Several years ago, we asked the question “What Will a Billion dollars Buy You?” At that time, we were covering the billion dollar Wall Street campaign to cut Social Security and Medicare by those who want to protect tax breaks and the income inequality which has lined the pockets of America’s corporations and wealthy. This week it appears the anti-Social Security propaganda favored by these Wall Street lobbyists has also now found a home in the popular political drama “House of Cards.” Turns out that the show’s consultant runs one of the many groups funded by former Wall Streeter and anti-Social Security scold, Pete Peterson, who’s invested his own personal fortune to a national campaign to cut back benefits in Social Security and Medicare.
Richard Eskow at Campaign for America’s Future details the connection:
“Episode One’s credits list Jim Kessler as a consultant. Kessler is, as his IMDB biography notes, the co-founder of Third Way. That’s a Wall Street-funded, so-called “centrist” Democratic organization with a mission: to promote neoliberal economics and make the world safe (at least financially) for its wealthy patrons.
Third Way has consistently misrepresented the financial condition of Social Security, misdirected the public debate about Medicare, and generally promoted the socially liberal but fiscally conservative worldview of its patrons.
Kessler and co-founder Jon Cowan carefully tiptoed their way through the minefield of public opinion for years, pretending to be technocrats rather than de facto lobbyists for powerful interests. They finally lost their balance last year. When confronted with the rise of Elizabeth Warren and the populist wing of the Democratic Party, they lashed out at Sen. Warren with an intemperate Wall Street Journal op-ed.”
We highly recommend you read Eskow’s entire post to see just how perfectly the Third Way, Pete Peterson propaganda is scripted into the characters of “House of Cards”. Here’s just a sample:
“Underwood continues: “This (the number $32,781, displayed on a flip chart) is what the average senior gets in one year from entitlements …This money is a job we could be giving to a single mother or a student just out of school. Now at the moment, 44 cents of every tax dollar goes to pay for these programs. By 2030, it’ll be over half, 62 cents.”
“Entitlements are bankrupting us,” he concludes.
Except that they’re not. Social Security accounts for 24 percent of the federal budget, but it is forbidden by law from adding to the overall deficit. What’s more, its trust fund is currently holding $2.8 trillion dollars in reserves. The statement is meaningless.
In Episode Two, Underwood gives a “bold” speech outlining his plan. It begins:
“For too long, we in Washington have been lying to you. We say we’re here to serve you, when in fact, we’re serving ourselves. And why? We are driven by our own desire to get reelected …”
That’s another favored trope: that the corporate politicians are courageous (as if it’s brave to serve the wealthy and powerful!), while their opponents are cravenly pandering to the voters – by representing them.
“That ends tonight,” says Underwood. “Tonight, I give you the truth.”
There’s that idea again, that the corporate version of reality is “fact” or “truth.” We’re told that “the root of the problem” is “entitlements” – a favorite word in the corporate crowd because it has negative connotations. (We’ve written about that before.)
“Let me be clear,” adds Underwood. “You are entitled to nothing …”
Just like real-life Third Way types, Underwood is trying to cancel our nation’s social contract.
It’s easy enough to say “don’t worry, this is just fiction” but the problem is that a growing number of Americans don’t get their news from independent news sources anymore…they get it from everywhere else. Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart continues to be among the nation’s most trusted “news sources” even as he hosts a comedy show. It’s not that big of a stretch to believe that viewers hearing the fictional politician, Frank Underwood, recite the same propaganda they also hear constantly from the billion dollar anti-Social Security lobby and their real-world political allies on Capitol Hill only helps to validate this factually flawed view.
This type of Wall Street messaging fits the very definition of propaganda and how best to use it in the real world of politics, not just the made-for-television variety:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.”…Joseph Goebbels