Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

More than an election message

George Lakoff offers his take on some of the mistakes Democrats are making currently in their overall message to the nation compared to the Republicans, with the backdrop and rulings from Rush Limbaugh on proper behavior for the Republican political leadership:

Why conservative lies_spread_and what progressives can do to fight them

Fit matters. The brain is a “best-fit” system. The better a new frame “fits” existing frames, the more effective it will be; that is, the more people will think, and make decisions, using that frame

For important domains of thought, like morality, religion, and politics, it is commonplace for people to have two inconsistent frame systems that inhibit each other… When you can shift back and forth on an issue, you are bi-conceptual on that issue. That is, you can frame the issue in two ways, using inconsistent higher-level frame systems.

The more the language of frame is repeated, the stronger the frame gets, along with the system the frame is in. And the weaker the frames of the contradictory system gets. The stronger high-level frames are, the more effective frames that fit them will be. And the less effective frames that contradict them will be.

Frames are conceptual; they are the elements of thought. Most thought is unconscious. Words activate frames. We are rarely conscious of the frames that are activated by the words we hear. Yet those frames are there in our brain circuitry, and more we hear the words, the stronger the frames get, even though we aren’t aware of it.

Framing is the establishment of permanent (or long-term) high-level frames and systems of frames with the brains of voters…

An important part of framing is the establishment of prototypes: social stereotypes, prototypes (typical case, ideals, nightmares, salient exemplars). Stereotypes are used in automatic reasoning and decision-making.

This messaging system has existed and has been extended and strengthened over many years. Democrats have a few of these elements, but they are relatively ineffective, since they tend to view messaging as short-term and issue-based, rather than long-term and morally based. Democrats tend not to understand how framing works, and often confuse framing (which is deep, long-term, systematic, morality-based, and conceptual) with messaging (which is shallow, short-term, ad hoc, policy-based, and linguistic).


Democrats have a few of these elements, but they are relatively ineffective, since they tend to view messaging as short-term and issue-based, rather than long-term and morally based. Democrats tend not to understand how framing works, and often confuse framing (which is deep, long-term, systematic, morality-based, and conceptual) with messaging (which is shallow, short-term, ad hoc, policy-based, and linguistic).

The “evidence” comes from polls and focus groups that test the normal “mainstream” language and logic, versus language and logic that is not “mainstream.” This is, naturally, conservative language and logic, because the conservative messaging system has systematically made it that way patiently over years. The pollsters therefore report that the “mainstream” of Americans prefer the conservative language and logic, and the policies that go with them. The pollsters then suggest moving to right to go to where the public is. They then construct and test messages that move enough to right to satisfy the “mainstream.” They also construct “good arguments.” If the “good arguments” activate the conservative worldview, the conservative position will just get stronger in the brains of the voters.

To work long-term, progressive messaging must be sincere and direct, must reflect progressive moral values, and must be repeated. Progressive framing is about saying what you believe, telling the truth, and activating the progressive worldview already present in the minds of those who are partly conservative and partly progressive.

Framing is, of course, about policy, more than about messaging. What you say should go hand-in-hand with what you think and do.

And, of course, the best messaging requires an excellent communications system, or it won’t be heard. Progressives have the money to build such a system. The question is whether they understand the desperate need for such a system, and whether they have the will to build it.

Of course the comments on the post settled nothing. The post is long on intellectual type of thought and short on examples. But it is instructive to note that the energy behind a belief is not something that ebbs and flows simply by vote counts, it is something enduring demanding resources and effort on a daily basis by bearing witness in big and small ways.

And the confusion between ‘frame’ and ‘message’ is constantly displayed in comments when it comes to political messaging…especially in a forced two party system.

To illustrate, allowing the labels ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ to define the abortion issue was a major mistake from my point of view. ‘Anti-choice’ keeps the label to the issue and does not allow ‘pro-life’ groups kudos for things not included in their agenda.

Lakoff uses the immigration debate as an illustration, but I wish he would develop better stories. The use of the term ‘illegals’ is a pejorative, but even Mitt Romney trusted illegals to come into his house in MA to take advantage of their work ethic. Americans often invite illegals into their homes and even leave them to walk around unattended, and ask them to care for their children, or cook their meals. There are some bad apples, but crime is down despite this invasion.

More to come.

There’s an election in 2012

Went to Massacghusetts for the weekend, where I learned that Martha Coakley supports child rapists* and Scott Brown (R-MA Sen.) is a decent legislator who stands by his convictions, including his opposition to the Financial Services Reform Act, which principled action he takes because the act institutionalizes Too Big to Fail. (This is also Russ Feingold’s argument against the bill, I believe.)

