Thursday, June 24, 2010

A problem of improper framing

AmericaSpeaks puts safety net on the chopping block
Minimizes or ignores other options

The Center for Economic and Policy Research has developed a devastating critique of the AmericaSpeaks guidebook prepared for meetings across the nation Saturday.

The meetings are intended to assess public opinion on how the U.S. should address its budget deficit.

The AmericaSpeaks process has a good reputation for helping communities of all sizes resolve thorny public issues. It has conducted meetings to help New Yorkers figure out how to re-build Ground Zero and in New Orleans, AmericaSpeaks conducted a discussion of recovery plans and efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

The guidebooks prepared for its meetings frame the discussion presented to participants.

And that’s the problem. The guidebook for this weekend’s deficit-reduction meetings essentially leaves out many policy options that would favor lower- and middle-class Americans. (You can download the guidebook here. Click on the Federal Budget 101 button in the right-hand column.)

For example, as it projects the deficit for 2025, the guidebook fails to account for expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for high earners. Those cuts will expire this year. According to CEPR, “This implies an interest burden that … is $40-50 billion less than what is assumed in the guide.”

I hope people attending any of these meetings will read Dean Baker’s column which dissects the guidebook and points out its many short-comings. There are
many options that should be considered as the country considers deficit reduction.

Unfortunately, the discussion as framed by AmericaSpeaks puts the social safety net on the chopping block while minimizing or completely ignoring many other options.

A closer look at the discussion materials for the Town Hall meetings, CEPR's Nicole Woo notes, shows that Saturday's game will be played with a stacked deck. The guidebook authors claim to include input from a broad range of view points in order to frame an intelligent discussion of the nation's long-term budget problems. But, as CEPR's analyses of their Federal Budget 101 and Options Workbook detail, their guides "do not live up to their hype," Woo said.

Please share this information with anyone you know who plans to participate in these important meetings.

The meeting in Casper will be staged in the Casper Events Center. It begins at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.

The AmericaSpeaks Town Meeting sites:

Large-scale sites:

Albuquerque, NM
Chicago, IL
Columbia, SC
Dallas, TX
Philadelphia, PA
Portland, OR

Small-scale sites:

Augusta, ME
Casper, WY
Des Moines, IA
Detroit, MI
Grand Forks, ND
Jackson, MS
Los Angeles, CA
Overland Park, KS
Louisville, KY
Missoula, MT
Portsmouth, NH
Richmond, VA
San Jose, CA