[_________], organized political lobbying has consistently prevented reform from happening.The journal of Rhetoric and Public Affairs
writes in 2004:
However, agenda management requires an effective rhetoric. On the one hand, manipulating political structures in public policymaking must be legitimized, and legitimation requires symbolic action.21 When policies involvecomplex issues, the legitimation may be as simple as claiming that “hollow laws” are major, substantive changes, or as precise as focusing attention on one part of a bill while obscuring other provisions that make its passagemeaningless. In addition, organizational rhetors have a number of strategies available to undermine popular pressure for reform. Opponents can contain an issue conceptually, either by defining the issue in a way that minimizesits appeal or by drawing on culturally sanctioned assumptions to frame policy proposals in ways that make meaningful reform seem objectionable and palliatives seem adequate.22 During the 1990s conceptual
supported and funded by U.S. organizations
became more sophisticated and more effective as opponentslearned to coordinate lobbying activities with “public issue” campaigns. The most successful efforts to undermine public support for reform argued that socioeconomic “problems” are “private sector” concerns, not matters for governmental policy.
This argument gains its credibility from the cultural assumption that free market capitalism is inherently superior to any other economic system, and that government “interference” inthe free market system is inherently futile and perverse.23
The astonishing success of
the “Harry and Louise”
attacks on “Hillarycare” made it abundantlyclear that organizational rhetors, in the guise of “public interest” campaigns, can significantly influence popular definitions of policy issues and thereby short-circuit reform.
24 Five years after the demise of the Clinton health care proposal,
opponents of theMcCain-Feingold bill regulating the tobacco industry were able to capitalize on
the industry long hadcovered up the addictive properties of nicotine. Since the funding mechanisms in the bill relied on increased tobacco taxes, opponents successfully defined
as a tax bill in disguise, one that
unfairly penalized precisely those poor and middle- class victims that
the bill’s proponents had demonstrated
were incapable of shaking their addiction.The journal elaborates on how it’s much easier to oppose reform than to require it.
For example, expensing stock options would initially have concentrated costs (on corporate executives, stockbrokers, and institutional investors) because they reduce the profits that corporations report to the general public, andwould have diffused benefits (primarily to individual investors).
Since there are no established mechanisms through which individual investorscan be informed about the issue, become connected to other individual investors, or engage in coordinated political action, there is little chance that they will be able to influence policymakers. In short, it is much easier tomobilize opposition to expensing options than it is to mobilize pressure to require it.
19 Business elites are advantageously positioned todominate the decision-making process.
Through fundraising and professional associations they are in constant contact with policymakers on a variety of issues, are supported by an overwhelming number of Washington lobbyists, and arelinked to one another through communication networks that can be instantly activated.
Conrad, Charles. "The Illusion of Reform: Corporate Discourse and Agenda Denial in the 2002 "Corporate Meltdown"" Rhetoric & Public Affairs 7.3 (2004): 311-38. ProjectMUSE. Web. 31 Jan. 2010.
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