't learn to read, can't hire people who know how to read, and as young people can't form households of their own -- then the citizens will realize that taxation is actually worth it.

Wait, many of these things are already the case. How much worse does it have to get for citizens to realize that taxation and government produce public goods? Haiti? Thousands of people without homes, living in tents, dying of cholera?

we're into a vicious spiral where the Haves are determined to hold onto all of their money and the Have-nots have so little that they resent giving any of it up.
posted by bad grammar at 6:22 AM on February 21, 2011


I'd love it if there were no taxes, no roads, no waterworks, no schools, no hospitals, no judges and no police.

Because my dream job is killing rich people.
posted by fullerine at 6:35 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd love it if there were no taxes, no roads, no waterworks, no schools, no hospitals, no judges and no police.

Also no military.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 6:39 AM on February 21, 2011


vibrissae: The point that Lakoff is trying to make has already been proven countless times on this thread - i.e. it's the way thoughts and questions are framed via the "Metaphors We Live By"


And the implementation of the metaphor of approval called "favoriting" limits me to just one click. Planet uses a simple metaphor in which he trades his work for payment and this coercive alien force steps in and takes a lot of it away. He resists those who wish to reframe this point of view since his frame feels right to him. Choice of frames is an emotional issue. Logic is secondary. And most often it happens unconsciously.

Lakoff is trying to make it a more conscious process as he sees the battle being lost in advance (war metaphor) by the way the issues are being framed (which is dominated by the right (spacial metaphor)).
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:41 AM on February 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's cute when non-wealthy Americans think their voices matter.
posted by Legomancer at 6:54 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


greedy bitch misers and the furious five. now that was a band.
posted by Sailormom at 7:13 AM on February 21, 2011


I'd love it if there were no taxes, no roads, no waterworks, no schools, no hospitals, no judges and no police.
Because my dream job is killing rich people.


You do know that the rich people will have their own armies, right?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:22 AM on February 21, 2011


You do know that the rich people will have their own armies, right?

Don't they already?
posted by valkane at 7:25 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I looked at my salary after taxes as the "real" paycheck

I do exactly the same thing. Just like the cost of buying something online is the cost of the thing plus shipping, only in reverse.

I've got no problem paying taxes, though sometimes I do fantasize about pulling a Stranger Than Fiction and paying all of my taxes minus the percentage that goes to the military. Harder to pull shenanigans like that with automatic deductions though.
posted by sonika at 9:20 AM on February 21, 2011


Considering that I've never watched Fox News, I find it easy to believe you make a point never to consider perspectives that challenge your preexisting beliefs.

While I disagree with your assessment of saulgoodman's opinion, I find it even easier to believe that you make the same point that you accuse him of doing, only more aggressively and with sharper elbows.
posted by blucevalo at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It continues to amaze me that the Democrats are unable to frame their arguments...they are perpetually on the defensive, attempting to argue the very ideas and stereotypes portrayed by the far right. I am beginning to feel like this is all just a dramatic presentation by all politicians, designed to give the illusion of two opposing sides while they all benefit!
posted by GreyFoxVT at 9:50 AM on February 21, 2011


To me the granny issue is not a hypothetical problem because I literally cannot afford my taxes. After deductions my family owes three months of wages but we need to spend 11.5 months worth to survive. Last year we had to go onto payments, and most of our tax balance is still unpaid. We anticipate the same situation this year, and so at some point the IRS will have to conclude we'll never be able to pay.

And it's not like we can do any belt tightening; we've already slashed to the bone. But well, people keep wanting government to pay for things, which is all very fine, but from my perspective there's no difference between the people who want missiles, and the ones who want PBS.

Still, I have to remind myself that by the standards of most of the world and nearly all of history I am fabulously wealthy, simply by virtue of where I was born. I have done little to deserve such wealth and power, and the same goes for pretty much everyone here. So it's always amusing to listen to the rich and influential whining about other people being richer and more influential.
posted by happyroach at 10:06 AM on February 21, 2011


To me the granny issue is not a hypothetical problem because I literally cannot afford my taxes. After deductions my family owes three months of wages but we need to spend 11.5 months worth to survive.

I'm curious, how did you get in this situation? My grandparents found themselves in a similar situation at one point, owing a much larger tax liability than they had expected at the end of the year, but in their case (and in most similar cases I've seen) the cause of the problem wasn't ultimately that they couldn't have covered their liability if they'd known about it and withheld the correct amount all along, but that the lump sum came unexpectedly. Not sure if it was an accountant that misled them or what, but in their case and I think in most others I've seen like it, the problem was not really with the amount of taxation, but with the complexity of the tax code and the filing process and bad accounting advice. Is this similar in your case?

