The Creator and Me

Frank Luntz: Privilege Creator.
GOP pollster Frank Luntz is the genius who helped shift Republicanspeak from “inheritance taxes” to “death taxes,” and dramatically change public support as a result. You see, “inheritance” sounds unearned and aristocratic to the masses, while taxing death sounds outrageously insensitive and unfair. Score!

Similarly, at the behest of his wealthy clients Luntz changed Republicanspeak from “oil drilling” to “energy exploration,” “global warming” to “climate change,” and “health care reform” to “government takeover of health care.”

Is Luntzian linguistics Orwellian? In a 2007 interview with National Public Radio’s Terry Gross, Luntz embraces his inner Big Brother:

“To be ‘Orwellian’ is to speak with absolute clarity, to be succinct, to explain what the event is, to talk about what triggers something happening… and to do so without any pejorative whatsoever.”

Now Luntz is urging his Republican clients to repeatedly use the term “Job Creators” whenever referring to the wealthiest Americans. Mr. Luntz seeks to focus Americans’ attention on the 1%’s trickledownedness, rather than it’s gawdy and growing wealth.

Brilliant! After all, in the midst of a sluggish recovery no one wants to stand in the way of “job creation,” so this turn of phrase is getting Luntz’s wealthy clients exempted from debt reduction sacrifice. (“Sacrifice,” incidentally, is a bad bad word Luntz is urging Republicans to ban. If only Churchill and FDR had been so clever.)

This whole business got me to thinking, “if I could afford to hire old Frank Luntz, what could the wunderkind wordsmith do to get ME exempted from sacrifice?

Perhaps the inventor of “job creator” would tweak Republicanspeak so that I would be henceforth exempted from debt reduction sacrifice on account of my vaunted status as a “Child Creator.” After all, who in their right mind wants to stand in the way of the procreation of the species?

Or maybe Luntz would choose to brand me a “Values Creator.” As a dad, I have the critical task of teaching children values and virtues. (I admit that my track record is imperfect on this front, though certainly no worse than Luntz’s “Job Creators.”) Again, don’t “Values Creators” deserve as much protection as “Jobs Creators?”

Or maybe Luntz would brand me a “Sales Creator.” As the Chief Spending Officer (CSO) for a household enterprise with a blazing burn rate, surely I should be exempted from paying for infrastructure, schools, health system, and national security. With the state of the economy, Congress wouldn’t want to stand in the way of “sales”, would it?

What a wonderful world this would be if Frank Luntz could only rebrand us so we were ALL exempted from doing our fair share to support America!

– Loveland

16 thoughts on “The Creator and Me

  1. Newt says:

    I was wondering when you guys would take up Luntz in your postings.

    To the 79-year-old dairy farmer handing over the 150-year-old farm to Junior, it certainly is a death tax. It forces the old guy to liquidate the family holdings to cover “inheritance” taxes, which has the practical effect of bequeathing 160 acres to ConAgra.

    With respect to the 99 percenters (which is inversely proportional their intelligence), you could tax all the top 1 percenters OUT OF EXISTENCE and it wouldn’t begin to fix the deficit. Which begs the question why?

    The answer: Class envy (more accurately, jealousy).

    If I am miserable, I seek misery for the rest. That’s the logic of the 99 percenters. I really want Obama to align himself with their cause in a visible way. Mainstream America is repulsed by them.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      Newt, perhaps you could dazzle us all and be the very first person making this claim EVER to actually come up with the name of that fabled 79-year-old dairy farmer unable to pass on his land to his children, you know, a concrete, real-life example.

      1. john sherman says:

        And while he’s at it maybe Newt can find one of those “job creators” who actually makes decisions about hiring based on his tax rates; NPR asked the Congressional Republicans and business lobbies for some names and got nothing. The current estate tax kicks in only after $5 million, and that’s not poor old Einar Swensen on his hard scrabble dairy farm outside of Perham that he’s trying to turn over to Lief and Lars. And why should someone not pay a tax on money he got from waiting for his ancestors to die? People who do really hard, dangerous, useful jobs have to pay taxes on the money they get; why shouldn’t Paris Hilton?

