Social Math-ing the Tax Cuts

From the New York Times 12/5/10. (click on the image to open a larger version in another tab)

Thanks to our colleague Wendy Frosh for passing this along to us this week.

As I perused the list, what struck me is how easy to think some of these analogies are, but how difficult some others are.

$60 Billion is equal to providing free college for all students enrolled full time currently? Or universal pre-K for all 3-4 year olds? Those two examples are likely to bring the figure home for many Americans. Both pre-K and college also implicitly tie the figure to a value – preparing children and youth, our country’s future.

But equating $60 billion to a 15% reduction in corporate income tax? Well, I don’t know how much that is to begin with, so that’s hard for me to wrap my head around.

There are other framing implications, as well. I imagine the intention of this list was to show a diversity of items that we could otherwise buy with that sum – but it struck me to see paying for college juxtaposed against a reduction in the corporate income tax. It certainly gets one thinking!

I wonder if any of our fellow framers have ideas for meaningful comparisons? Or if you noticed any other framing issues in this little fiscal fact sheet?


One thought on “Social Math-ing the Tax Cuts

  1. It was also interesting that they equated $60 billion to an upsurge in Afghanistan. What strikes me as most indicative of political agenda setting when it comes to talking about budgets and taxes is how one major cost, the cost of war, is somehow not up for debate. One thing that I think is critical to address when it comes to framing is to understand what is left out of the dominant discourse. Often, what is not stated in the frame is just as powerful as what is. I hope our advocates working on the frontline of this issue can help shift the debate away from “earmarking” and “Bush tax cuts” to dedicating resources for the public structures that benefit all society.


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