Forum Post: Frame the narrative
Posted 11 years ago on Sept. 18, 2011, 7:35 p.m. EST by AlanO
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
Someone really needs to frame the narrative. And it needs to be directed at the primary driver of our economic problems:
Wall Street money infecting our political system.
Get rid of the money, and you remove the primary incentive these people have for making bad policy. A successful protest needs to focus its demand at the source of what its trying to change. Everything else should be secondary, as anything else will fall under the rules of "the domino effect". Everything from the big bank bailout, to the housing and student loan crises, can be traced right back to some bad policy measure that helped perpetrate these issues.
Policies that were mostly written by lobbyists or special interest groups.
Our economic issues revolve around policies created for 3 core economic drivers:
Trade policy Tax policy Banking policy
And EVERY piece of legislation connected to these 3 things, is a result of Wall Street money buying the most benefit for those with the most money.
So start with getting the Wall Street money out of Washington, and then start forcing change for better policies governing these three core areas of our economy. Changes that benefit ALL of the American people. Not just the very top.
So start at the root of the problem:
Wall Street money in our politics.
Y'know, if that's the core issue (and I think it is), there's room to find common ground with individuals and entities who would ordinarily be seen as on 'the other side'.
One particularly intriguing idea (and one which there may be some reluctance to consider on the part of the ideological left) is of corporate 'sponsorship' of a sort.
What got me thinking this was even a possibility (irrespective of concerns about desirability) was this opinion piece by the CEO of Starbucks proposing that corporate America boycotts government by starving them of campaign donations to give them some incentive to start acting as leaders:
It would seem a relatively short step from witholding funds as a negative incentive to redirecting some portion of those funds in support of a positive incentive. Even if Starbucks organised a couple of hundred free coffees, it'd be a tangible (and highly news-worthy) gesture establishing that the agenda of the protesters cannot so readily be marginalised as extreme or irrelevant.
Also, check out http://www.rootstrikers.org/ if you haven't already.
Allowing corporate entities to participate in our political system in ANY capacity, would be a self-defeating capitulation to the "staus quo".
And thats not an opinion of just the "ideological left". There is no "common ground" that could benefit the American people when the contributions to "superpacs" can use the corporate owned media can use the power of their massive piles of cash to frame the tone of our elections.
These superpacs can spend unlimited money saying whatever they want, whether its true or not. Stephen Colbert proved just that in Iowa this year. His message wasn't just for comedic value. It was to expose what unlimited campaign cash was capable of.
Get the Wall Street money out of Washington, along with the lobbyists, and the battle is mostly won. All thats left is clean-up. Like holding the media and networks accountable for misleading information regarding election candidates. End the smear campaigns, and you're left the truth.
I see where you're coming from, but would respectfully suggest that your denial of the possibility of common ground ought not be regarded as an absolute; it's a natural starting assumption that those who benefit from a system of entrenched privilege will support and defend it, but in the case of evidence to the contrary, it may be worth revising assumptions.
While Schultz is more directly concerned with ending the crippling hyper-partisan brinkmanship through choking them of their cashflow, it seems to me that there is room to assume some common ground.
It was because of your identification of the issue as money in politics rather than the blunter, more naive "down with corporations" that I responded; if there are powerful corporate leaders who share the same (or similar) aim(s), it makes more sense to seek alliances which will strengthen the movement and broaden its base than to alienate them by insisting that their very existence is illegitimate.
None of this refutes your identification of superpacs as toxic to democracy, but to conflate all corporations and all corporate money as an a priori social evil disregards the fact that they're owned and run by people. While this small elite have been exhaustively trained in the ideology of self-interest, and encouraged to view all decisions through the prism of economic gain, they're still people, and as such, have within them the capacity to recognise that they are part of a system far more complex and dynamic than a mere economy, and for an emerging awareness of a broader set of priorities to guide their economic choices.
I'm not saying Schultz or anyone else would actually be willing to make such a stand, but to foreclose the possibility of engaging with groups and individuals outside of the standard coterie of anti-globalist and other leftist protest groups seems to me to be opting for the same old irrelevance rather than recognising the truly extraordinary nature of these times, and seizing the initiative to shape an inclusive and, well, surprising, narrative.
