Frank Luntz Sent Out 2019 Memo Warning GOP Of Looming 'War On The Successful'
GOP pollster Frank Luntz invented — or at least popularized — the term "job creators." He invented a lot of terms, mostly for the purpose of engendering empathy towards and identification with the rich, but "job creators" was certainly one of the more insidious. Starting in 2012, in response to the Occupy Wall Street movement and growing resentment towards capitalism, Luntz started advocating that Republicans repeat the mantra "You don't create jobs by making life difficult for job creators" over and over again. He advised them to stop using terms like "entrepreneur" and "innovator" and instead use "job creator" and "small business owner" (even though the policies they advocated for tended to help "large business owners" instead).
It was largely successful. Public sentiment swung back around to people feeling like they couldn't do or say anything to "make things difficult" for "job creators" else they would take all of the jobs away.
In a 2019 memorandum obtained by Salon, Luntz warned Republicans that public sentiment was once again turning against the rich, and people were starting to want to make things less difficult for themselves. Which, really, is just rude.
Reporting on the results of a survey he conducted, commissioned by lobbying groups Family Enterprise USA and the Policy and Tax Group, Luntz delivered the bad news — there is a "War on the Successful." Americans are pissed off at rich people, think the rich are gaming the system (which, you know, they are), think CEOs get paid too much and low-wage workers get paid too little ... and they want health care and subsidized college.
His first piece of advice was to abandon the term "capitalism" entirely and replace it with "freedom," because people hate capitalism now. Noting that "just 31% of Americans self-identify themselves as capitalists," Luntz says this "stems from the perception of growing wealth inequality and the sense that the rich have rigged the political and economic systems to their benefit."
Now, if I were in charge of things, which I am not, I would suggest that if the rich don't want people to think they have rigged the political and economic systems to their benefit, they should stop rigging political and economic systems to their benefit. It seems like a simple answer. Though I suppose not as simple as "replace all your 'capitalisms' with 'freedoms')
Luntz also notes, interestingly, that people don't much like the terms "free enterprise" or "free market" either. Possibly because of how those things have fucked us all.
The peasants (us) are apparently also making things hard for "job creators" who don't want to pay their employees a living wage.
There is significant support for paying all working people a 'living wage' regardless of whether they work or not, and it will be easy for the Democrats to conflate this with the minimum wage to garner additional support. Big government spending proposals like tuition-free college and universal healthcare now have majority support – even as the same Americans say they prefer lower taxes, less government spending and less government. The Left has realized that if they are specific in who benefits…and make sure that only the rich pay … they win.
Yes, weirdly, given the choice between "being able to call an ambulance in an emergency" and "not inconveniencing a very rich person with a tax they don't like," most people will choose the former. People also want their kids to go to school and to be able to earn a living and think it's probably bad that 44 percent of all Americans are not earning enough to live on while Jeff Bezos is getting a bunch of government money so he can fly to the moon and be a Jetson or whatever.
Profit itself is becoming a problem, with majorities of both Trump and Clinton voters now agree that some companies' profits are simply not justifiable. And for the first time, the public is ready to put limits on corporate executive pay. The anti-corporate sentiment that first arose in the early 2000s has reached the point where pay and profit cap legislation might generate majority support. That's a first in America.
It should seem fairly obvious that the problem here is not "messaging" so much as "this set-up is not working for people."
According to Luntz "the only hope" is that people don't think the problem is that the rich are bad people, but that the system that created them is bad.
Taxing the rich has broad bipartisan appeal. Yes, even Republicans support it. The only hope: the public doesn't dislike or begrudge the rich for their success. It's the flawed system they have come to hate. The source of the problem: wealth inequality.
Across partisan lines, there is a deep and growing anger that the wealthy are gaming the system. The "lawyers, lobbyists and loopholes" messaging that we have used to attack the Left is now being turned on the right. There is evening growing support for the AOC proposal to raise the top marginal tax rate for the top 1% to 70%, as well as the 2% wealth tax among people who have $10 million or more proposed by Elizabeth Warren. Expect even more anti-wealthy tax proposals in the coming months as the Democratic primary lurches even further left.
Yes, again, people are poor and they don't like it. And they're not going to go "Oh wow, that rich person seems like a super nice guy, guess I should take a hit here and go without dinner, rather than him Godforbid having to pay some money in taxes."
The conclusion here, for Luntz, is there "the people" are going to need to be reeducated into believing that the system is fair and rich people are great and the way they became rich was fair. Of course, actually making that system fair is exactly what Republicans don't want.
Perhaps the conclusion for the rest of us should be that left-wing ideas are a whole lot more popular than guys like Frank Luntz would like us all to think.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse