The Danger of Conservative Frames

Social Security: The Phony CrisisThere are, of course, problems with this “truth by focus group” approach. For instance, polling data show that a majority of Americans do not know that electrons are smaller than atoms. The diffusion of knowledge would be greatly impeded if science teachers were expected to adjust their ideas accordingly. Moreover, recent history suggests that such an approach can be politically self-defeating. Conservatives hammered for years on the idea that welfare perpetuated and even caused poverty, in spite of the overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary. Those who wanted to preserve the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC) as a federal entitlement grew tired of challenging these misconceptions and came to accept the argument that the welfare system needed “reform.” Their idea of reform, of course, was different from that of their conservative opponents: they wanted child care, health care, job training, and, most important, access to employment that paid enough to lift a family formerly receiving welfare out of poverty. But accepting the basic premise of welfare’s opponents—that welfare was a cause, rather than a result, of poverty—proved to be more costly than they had anticipated. Within a couple of years President Clinton had signed a bill abolishing what had been, at least since the 1960s, a major federal entitlement for poor children.

—Dean Baker & Mark Weisbrot
Social Security: the Phony Crisis

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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