        The discussion should maybe be less on 1984 and more on the “Politics and English Language” essay Joe quotes in the side bar. Orwell was one of the most exact and clear writers on political and social matters ever, and he was therefore very aware of the opposite–lies, euphemisms, evasions and distractions. In short, the sort of things Luntz produces.

      2. Erik says:

        It’s worth noting that death is in fact a taxable event, and inheritances are not explicitly codified / treated in the tax code. Luntz and these Republicans are dastardly. With “death tax”, they construct an Orwellian false consciousness force field even when being completely literal. That’s a very difficult propaganda for earnest liberals to mitigate.

  2. PM says:

    Newt:

    does class envy explain Warren Buffet’s support of increasing taxes on the 1%?

    Seriously, there are plenty of rich people who think that is a good idea, so the envy/class warfare thesis kind of falls apart, doesn’t it?

    That is the real problem with Luntz–he likes to reduce things to a sound bite, instead of seeking an explanation. Which is great if you are trying to win an election, but not so great if you are seeking to solve a problem. In fact, what Luntz spends most of his time doing is hiding problems.

  3. Erik says:

    Luntz advised the Republican candidates to use “climate change”? Citation please.

    Joe, it’s rather more Orwellian how you get a wild hair to misuse “Orwellian” a few times a year. PR flacks and campaign operatives can not by definition be Orwellian. Institutions are Orwellian (or not). Find me one passage where Winton Smith had any observations on PR flacks or political operatives.

    1. Erik says:

      Luntz is not a Big Brother. You need to read the book again or go enroll in a collegiate literature course in which the book is the semester topic.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        Re: “Luntz is not a Big Brother.”

        I said that Luntz “embraces his inner Big Brother” in the MPR interview. I meant to point out that Luntz was complimentary of Orwell’s use of language. I imagine many knew what I meant, maybe even you, but it was an imprecise use of language.

        Luntz is a gifted propagandist for wealthy interests, but not an authoritarian.

      2. Erik says:

        Well, there is this paradox…. It’s such a common misuse now that people aren’t even confused by it. They generally get the speakers meaning. But the mundane rhetorical distortions of bit players in competitive political environments are not “Orwellian”.

        Big brother is the surveillance state, not its propaganda apparatus (imho).

        The thing, it’s like Hitler analogies. They’re never good comparisons.

    2. Joe Loveland says:

      My little online dictionary says this about “Orwellian:” “Orwellian describes something that resembles the world that George Orwell described in his book 1984.”

      The part of the world described in 1984 I was thinking about was the use of “Newspeak.” My little online dictionary says “Newspeak” is “a language invented by George Orwell in the novel 1984” that is “deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language used to mislead and manipulate the public.”

      If the term “Orwellian” only applies to institutions rather than individuals, it wasn’t called out in these definitions. However, it’s very possible that you’re correct, and I’m deficient. I’ve killed many brain cells since I read this book under duress out on the lonesome prairie.

  4. Erik says:

    I don’t think there’s anything Luntz does that’s any worse than conflating someone who earns $250k annually with someone who earns say $20M annually.

    I mean, I know there’s not a moral equivalence, Luntz being a Republican…. but it’s largely the same set of obfuscations.

  5. Newt says:

    So the family farm’s loss to the Death Tax is not representative of the “Inheritance” task – then what the hell is representative?

    And by what tortured logic does deceased Farmer Brown’s property become the government’s (instead of the heirs, who likely tilled the land for 50 years)?

    1. john sherman says:

      The estate tax is a marginal tax that kicks in at $5 million. Somebody offered a reward for an actual documented case of a family farm being lost because of estate taxes, he’s still waiting.

      I realize that in Aynrandia where you live all sorts of things happen that don’t happen in consensus reality.

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