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Don’t Buy It

The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy

By Anat Shenker-Osorio
15-minute read
Audio available
Don’t Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy by Anat Shenker-Osorio

Don’t Buy It (2012) explores the ways language influences our understanding of complex issues. Anat Shenker-Osorio brings her research and expertise to bear on a question that plagues progressives: why do conservatives always win economic debates in the United States, despite the deep inequality and structural injustice epitomized by the financial crash and the Great Recession? These blinks answer this question by analyzing the language employed on either side of the political spectrum.

  • Anyone who identifies as a political progressive
  • Anyone who’s interested in how language affects societies
  • Students of English, economics, sociology and politics

Anat Shenker-Osorio is a strategic communications expert, researcher and pundit specializing in public affairs and social issues in the United States. Her past clients have included the Ford Foundation, the Roosevelt Institute, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Ms. Foundation.

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Don’t Buy It

The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy

By Anat Shenker-Osorio
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
Don’t Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy by Anat Shenker-Osorio
Synopsis

Don’t Buy It (2012) explores the ways language influences our understanding of complex issues. Anat Shenker-Osorio brings her research and expertise to bear on a question that plagues progressives: why do conservatives always win economic debates in the United States, despite the deep inequality and structural injustice epitomized by the financial crash and the Great Recession? These blinks answer this question by analyzing the language employed on either side of the political spectrum.

Key idea 1 of 9

The financial crisis exacerbated the deep inequality that has long plagued the American economy.

Open up any newspaper and you’ll encounter politicians, analysts and journalists attributing all of society’s economic problems to the 2007 financial crisis. But in reality, there were deep economic problems long before that, especially with respect to wealth and income inequality.

In the decades leading up the crisis, real wages (adjusted for inflation) were stagnant, even while corporate profits were skyrocketing and overall economic productivity was on the rise.

As a result of these factors, wealth moved toward the top of society: today, 84 percent of wealth in the United States is owned by just 20 percent of Americans.

And that’s a problem for two reasons, the first being psychological: studies show that societies with greater levels of inequality have lower levels of contentment overall, with grave psychological consequences for those at the bottom.

The second reason is economic: the United States is dependent on consumer expenditure for economic growth. Since declining wages – and thus, declining disposable income – reduce consumer demand, economic output also declines as a result.

So, as we’ve established, inequality was a problem long before the 2007 financial crisis. But that doesn’t mean that the economic collapse didn’t add insult to injury.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, 25 percent of American households experienced zero or negative net growth in 2009, up from 18.7 percent of households in 2007. And even more shockingly, that number rises to 40 percent when only taking into account African-American households.

Worst of all, individuals facing foreclosure, poverty and unemployment received no federal assistance after the economic crisis. Meanwhile, the financial sector was bailed out by the government.

Taken together, the crisis revealed the intense financial pressure facing households in the United States’ middle- and low-income brackets. In the following blinks, we’ll find out how Americans responded, and whether the downturn led to any meaningful policy changes.

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