Up until then, the only thing I had heard about Mr. Brown’s opinion of the bill was that the $19 billion in taxes on TBTF institutions—which would be a drop in the bucket, but at least a marginal disincentive to some “Great Recession”-causing activities—was removed to make it more palatable to him.

If, instead, it were true that Mr. Brown’s opposition was principles, he would stand by his conviction that the bill would do more harm to the economy than good, instead of accepting a reduced cost to BofA and a greater if-a-crisis-occurs cost for MA taxpayers.

Oops.

Ah, well. Martha Coakley railroaded Louise Woodward** and reached a similar type of agreement with Cheryl Amirault LeFave.

UPDATE: Linda Beale, in a post that will eventually appears here as well, sums up the reality of Brown’s position:

Brown’s vote was a costly one. He was one who fought to permit banks to own hedge funds–essentially a decision to allow them to continue to gamble with other people’s money. And he nixed the proposal to have the banks pay for the cost of increased regulation due to their risky behavior. Why in the world shouldn’t the banks pay? I suppose they must have contributed a good deal to Brown’s campaign chest. There’s no other reason for failing to assess the banks their fair share of the added monitoring costs.

Brown (Senator-BofAState Street [correction h/t Linda Beale]) it is.

*This is apparently because the grand jury she empaneled chose not to indict Keith Winfield, at the time a police officer in Somerville.

**Oops. Sorry. This was not an objection raised by my correspondent. Whether the evidence of innocence is rather clearer here than in the Amirault cases is left as an exercise.

This idea was lifted from an e-mail exchange with Noni Mausa this morning. The following well seasoned joke reminds me of political communications among the people who write the copy for our leaders:

A carpet layer had just finished installing carpet for a lady. He stepped out for a smoke, only to realize he’d lost his cigarettes. He went back in and in the middle of the room, under the carpet, was a bump. “No sense pulling up the entire floor for one pack of smokes,” he said to himself. He got out his hammer and flattened the hump.

As he was cleaning up, the lady came in. “Here,” she said, handing him his pack of cigarettes. “I found them in the hallway.”

“Now,” she said, “If only I could find my parakeet.”

Part of Noni’s note:

What is worrisome is that we don’t always correct our steering as we should, jumping back and forth between data, predictions, steering, more data and comparisons to our predictions.

But the biggest problem isn’t poor execution of good-faith strategies. It is clever execution of bad-faith strategies.

UC-Berkeley Law School Degrades Itself Even More

No wonder Brad DeLong has had no luck persuading Christopher Edley to get rid of the malfeasant John Yoo. As Bob Somersby observes:

Christopher Edley thinks he’s one of your “betters.” It’s hard to believe, but that’s the exceptionally low-IQ framework this self-proclaimed member of the elite enunciated in Sunday’s piece. According to Edley, rubes like us should want our “betters” in important posts, like the post in which Kagan will serve:

EDLEY: The tension between elitism and populism is embedded in our national DNA because America rejected the model of a monarch ruling by divine right in favor of an iffy experiment in democratic self-governance. So now you are responsible for choosing your leader. Do you want someone like you or someone better than you?

What an astonishing framework! But so it goes when people like Edley spends decades inside institutions like Harvard, convincing themselves that they and their peers are “better” than all the rest of us rubes. [formatting in original]

Kagan, like Yoo, “has excelled in a meritocratic system, one that is selective yet far more open than in generations past.”

Bonus quote from Edley:

The gatekeeper power of such institutions is why it was so important to desegregate them (using affirmative action, among other tools) and why virtually all leaders of great universities talk about diversity and access.

Yep. Elena Kagan is All About Diversity.

At least Edley is consistent:

Dean Edley rolls embarrassingly off the tracks.

Read the whole thing.

Full disclosure: My wife’s cousin is working at Berkeley now. Fortunately, she’s not at the Law School, or I would worry for her reputation.

I’ll Believe in the Tea Baggers if Tamyra Gets the Signatures

Tamyra d’Ippolito has suddenly become a Very Important Person.

She needs signatures primarily in Indian’s Eighth District (currently represented by Brad Ellsworth, who would be the Party’s pick to replace Evan Bayh), Evansville, and Terre Haute. She has a background to make a Tea Partier proud:

I was born in Worthington, Indiana and raised in Linton. Currently, I live in Bloomington. I was raised an only child with a single, hard-working mother who “retired” from General Electric as a factory worker.

I attended college at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, receiving my degrees in Graphic Design and Photography. The United States government financed my education with federal grants.

