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DON'T BUY IT by Anat Shenker-Osorio

DON'T BUY IT

The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy

By Anat Shenker-Osorio

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61039-177-1
Publisher: PublicAffairs

In her debut, communications consultant Shenker-Osorio gives progressives marching orders on how to talk about dollars and cents.

“When we take a ‘tax the rich’ messaging approach to trying to rectify our deep and damaging inequality,” writes Shenker-Osorio, “we succeed at one thing for certain. We get people to hate paying taxes even more.” There are innumerable reasons for that psychological data point, including the juvenile magical-thinking belief that we’re certain to be rich one day, but the fact remains, people don’t like to hear about coughing up more money. So how to get them to ponder the possibility? Not through means the Democrats have already tried, for while Democrats are excellent at conjuring up complex solutions to complex problems, Republicans are masters at sloganizing their way to simplicity. One thing that remains to be done, writes the author, is generating appropriate and memorable sound bites—but, more important, another is “to sing our fight songs and never mind about pissing off those who disagree with us.” President Obama may take a mild-mannered approach that seems to hold the thought of offending anyone as a cardinal sin, but it’s gloves-off time. Beyond this big-picture reformation, Shenker-Osorio looks closely at the language of the first question on people’s minds these days, namely the economy, and in this conservative presupposition reigns: “The genius...of conservatives,” she writes, “is in not just trumpeting their version of events. They also embed the key ideas that (1) government activity is the problem and (2) economic fluctuations of this magnitude are normal and expected.” The recent cataclysm is anything but “normal and expected,” but so much of the language of the economy, she notes, is based on metaphors that suggest it’s a living, breathing thing, and progressives fail to make the case that it’s an artificial construct, subject to rules and regulations.

A persuasive case for retooling how activists think and talk about matters of the wallet.