Felicia Muftic: The coming sound bite wars
June 21, 2011
I have to hand it to them. Republicans have a knack for finding a few good words that become made for media sound bite icons for campaign talking points.
In unison Republicans utter words or phrases and bank them for future use, coming up with another good word when a new opportunity surfaces. “Greece” evokes fear of the deficit and a reason not to lift the debt ceiling, “Death Panels” played on fears that Obamacare was going to ration elder care. “Jobs” came in vogue when the May report showed a slowdown in growth. It is now the new shorthand for attacking Obama on the economy and every issue from foreign policy to health care no matter how indirect the connection.
The GOP has not been 100 percent successful: Their “Stop blaming Bush” slogan as a way to foist the entire economic mess on President Obama had its limits. The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll this month disclosed that 62 percent of Americans believe the Obama administration did indeed inherit the problem. However, the GOP is blaming the President for not getting us out of trouble so “Obama failed America.” That one will only work if the GOP convinces us their way is better.
However, Democrats tend to get lost in the explanation weeds when rebutting attacks, defending, or advocating a policy. Take the health care debate. The case was there to be made, but the Democrats could never articulate it effectively. Democrats must do better in the jobs-economy debate.
What if the Democrats also came up with a few of their own good words? They could force the GOP to prove their formula was better by tagging the GOP as the “trickle down” party. The trickle theory is what the GOP advocates practicing: By cutting the top tax bracket, businesses will invest and hire people, and that will bring the rest along, while increasing tax revenues, too. “Trickle” does not inspire those hurting who want a gusher now. “Trickle down” also implies that the people at the top get the tax break plums first while the middle class eventually gets any leftovers.
Trickle down does not work well, either. Obama could argue with credibility that the stimulus was “the right tool at the right time and trickle down was the wrong one.” Trickle down has never worked well to pull us out of bad recessions. In the ’30s Hoover’s failed; FDR’s worked better. Ronald Reagan’s trickle down stalled in the early 1980s so he raised corporate and other taxes and added 60,000 federal workers and added to the debt as percentage of the GDP. Only then were jobs were created.
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George W Bush’s stimulus attempted to counter a post-Sept. 11 recession with tax cuts to the rich and lost us 757,00 jobs and increased debt. The economy “fell into the hole, the deepest since the Great Depression; the deeper the hole, the harder it is to dig out.”
An analogy could be: “Trickle down is like turning the starter and listening to the clicks, because the private sector had a dead battery in 2008. “The better tool” was a battery charger of government spending coupled with continued low taxes. Proof? More private sector jobs were created in the past 15 months than the Bush trickle created altogether.
Democrats could call the Ryan plan approved by Congressional Republicans and disapproved by 75 percent of voters, “the worst medicine for seniors” since the GOP. Ryan would shrink seniors’ retirement living by making seniors pay more from their pockets for Medicare.
Democrats have an opportunity to draw a contrast. They are leaning toward a proposal of cutting $3 of government costs for each dollar in increased taxes. They could claim “good medicine with fewer side effects,” because it would reduce the deficit nearly as much while leaving Medicare guarantees as they are.
What would happen if Democrats find more good words? They might even win the 2012 sound bite wars.
For more commentary, go to http://www.mufticforum.com
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