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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Should Flip the ‘Job-Killer’ Meme

If there was a contest to identify the most influential political buzzword, phrase or term of the last year, I would have to give the nod to “job-killer.” I don’t have a ‘word cloud’ or content analysis to back me up, but it’s so ubiquitous that you rarely hear a GOP speech that doesn’t parrot it to describe some progressive proposal.
OK, you want numbers? I just did a quick Google, which pulled up 53,300,000 hits for ‘job-killer’ on the web and 230 hits for the term in today’s news.
The really bad news is that the vast, overwhelming number of those hits is for citations using the term to support some conservative distortion or other. Engage a Republican in dialogue about the need for revenues and the rich paying their fair share of taxes, for example, and his knee will immediately jerk, accompanied by the term ‘job-killer’ in description of all taxes, or any progressive reforms, for that matter. It’s more than a little ironic, considering that Republicans do more job-killing than anyone.
Some of the page one usages of the term in my Google search described the minimum wage, climate control regulations and HCR. The California Chamber of Commerce fronts an annual list of “job-killer” legislative proposals, also on page one.
The reason there are so many hits is because the lapdog MSM dutifully reports nearly every usage of the term, although 53 million hits suggests it’s getting a little, well, shop-worn. Apparently they like vivid descriptive terms, even when used in a totally bogus context.
There’s no denying it’s a powerful, resonant term. Common sense tells us that something is killing jobs. The Republicans favor one simplistic explanation in particular — taxes, and they are not afraid to use ‘job-killer’, again and again in that context. Liberal eyes roll with every usage, but GOP wordsmiths (see Luntz, Frank) tell them that it still does the job. Repetition is a cardinal principle of Republican propaganda, and they have the message discipline and echo chamber to back it up.
The good news is that the term can be used with more credibility by progressives. But the sole progressive use of ‘job-killer’ among the page one hits in my Google search was for David M. Cutler’s article, “Repealing Health Care Is a Job Killer: It Would Slow Job Growth by 250,000 to 400,000 Annually” at the Center for American Progress website.
Joshua Holland has a more recent example of a progressive take on the term in his Alternet post “Why the Wealthiest Americans Are the Real ‘Job-Killers’.” It would be good to see ‘job-killer’ being used in a progressive context in the MSM, as well as the blogosphere, which could be encouraged if Democratic politicians would take the term out for a little spin once in a while.
But there will come a point when the term loses its power from overuse and becomes just another cliche. Meanwhile the Republicans are milking it dry. They are more clever at creating resonant catch-phrases and buzzwords for sound-bites, probably because of their more pervasive connections in the advertising industry. At this point it would be a welcome development for Democrats to begin thinking more about how to catch up.

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