In 1981, jobs were limited in Indiana so I moved to Houston, Texas and worked for over 3 years at Foley’s, an advertising agency, as a Production Artist. At 25, I moved to New York City where I lived for the next 20 years. I worked on Wall Street for Salomon Smith Barney and later for Lehman Brothers. While in NYC I picked up another degree at the New York Film Academy in Filmmaking….

When I returned to Indiana, I was chosen by the Linton Rotary to go with a team to the country of Brazil. We were Ambassadors of the USA and traveled to 6 different cities. In Indiana, I became involved with World Learning. I worked as a Regional Director with World Learning in Indiana, Boston, and New York City

However, since moving to Indiana I have had no health insurance. I was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago giving me a pre-existing condition. Additionally, I own a small business. Those two obstacles make insurance very expensive and unattainable. As a cancer survivor and small business owner, health reform is an issue that directly affects me like many Indiana residents.

I own and operate the Ragazzi Arte Cafe in Bloomington. I also founded the Poor Club, www.thepoorclub.org, after meeting many people who are in need. Our mission is to bring awareness and education to the fact that poverty is prevalent in Indiana and I want to make a change for the better.

I am a past board member of Women Inspire, www.womeninspire.org. I am also a member of PSI XOTA, a philanthropic sorority. Some of my accomplishments are Leadership Bloomington Graduate of 1995 and City of Bloomington Citizens’ Academy Graduate in 2008. I also serve on the Volunteers in Medicine Advisory Board.

Right now, the Democratic Party (having been royally screwed by its current Senator) is hoping that Tammy doesn’t get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, which would enable them to pick someone without bothering with a primary.

But here’s a small business owner, someone who earned things and is quite aware of “from where it is that I come from.”

In short, an ideal candidate from outside of the Establishment—but one who comes naturally without having to build a third party. And someone who—as a small-business owner—knows very well what works and what doesn’t.

If the Tea Party people endorse her, then I’ll take them seriously. If they avoid her because she would have to run with a (D) next to her name, then that will tell us everything we need to know about whether they are Astroturf.

I Take No Joy in Raping and Pillaging

Chris Christie moves New Jersey into the 17th century:

Christie is cutting $475 million in aid to school districts, $62 million in aid to colleges and $12 million to hospital charity care. He is pulling all funding from the department of Public Advocate….He is cutting state subsidies for NJ Transit, a move Christie said could lead to higher fares or reduced services but would force the agency to become “more efficient and effective.”…

“I take no joy in having to make these decisions. I know these judgments will affect fellow New Jerseyans and will hurt,” Christie said. “This is not a happy moment. However, what choices do we have left?”…

Senate budget chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) said cutting funding for schools was not the same as cutting state spending, and would simply raise property taxes.

Chris Christie reprising the plan Christie Whitman used to “balance” the budget: the one created by Cokehead that has led to property taxes rising by 50% in the first seven years of this decade alone.

Can Nobody Play this Game Correctly?

CBO:

At 9.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), that deficit would be slightly smaller than the shortfall of 9.9 percent of GDP ($1.4 trillion) posted in 2009. [emphasis mine]

A 7.1% decline in real GDP terms isn’t just “slightly smaller”; it’s a real improvement that is greater than any (mythical or not) “spending freeze” would produce.

The One Sentence Everyone Needs to Read and Understand

Bruce Bartlett:

The Fed has talked openly about new procedures to soak up the bank reserves it has created even as those reserves remain largely idle and unlent.

You don’t get inflation if there is no money multiplier in play. So long as the banks are just holding the cash, worries about monetary policy leading to inflation are at best a shibboleth.

(via Brad DeLong)

Bernanke Part 2 of 2: Leaders Lead, or Just Say No

The world would be a much better place if people had listened to Tom last August:

Now some elite opinion favors Ben Bernanke’s reappointment, but politicians are irritated over Fed stonewalling of bailout oversight and others (e.g. Dean Baker) point out that Ben Bernanke who put the Fed throttles to the firewall to save the world is also the Ben Bernanke who carried over Greenspan policy until it was too late. [links in original]

Not a strong enough source for you? How about the Internet’s Chief Bernanke Apologist? Brad DeLong last August:

I am surprised that he is being reappointed. I would have thought that the combination of people angry because he has given too much public money to the banks and people angry because he didn’t stop the recession would together make him damaged and that Obama would want to bring in a fresh face–never mind that Bernanke had no way to try to lessen the recession save by policy steps that inevitably involve giving money to the banks.

