While it is important that we always speak clearly, concisely, and accurately, it is far more important that we be heard. That we are listened to and that people pay attention, and maybe, just maybe, they see and agree to our points. This might rub some the wrong way, but if a message does not have an audience, then what is the value in delivering it? Fortunately, we do not need to sacrifice quality nor verbal accuracy at the price of losing patrons of our positions, simply because we have the right story. We have the accurate story. We have the clear story. And yet, we failed in 2016, and will continue to do so if we do not take notes from the opposition.
Since “The King” Ronald Reagan was president, the message of Big Government is Bad has been the mantra of the Right. I take consistent and direct disagreement with his theory, and fear it has led our country down a horrible and slippery slope to ruin. I would even contend that those who espouse The King’s view, Big Government is Bad, cannot consistently say that they really believe it. They love a big military, and though we have the biggest in the world, insist it should be much larger (even before the most recent tax change, the U.S. spent 43% of the WORLD’S military money). They love the healthcare system that has made huge fortunes for many in the healthcare world. It is just that they don’t like Big Government supporting things they don’t like, such as education, infrastructure, healthcare and food for the poor. Rather they want to carve these things out and throw them in the ditch (along with the people that will suffer if we do), and keep the part that they enjoy and that they can make money on.
So in order to pick and choose, they use words and terms that support the things they LIKE and to tear down and destroy the things they DON’T. Case in point; tax codes reference a part of our tax responsibility as citizens as something called the estate tax, but those invested in having it dismantled refer to it as a death tax. The term death tax conjures up a bill collector harassing a grieving family, a notice handed to a struggling widow. It is misleading at best, as the estate tax applies to a mere 0.2% of all estates (that’s only 2 estates in 1000!!!), but we cede this point when we allow debates to even begin with the phrase death tax to be used as if it is legitimate. As if this term accurately describes the estate tax. For those unfamiliar and undecided on the merits of the estate tax, hearing death tax can cause them to shift their support to the repealing of what sounds insidious, onerous, an unfair levy, rather than what it really does, and that is strengthening what is beneficial to the entire country.
Our country was founded over 200 years ago on, among other things, a stone of foundation of no inherited right to success— that for one’s parents to have been successful and achieved great wealth was not an automatic pass to financial well-being for the offspring. That our government was founded and our country developed to create and nurture an environment where ALL capable, smart, hard-working, risk-taking individuals would have a chance to succeed on their own. Not just those who were lucky enough to be born to successful or wealthy parents!
It is one thing for the wealth achieved by one generation to be used for the improvement of the next. This is why we strive for progress in the first place. That comes with being raised in better neighborhoods, going to better schools, being exposed to mind-expanding travel. That’s what wealth should offer to everyone, if we are lucky enough to have it. However, our forefathers saw firsthand in 17th and 18th century Europe the detrimental effects of when this wealth is continuously passed down to individuals simply due to their lucky birth. Rather than giving a head start to everyone in our society, the accumulation of vast amounts of wealth and hoarding of it just for one’s heirs creates dynasties and inequality. This is one of the reasons settlers left feudalist countries in the first place, because they wanted a country where everyone could succeed. Not just the children of the successful. It is a reason why immigrants from around the world continue to come to the United States.
Unfortunately, this illusion of economic mobility has been crafted by Republicans in order to hide that meritocracy and American exceptionalism are seclusive and hereditary. In their efforts to denigrate Big Government, they have made it so the masses, those who do not at all benefit from monopolies and corporatocracy and dynastic wealth, have taken their side due to the power of their messaging, their hyperbolic storytelling. This is why we lost in 2016, and it will be our downfall this November if we do not take notes, and reclaim language for our own purposes.