How Economic Proposals are Framed Makes All the Difference

old golden frame with empty grunge canvasThere are 715,000 fewer teachers, firefighters and other types of state and local workers today than there were in 2008, according to the BLS. Is that because Americans consciously decided these roles are not important? Of course not. In this piece in the NY Times, Robert J. Shiller, looks at the role that poor “framing” of public spending and taxes has played in preventing the U.S. from adopting measures that would have prevented these deep public sector layoffs. In the article, “Framing Prevents Needed Stimulus,” Shiller concludes that “POLITICIANS are not in complete control of framing. Property owners get a tax bill every year, and that bill is highly salient when presented: its form frames the issue. News of property tax increases is shared among neighbors or colleagues, who mostly talk among themselves, and who would not be personally threatened by job cuts in the public sector.” The piece goes on to say that “A good part of the benefits of tax increases go to as-yet-unspecified public workers who would otherwise be laid off in the future. We naturally care less about people we do not know than those we do.”

We agree with you, Mr. Shiller, which is why we are committed to helping leaders and organizations make an effective case for smart economic policy. Perhaps in a bit of stimulus-related good news, this recent poll found that Americans, while perhaps not supportive of greater measures, do believe that the package played a role in economic recovery.

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