Tom also dealt with that:

To which the obvious response is, duh, who says it has to be one or the other? A reality-based critique of the bailouts allows them to be both effective at saving the world and unconscionable screw-jobs that kept an array of bad actors from paying for their greed and incompetence. (The latter clearly feeds a lot of the underlying sentiment of the tea partiers, even if it’s ultimately the greedy and incompetent who are marshalling it.) However, considering Team Obama’s political tone-deafness, it’ll be a pleasant but major surprise if they let Bernanke go back to Princeton for some R&R.

And DeLong himself (today) moves the goalpostsnotes where the problem is centered:

[Bernanke] is no longer the academic intellectual who advocates inflation targetting. He is, instead, the voice for the consensus of the Federal Open Market Committee–and a member of that committee who can, by his own internal arguments, move that consensus at the margin. So he is going to reflect that consensus….[A] Fed chair who doesn’t reflect the consensus in public has less power to move the consensus in private. From my perspective, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with Ben Bernanke’s (private, intellectual, academic) analysis of the current situation. What is wrong is that the FOMC consensus is wrong—and Bernanke’s public statements reflect that wrong consensus. So here I tend to blame Obama more than I blame Bernanke for the recent character of Bernanke’s public statements–for the fact that Fed policy and rhetoric right now is not more Gagnonesque, because Obama could have done things over the past year to move the FOMC consensus that he has not done. [emphases mine]

This is a true statement—but it is no less true now than it was in August, and Ben Bernanke has been the ostensible leader of the FRB since then—and, indeed, since 2.5 years before then, as the crisis was unfolding.

In the past four years, Bernanke has “led” the Federal Reserve. And even those who are not sympathetic to Steve Keen’s interpretation of Bernanke’s flaws (h/t Yves and Naked Capitalism, who printed it themselves as well) would have to agree that the sounds coming from the Fishers* and Hoenigs, not to mention Bernanke himself, are more reminiscent of Morgenthau than Volcker.

Which should have been the death knell for his renomination. To turn Brad DeLong’s statement on its side: Ben Bernanke has been unable to lead and change the consensus of the Federal Reserve Board, even marginally, to be more in line with what Ben Bernanke, the skilled economist, knows would be a better policy.

Leaders lead. Ben Bernanke hasn’t and doesn’t.* For that alone, he should be replaced, and Janet Yellen nominated to replace him.

*This one was reprinted, without several of the cronyism acknowledgements, in the WSJ comics section today. I prefer the original.

**The similarity to the Canadian Liberal Party’s selection of Celine Stephane Dion as their leader should not be overlooked. That they had the good sense to replace him after one term is a sign of sanity the Obama Administration would have been wise to consider. (That they compounded the mistake by replacing him with a pro-torture American conservative is a mistake from which one would expect the Obama Administration could and presumably will learn.)

Bernanke Interlude

Via David Wessel’s Twitter feed, the WSJ publishes a letter:

Ben Bernanke is a good person, a fine academic and a well-respected professor. But those traits have no bearing on whether he should be reconfirmed as Federal Reserve chairman….

Applying accountability principles, there’s no way Chairman Bernanke should be reconfirmed by the Senate, let alone reappointed by the Obama administration….He’s been at the helm from the very beginning of this Great Recession. That alone warrants a “no” vote on reconfirmation.

At this point, I feel obligated to note that if you’re going to declare this The Great Recession—i.e., if you are assuming the chance of having the third Depression is over*—then Bernanke deserves credit, not blame. (Even those of us who do not assume we’re out of the woods admit we aren’t quite sunk yet, though 17.3% unemployment is problematic at best.)

In addition, the Fed’s behavior over the past 15 months has put America on a very dangerous path. The Fed has increased the monetary base (high-powered or wholesale money) by the largest amount ever, from colonial times to the present, times 10. Without an exit strategy, inflation is a virtual certainty over the coming decade, while an effective exit strategy virtually assures a further weakening of the U.S. economy. [emphasis mine]

This is Gospel for the WSJ editorial page, and a logical confusion of the first order. Any “exit strategy” assumes that the conflict is primarily over, so any exit strategy would, by definition, not weaken—let alone “further weaken,” which suggests that the writer’s faith that “the Great Recession” is accurate is wavering—the economy. (We can, and will, discuss where All That Money Has Gone; suffice to say, it’s not exactly producing a Multiplier Effect.)

But the writer saves the best for last.

And lastly, on a more personal note, [Bernanke] doesn’t have the gravitas of a Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan or William McChesney Martin. In this day and age of crisis management, gravitas is essential. Almost anyone would be better than Mr. Bernanke.

Well, at least Arthur Burns is conspicuously excluded. It’s nice to know that Arthur Laffer believes in gravitas, while his best-known disciple believes “deficits don’t matter.”

*Yes, I could 1873-77 as a Depression in the United States. Looking at the evidence, it would be difficult not to.