Ending the Hidden Agenda Behind Tax Cuts

Dandelion Salad

By Joe Brewer
February 16, 2009 “CommonDreams

Something as simple as a metaphor can mean the difference between shared prosperity and widespread suffering.

It’s time to tell the truth about tax cuts. This phrase dominates political discourse and is coughed out every time a conservative public figure opens his mouth. It is treated like the basis of sound reasoning, yet no one points out what should be obvious – that “tax relief” and “tax cuts” are just code words for destroying the capacity of government to serve the public.

We’ve heard over and over again that the source of society’s problems is the government. The solution that follows is to “trim the fat”, “cut out the waste”, “shrink the government”, and provide “relief” to millions of citizens who suffer the burden of exploitation by Washington elites. This story flies in the face of the facts, yet it makes sense to a significant portion of the U.S. population. How can this be?

The answer has to do with how we make sense of things in the world. Our experiences shape what seems legitimate by reinforcing (or undermining) our ideas about the way things work. So, for example, a progressive politician may speak honestly and forcefully about the positive role of government in our lives. But this will fall on deaf ears if our typical experience is at odds with such claims. This observation demonstrates a key element of what George Lakoff and I have dubbed the Cognitive Criterion for Public Support:

An effective policy must be popular if it is to stand the test of time and it must be popular for the right reasons, namely because it promotes the right long-term values in the minds of citizens, reinforced through the lived experience.

The reason many people accept conservative claims about taxation and government is that they hold up for many common experiences, especially when conservatives are in control of the government. Conservative officials enact policies that make life worse for people while claiming that things will get better. Then they draw upon these negative experiences to advance their agenda. No Child Left Behind is an excellent example. The strategy works like this (a more detailed analysis can be found here):


via Ending the Hidden Agenda Behind Tax Cuts

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  1. Pingback: William Greider on the Looting of Social Security « Dandelion Salad

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