Because I'm all for simplifying the tax collection process and putting more of the burden for proactively collecting taxes on the IRS, assuming the IRS could also be funded well enough to make an improved, modernized collection process work.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:31 AM on February 21, 2011


But also, if your family can't live within its means, then maybe you need a little more financial discipline. I believe that's the official conservative position on struggling home owners and pretty much anybody dealing with non tax-related financial hardships (you know: medical hardships, lost employment, car trouble, etc.--the kind of everyday crippling financial challenges that don't come according to a predictable schedule that anyone can lookup ahead of time and prepare for).
posted by saulgoodman at 10:58 AM on February 21, 2011


I hate getting mail. Mail sucks.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:44 AM on February 21, 2011


We should take note, too, that in the vast majority of the punditry's frantic bleating about the sudden and unexpected budgetary crisis, military spending is not even mentioned; Not even to justify taking it off the table.

Yeah, we need to keep building subs and aircraft carriers, just in case the 1989 Soviet Union comes attacking or something.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:46 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The real question is, since the benefits of tax cuts for the ulta-wealthy only directly benefit 1,000 families or so in a huge way, and 10,000 families in a medium to minor way, why are so many millions of families on board with their agenda?

Well, this is one of the central questions of the American political dynamic : why do so many people vote against their best interests? Why do, say, poor, uninsured rural Southerners oppose single-payer healthcare?

This is what I've come up with, after spending 12 years in the Midwest, 7 years in NYC, and 1 year in SF : Conservatives think they have it pretty good. I mean, that's pretty much the definition of Conservative : someone who wants to keep the status quo. So no matter how bad things are, if they think they have it pretty good, they're not going to want things to change.

Why do these poor uninsured rural Southerners think they have it pretty good? No idea. Probably some flag-waving rhetoric about how America is the Best, Most Free-est Country EVAR! Maybe that, coupled with the unwillingness to admit that sometimes other countries are right about things (like healthcare). But basically, if we want to get anywhere with these people who we see as voting against their own interests, we need to dislodge the notion that they have it pretty good, and show them that they're actually being mistreated by the people who they vote for, and that others actually have it far, far better somewhere else.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:57 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eat the Future
posted by homunculus at 12:08 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd love it if there were no taxes, no roads, no waterworks, no schools, no hospitals, no judges and no police.

Because my dream job is killing rich people.


This is what I've been trying to figure out for a couple years now. What happens when they do actually get their randian/mad-max survival of the fittest post-apocalyptic wasteland?

I'm young, healthy and because of their incessant bitching, I have nearly unlimited access to extraordinarily cheap guns and ammo. I'm all for non-violence now, but if I'm ever stuck living in some shitty ghetto and I'm starving, it's not gonna be that difficult to get some serious armed mobs going.

Someone else said it best: social justice and welfare are bloody revolution insurance.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:10 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


To me the granny issue is not a hypothetical problem because I literally cannot afford my taxes. After deductions my family owes three months of wages but we need to spend 11.5 months worth to survive.

See, I don't understand this either. Are you including state income taxes? Cause we don't have those in Texas, so I don't know anything about that. But I am not paying any federal income taxes this year because my household income is low enough that I don't have to. (One person working, myself unemployed, no kids.) And when I was working we had double income no kids and got about the worst tax rate ever, but it wasn't anything like three months of salary. We had to adjust our paycheck withdrawals to the highest level, but after that we started getting refunds again.

So are you not having taxes automatically withdrawn from your paychecks? Or just living way beyond your means?

I'm not trying to make this personal or an attack, but I am genuinely curious why other people's experiences sound so different from my own.
posted by threeturtles at 1:36 PM on February 21, 2011



"It's taken 6000 years for society to get to this state and it wasn't easy."

Somebody in another thread said "welcome to the Nineteenth Century", but I think what they really want is a return to Feudalism. There are a few wealthy families who own everything, and they suffer us to pick up scraps under the table. Everybody else fends for themselves. Organizationally, it's pretty simple.
posted by sneebler at 6:41 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well then we stop selling Treasury debt. We don't have to sell it to raise funds. That's a holdover from the gold standard

Man, those 'Modern Monetary Theorists' drive me nuts. What do they imagine happens to the rest of us if the Gummint just spends and spends and monetizes via the Fed? I keep seeing this crap popping up all over the web, and half-baked assertions that the US govt can't run out of money.

Well, in the most banal of senses, no, it can't. But only if it's willing to either put up with Weimar inflation, or cut itself off from trade with other nations. The convention that the Fed doesn't directly monetize US govt debt by purchasing T-bills from the State is there for a reason. Sure, it's a legislative fiat. Try doing away with it and see what happens.
posted by unSane at 7:07 PM on February 21, 2011


Somebody in another thread said "welcome to the Nineteenth Century", but I think what they really want is a return to Feudalism. There are a few wealthy families who own everything, and they suffer us to pick up scraps under the table. Everybody else fends for themselves. Organizationally, it's pretty simple.

