Articulating an economic message effectively is possible

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There are several terrific voices on the political right succinctly and artfully addressing the often complex topic of the economy. Talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and writer/talkers like Michael Medved do a fantastic job, as do scholars like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our elected “leaders” suffer from an inability to articulate on the all important economic issues. Fortunately, they need not invent new language – they need only tap into the words spoken and written by the many top tier communicators whose words are available by the truckload.

A couple of Michael Medved’s columns from recent years, for example, serve as good illustrations of what I’m talking about. Here are the links:

Grim Lies about the Economy Are the Real “War on the Middle Class”

Why Should the Middle Class Fight Tax Hikes on the Rich?

In “Grim Lies,” Medved writes that CNN’s Lou Dobbs constantly proclaims that middle class America has been “devastated.” Medved then writes these passages:

“On a weeknight in early November (not a particularly busy season for [Las Vegas]) every major hotel had been booked and overbooked-so much so that the Hilton failed to provide me with the room I had reserved in advance. Masses of my fellow Americans (most of them ‘middle class working men and women’) jammed the casino floors day and night, depositing their hard-earned cash into cunning machines devised to induce gambling addiction.

Statistics from the local tourist authorities indicate that more than 40 million visitors will crowd Las Vegas in the course of 2007. While some foreigners manage to make the trip, the tourists are 87% American, with an average age of 48, and socio-economic status that is solidly, undeniably middle class. Only 24% of all visitors boast household income above $100,000 a year; 46% never graduated from college, 15% are non-white. Nevertheless, Las Vegas thrill-seekers spent an average of $662 on their hotel packages, $261 on food and drink, $141 on shows and shopping, and a startling $652 (in net losses) on what the local businesses so tenderly call “gaming.”

Evidently business on the other side of the country at the other gambling Mecca, Atlantic City, is doing just as well. Medved writes,

“Given the steadily increasing popularity of such amusements (for better or worse) in countless card parlors, Indian casinos and race tracks across the country, and a clientele that overwhelming identifies itself as “middle class,” it seems difficult to credit the Dobbsian declarations that such families have been “devastated” and now find themselves engaged in an increasingly futile struggle for the survival in the midst of ‘a national nightmare for all of us.'”

Obviously with the recent world wide financial crisis, the fall (and now it seems the beginning of the rise) of the stock market, and the rise (and now it seems the beginning of the fall) of oil prices, the state of the economy isn’t what it was a year ago. But Medved’s point still largely applies.

His column is packed with facts – such as these:

“Despite the endlessly repeated charge that Americans work longer hours for less and less pay (“Working men and women are working harder than ever simply to keep their jobs, and they are working longer hours at reduced pay with fewer benefits” claims Lou Dobbs) the numbers actually show sharp long term increases in disposable income, purchasing power and leisure time.

Economists Mark Aguiar of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Erik Hurst of the University of Chicago examined five decades of time diary surveys administered by research universities and the government. Among their findings (as reported by James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation):

– Since the mid 1960’s, the amount of time that the typical American spends working fell by almost eight hours per week, while the time spent on leisure activities rose by just under seven hours per week. This additional leisure time is equivalent to an extra seven to nine weeks of vacation per year.

– Lower-income Americans have disproportionately benefited from the increase in leisure over the past generation. Less educated and lower-income Americans now work less and enjoy more leisure than Americans with higher incomes. This explains part of why they have lower incomes.”

Medved’s column includes these subheadings:

REPORTS OF PUBLIC GLOOM CONFLICT WITH PROCLAMATIONS OF PRIVATE HAPPINESS

STANDARD OF LIVING CONTINUES TO RISE FOR EVERY SEGMENT OF SOCIETY

CONTRARY TO BOGUS CLAIMS, ECONOMIC MOBILITY IS ALIVE AND WELL

THE MIDDLE CLASS DOESN’T PAY AN UNFAIR SHARE OF TAXES

Medved also writes that –

“The press indulges a destructive and dishonest instinct to portray America’s poor, working class and minority citizens as locked into hopeless and permanent misery-despite abundant and undeniable evidence to the contrary.”

He then gives examples of media coverage – and lack of coverage – of important economic facts.

In the other column, “Why should the middle class…”, Medved wrote that Nancy Pelosi wasted no time after taking over as Speaker – she immediately began talking seriously about tax hikes.

While she was targeting incomes of $500,000 and up, she also spoke of tax cuts for “middle class families.” That sure sounds familiar, as Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has cut that 500k figure in half.

Regardless of the number, Medved argues (as does John McCain) that raising taxes on anyone is a bad idea. Here is an abbreviated list of Medved’s points.

“First, the reasons that Americans at every income level should fight against a tax increase on any income level:

1) Tax hikes hurt the economy. Pelosi proposes to take money out of the hands of people whose investment and entrepreneurship create jobs, and to place it into the hands of government, which creates only job-stifling bureaucracies. The idea that federal officials will do a better job spending money than the people who earned it is not only offensive, but profoundly illogical.

2) Higher rates are ineffective in producing higher revenues, and encourage both laziness and sleazy strategies of tax avoidance. Obviously, the higher the tax rates, the more the incentive to dodge taxes…Higher rates also encourage people to invest their time in devising elaborate schemes to avoid taxes, rather than working hard to earn more income, produce more jobs, and create more wealth.

3) High tax rates are wrong and unfair – and only lead to the growth of government. If your boss takes back 90% of what you earn, then it’s not outrageous to say that you’re a slave and he’s your master. When the federal government used to impose a top tax rate of 90% that made the highest earners theoretical slaves to government – no wonder that they rebelled with all sorts of loopholes and tax dodges to escape that slavery. If the government takes 35% of your productive efforts, you’re still a slave for one third of the time or one third of the year-working hard to benefit others, not yourself.”

Obviously I recommend both articles for your attention. Again, here are the links:

Grim Lies about the Economy Are the Real “War on the Middle Class”

Why Should the Middle Class Fight Tax Hikes on the Rich?

©2008 John F. Biver

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