After 30 years of wage stagnation, an unjustly imbalanced tax code, and the strategic removal of related consumer protections, the hyper-partisanship was an unavoidable outcome.
The only way to achieve the fairest outcome, is to remove the extreme advantage of corporate money, and its grossly imbalanced power from our political process entirely. Corporations, for all intents and purposes, are NOT people. They are "groups of people" with LOTS of money.
And recently, some politicians have decided to play the "class warfare" card. But lets look at this from the perspective of reality. When you tally up the sum of the last 30 years, its pretty obvious that class warfare has been ongoing for a long, long time.
When you hear such accusations, its easy to take a defensive stance if you look at the last 30 years out of context. But, when you look at the broader picture and bring together every piece of the puzzle, its quite obvious that an "inclusive narrative" is simply an impossibility.
Corporations have blatantly stagnated wages, and continue to fight tooth and nail to stagnate even further, through decreased benefits, fewer work hours, or simple automation. So one side has clearly staked out their ground, and is hell-bent of standing that ground, regardless of the costs to our middle class and working poor.
Every part of our economy can be broken down to simple math. And when you crunch the numbers across the broader spectrum, the primary suppressors of our economy's growth are quite clear. Have a look at this video:
Its the debt "super-committee" in a hearing with CBO director Douglas Elmendorf. Skip ahead to 1:56:45, and you see Rep. Chris Van Hollen get Elmendorf to admit that if the committee adjourned and went home, and congress took NO action for the next 10 years, we would actually achieve MORE deficit reduction over the next 10 years than what the committee could achieve, as the triggers kick in and the Bush tax cuts expire in January 2013.
Its simple math. And it scares corporate interests into a frenzy. Because they know that as more and more start running these numbers and seeing the reality of it all, they lobby Washington to hell and back to keep it hidden from the general public through misinformation.
I'm sorry. But that fact is what makes an "inclusive narrative" a literal impossibility. The time for "real bi-partisanship" was back before the debt ceiling fiasco.
I should clarify; the reference to hyper-partisanship was intended solely to illustrate the source of this particular corporate leader's "a pox on both your houses" attitude, which was further intended to show that the interests of government and corporations are not always indistinguishable.
On the broader issue, I'd be inclined to suggest that the class-warfare of the last 30 years has been, at least since Clinton, bipartisan, and that the dialectic-by-annihilation model of political discourse which has taken over in my country as well as your own looks at least a bit like the escalating frenzy of an institutional distraction which is struggling to continue to serve its purpose.
One of the reasons we've gone so far down the road of corporate domination is that Milton Friedman, who famously argued that the sole social responsibility of the corporation is to increase profits, never foresaw the success of himself and his Chicago School colleagues in ripping apart the framework of external regulations on corporate activities. Regulated neither from within nor without, and guided by a rapacious Darwinism, it's hardly surprising that smart business choices led to less and less human-friendly outcomes.
Even the emergence of ameliorating concessions such as public commitment to 'corporate social responsibility' is no panacea, as the business decisions which underlie the pursuit of 'community outreach' and other PR-focused activities must still, in order to accord with directors' duties, be filtered through the prism of profit - what return might be realised on the investment?
This, to me, raises one of the truly interesting aspects of the SCOTUS Citizens United decision - even accepting the reasoning that corporations=people & money=speech, companies still have to justify expenditures for their own internal purposes according to the above profit-motive. Ie, before a company can legitimately decide to donate company funds to a political entity or agent, they have to have determined that it's in the interests of the company to do so, and the interests of the company are to increase profits - all of which makes the 'money-for-influence' arguments explicit and on-the-record.
Nevertheless, there does remain scope for those running corporations to take a broader view and to understand that the unintended consequences of focusing solely on quarterly profits have led to a less conducive social environment, and that the business environment is an extension of this. An economy is rooted in people. The numbers aren't enough to understand the picture; money is merely quantified promises. These are the themes of an inclusive narrative capable of carrying us beyond apocalyptic scenarios drenched in blame and fury. Then again, I can see the argument that that's the only incentive capable of dislodging the grip of the 1%.