These are the kind of braindead, cartoon-villain caricatures that the PC police would get upset about if they were made of some minority group, and that make anyone to the right of Dennis Kucinich roll their eyes. No, "they" do not want us to return to feudalism -- "they" genuinely believe that government is corrupt, coercive, and exploitative -- which it indisputably can be, to various degrees in various spheres. The question is how good the alternatives are. "They" largely also believe in the power of choice to triumph over circumstance and that thus most people who earn money deserve it. This is debatable, but free will is an enigmatic issue if ever there were one.

True liberals should apply the same standards of love and understanding they want applied to criminals and terrorists to conservatives... it would likely be revelatory, and might even help them be persuasive.
posted by shivohum at 7:24 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you're mistaken shivohum. Sometimes there actually are bad people in the world who want what they don't deserve and sometimes they actually luck up on the means to get it.

Mind you, I don't mean to suggest the foot soldiers of this new conservatism understand what political aims they're serving, but the elites know perfectly well what they want. These elites want what they still sometimes speak of in glowingly romantic terms in Chile--that kind of "economic miracle" that made a lot of them richer than ever (even while untold thousands of political dissidents disappeared forever).

And yes, certain key power elites really do want something like feudalism, for the same reasons elites have always wanted systems like this before, for the same immutable reasons exploitative labor systems (like truck systems, debt bondage, and outright slavery) have dominated most of human history. If you still can't understand that sometimes actual humans do knowingly desire such systems and do manage to achieve them, I have to imagine you really haven't read a single history text.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:50 PM on February 21, 2011


certain key power elites really do want something like feudalism

Who? I want names.
posted by eugenen at 7:55 PM on February 21, 2011


The Koch Brothers, for one.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:58 PM on February 21, 2011


saulgoodman, have you read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman"?

and thanks Radley, i thought the pumpkins would never get together:)
posted by clavdivs at 8:02 PM on February 21, 2011


Also Richard Mellon Scaife.

Also, let's not pretend there aren't still active monarchies and feudal systems all across the middle east and that many of our own economic and political elites (like the Bush family) don't have close well-known social and economic ties to those elites. When the leaders of our nation are members of the same country clubs as despots, it's not hard to imagine some of that monarchist attitude of privilege and God-given entitlement rubbing off. I personally saw traces of those attitudes in Jeb Bush's Florida (where cronyism was rampant).
posted by saulgoodman at 8:07 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


clavdivs: I haven't read it in its entirety, but I've heard interviews with the author and read some excerpts and derivative articles.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:08 PM on February 21, 2011


Sometimes there actually are bad people in the world who want what they don't deserve and sometimes they actually luck up on the means to get it.

For any view, even one with legitimate reasons behind it, there are people who back it for malicious reasons. That doesn't mean they are representative, or that the view is without merit.

the elites know perfectly well what they want.

See, this is conspiracy terminology. The elites are not monolithic. Many of the elites are apolitical, and many are liberal. Many elites do not see themselves as elites at all. Many of the elites are, like the rest of us, limited in perspective to their own situation in life, and naturally sympathize with political views in accord with that situation. That doesn't mean they, Dr. Evil-like, seek to implement a feudalism that will take over the world. Other elites are conservative because they genuinely believe in those principles. Then there may be a few crazy elites out there, just like there are crazies in every walk of life.

for the same immutable reasons exploitative labor systems (like truck systems, debt bondage, and outright slavery) have dominated most of human history.

These systems didn't come into existence and persist because some group of Illuminati put them into effect. There were very complex situational and systemic effects (economic benefits, religious beliefs, educational disparities, technological issues, geopolitical factors, psychological and sociological effects) that favored them.
posted by shivohum at 8:18 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Universal sufferage is, what, a hundred years old? And still confined to somewhere near half the globe? I think a lot of people are entirely too comfortable in thinking of it as an historical inevitability, and that once it's achieved it is a new and permanent state, like monkeys evolving into men. There is no reason to believe this.
posted by Trochanter at 8:21 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


See, this is conspiracy terminology. The elites are not monolithic.

I meant these particular elites. Guys like the Koch's and Scaife and fuck you for hurling the conspiracy epithet at me. As a matter of fact, these guys have been embroiled in real documented conspiracies.

And no, there is no legitimate argument to be made for feudalism, which is essentially a political system that prioritizes the rent-seeking interests of private capital owners over any others--in a word, the contemporary hard right form of conservatism embraced by the Koch brothers and guys like Norquist.

Of course those systems weren't put into place overnight by some secret Illuminati. That doesn't mean the elites who have profited and continue to profit from such systems and especially those who by deliberate action encouraged their development, benefiting all the while personally at the expense of the public, aren't morally responsible.

And don't give me that played out "we're all helpless victims of historical forces beyond our control" structuralist argument. The view that all human affairs are governed by powerful historical forces beyond our ken and capacity to control is an even worse form of magical thinking than the kind that emphasizes conspiracy theories as it rejects even the possibility of moral responsibility.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:44 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I meant these particular elites. Guys like the Koch's and Scaife and fuck you for hurling the conspiracy epithet at me. As a matter of fact, these guys have been embroiled in real documented conspiracies.

It sounds like the conspiracy epithet is accurate, since you're defending it. To argue against the crazies is easy--and useless. Conspiracies exist, but they are not what mainly move the world.

And no, there is no legitimate argument to be made for feudalism

No one's making that argument. People are accusing conservatives of being closeted feudalists.

And don't give me that played out "we're all helpless victims of historical forces beyond our control" structuralist argument. The view that all human affairs are governed by powerful historical forces beyond our ken and capacity to control is an even worse form of magical thinking than the kind that emphasizes conspiracy theories as it rejects even the possibility of moral responsibility.

There's moral responsibility all right, but trying to find arch-villains to lay some preachy judgment on is not going to solve actual problems. Real improvement requires a more thoughtful, considered approach, one that takes into account powerful historical forces.
posted by shivohum at 9:00 PM on February 21, 2011


No, I'm accusing Conservatives of undermining the current system in favour of a simplistic economic view which is undermining the social and economic infrastructure that has been created over the last few hundred years. What's left? A set of Feudal relationships based on wealth and might makes right.
posted by sneebler at 9:21 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Exactly what sneebler said.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:28 PM on February 21, 2011


trying to find arch-villains to lay some preachy judgment on

When Sarah Palin gives a speech, she charges a LOT of money. What happens is, a political organization will suddenly appear, with a name like "Citizens for Democracy," or "Americans for Truth," or something. This organization will pay Sarah's fee, rent the hall and all that stuff and then, after Miss Palin moves on, the organization will cease to exist. Who paid for her to give the talk?

If someone could remind me where I read this I would appreciate it. I can't find the flipping article.
posted by Trochanter at 10:09 PM on February 21, 2011


Trochanter: Maybe this Vanity Fair article is what you're thinking of?
Palin’s tours around the country are supported by a network of organizations that are not always what they claim to be. The Winning America Back conference was organized by a Missouri political-action committee called Preserving American Liberty (PAL-PAC). The group’s Web site states that “Members of Preserving American Liberty are from the Kansas City metropolitan area and are all unpaid volunteers who want to make a positive difference in the community.” Yet when I asked local politicians (including state representatives, a Senate candidate, and a congressional candidate) and local journalists about who had organized the event, I found that they knew nothing about the sponsors—“maybe because they’re Tea Partiers,” one reporter guessed, “and they’re all new to politics.”

PAL-PAC seems to have been created for a single purpose: to pay Sarah Palin to give a speech. PAL-PAC announced the Palin event at the same time that it announced its own formation. After the Palin event was over, most of the information on PAL-PAC’s Web site disappeared. In effect, PAL-PAC was a disposable entertainment company, set up to put on a one-day show that collected the contact information of thousands of people who came to see Palin in the flesh, and to give her their money. The organization has not been mentioned again anywhere online or in local newspapers. The group’s financial statements are curious. PAL-PAC was registered in Missouri last November; as of April 15, 2010, when it made its second quarterly disclosure report to the Missouri Ethics Commission, two weeks before Palin arrived in Independence, PAL-PAC had only $3,202 in the bank. This was not nearly enough money to reserve the venue, much less cover security, printing, advertising, or any of the other expenses associated with throwing an event for 4,000 people. PAL-PAC’s third disclosure report, filed on July 14, reveals large payments to Wayne Graves, a Kansas City physician, whose wife, Karladine, also a doctor, is the president of PAL-PAC. Wayne Graves performed a key service for Winning America Back: he personally paid the speakers’ fees and travel expenses. On June 23, according to the report, he was reimbursed for these outlays: $15,134.83 for “Reimburse Speak[er],” and $126,000, also for “Reimburse Speak[er].” By fronting the money for these expenses, Graves made it possible for PAL-PAC to keep details such as Palin’s precise fee under wraps. But the lion’s share of that $126,000, it seems safe to assume, went to Palin—that would tally with verified reports of what Palin has been paid elsewhere. When reached by phone, Karladine Graves refused to answer any questions about PAL-PAC: “I’m—we’re just a tiny little group, and we’re not really anything, I just, oh, no, I can’t talk about this.” (Palin is on track to earn well over $3 million in speaking fees for events this year. Washington Speakers Bureau did not respond to an interview request.
posted by skoosh at 11:10 PM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks skoosh, that's exactly it.
posted by Trochanter at 12:11 AM on February 22, 2011


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