Don’t Buy It Book Summary By Anat Shenker-Osorio

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"Don't Buy It" (2012) is an essential book for anyone looking to understand the nuanced language that shapes our understanding of current political and economic debates.

Written by Anat Shenker-Osorio, an expert in this field, this book dives deep into why conservatives maintain a stronghold on economic debates within the US - even when faced with immense inequality and injustice such as the financial crash of 2008 and the Great Recession.

To answer this question, the book examines the contrasting language used by both sides of the political spectrum.

Throughout its pages, readers will gain a more comprehensive idea of how language can be utilized to shape discourse and ultimately shape societal perception.

Pick up this stimulating read today!

Don’t Buy It Book

Book Name: Don’t Buy It (The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy)

Author(s): Anat Shenker-Osorio

Rating: 4/5

Reading Time: 20 Minutes

Categories: Economics

Author Bio

Anat Shenker-Osorio is an accomplished expert in the communications field and specializes in public affairs and social issues.

She has done extensive research and analysis on a variety of different topics, which she details in her book, Don't Buy It.

Her impressive list of former clientele includes some of the top names such as The Ford Foundation, The Roosevelt Institute, The Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Ms.


It's easy to see why people turn to Anat when they need sound insights into the current state of our nation!

How Language Impacts Our Narrative Of The Economy: How To Empower Change And Progress With Better Terminology


When looking at what caused the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the aftermath thereof, one thing that is often overlooked is how language shapes politics.

The way we talk about the economy frames our understanding of it, and ultimately shapes our actions.

For example, when describing an economic collapse, many people refer to it as a “financial crisis” – a term that implies blame on individuals or companies, rather than on wider neoliberal policies and institutions.

But just by deliberately changing the words we use to describe these events, we can significantly shift public opinion and pave the way for progress and change.

In Don’t Buy It: How To Frame The Economy For Policy Progress And Equalities Change by Dan Brocklehurst, you will learn why language influences how people view the economy, which words should be used instead to better capture its essence, and why it’s important to frame our understanding of it correctly.

Discover how politics is framed by the language we use – a key lesson from this book!

The Financial Crisis Deepened Existing Economic Inequalities, Causing Significant Financial Strains On Low- And Middle-Income Households

The financial crisis had a devastating effect on the American economy, but it also brought to light the deep economic inequality that has been a long-standing problem in the US.

Prior to the crisis, wages that were adjusted for inflation had been stagnant, while corporate profits and overall economic productivity rose.

It resulted in wealth being concentrated within a small group at the top of society – an estimated 20 percent of Americans owned 84 percent of wealth in the United States.

This not only has psychological effects, decreasing the overall levels of contentment within society, but also is dangerous for economic growth.

With less disposable income due to stagnant wages, consumer demand plummets, causing a decrease in economic output.

Statistics from 2009 reveal an even more drastic situation than pre-financial collapse: 25% of American households experienced zero or negative net growth – this number even reaching 40% when taking into account African American households alone.

Beyond that shocking detail was the reality that individuals facing poverty and unemployment received no assistance from the government following this crisis– instead being met with bailout support provided to large corporations and firms.

The financial crash undeniably served as an exacerbator for an already dire situation that had plagued America’s disadvantaged citizens for decades– by demonstrating how deep and entrenched inequality truly was prior to 2007 crisis.

How The Conservatives Reigned Supreme Following The 2007 Financial Crisis

Although the 2007 financial crisis offered an unprecedented opportunity for progressives to shift the political and economic debate, they ultimately failed to do so.

Despite widespread public interest in economic news, rising awareness of income inequality and injustice, and increased presence of progressive commentators in the media, voters still showed preference for neoliberal arguments.

In 2010’s midterm elections, conservatives re-took Congress, while the Tea Party movement gained popularity among Americans who felt that government intervention was a hindrance to fixing the economy.

It was this post-crisis message that really resonated with people – according to a 2011 Bloomberg poll 57 percent believed that spending cuts and tax cuts would give businesses the confidence to hire.

It seems as though progressives were not able to capitalize on their moment of opportunity after all.

Metaphors Shape Our Thinking And Affect Real-World Consequences

Metaphors Shape

Metaphors can be an incredibly powerful tool for helping us make sense of complex and abstract concepts.

The research of esteemed linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson shows that our brains are wired to use metaphor as a way to comprehend concepts, as nearly every fifteen words spoken includes a form of metaphor or analogy.

Lakoff and Johnson also point out that the type of metaphor we use has real consequences on how we view a concept.

This was indicated by a Stanford psychologist’s study which showed that the type of metaphor used to discuss crime had an effect on how participants thought about responding to it – those who compared it to a “beast” were more likely to support law-and-order tactics, while those who referred to it as “virus” favored prevention measures.

The implications this study implies is that metaphors help shape our opinion with regard to certain topics, and thus could have far reaching impacts in society.

For example, the metaphors used when discussing the US economy are largely responsible for how the debate regarding it progresses.

From this, it can be concluded that metaphors play an integral role in our cognitive processes because they help us understand abstract concepts in simpler terms.

Ultimately, by helping us make sense of complex ideas and thoughts, metaphors shape our thinking – something which has evidenced real life repercussions in many different contexts.

How Conservatives Use Metaphors To Influence Economic Debates

Conservative politicians have a keen understanding of the power of metaphors to sway public opinion.

According to them, the economy is like a living entity; one that is weak and frail, that needs to be nursed back to health and protected from external harm.

They also argue that it functions as a moral system, rewarding hardworking people with wealth and punishing those with less ambition with poverty.

By framing the economy in this way, they can make sure their economic agenda remains popular.

In responding to a presidential proposal to reduce principal owed by those at risk of defaulting and having their homes foreclosed, Republican Senator Bob Corker (Tennessee) used language that illustrated just what kind of persuasive power these metaphors can have when he said “People who acted responsibly in Tennessee will be paying for the bad behavior of lenders and borrowers.” This statement encourages people to view economic success or failure as a reflection of one’s personal morality – an incredibly powerful way to influence political opinions and beliefs.

Clearly, conservatives know how important it is for language to reflect their cause – which is why they use metaphors so effectively in order to advance their economic agenda.

Progressives Can Reframe The Economy As A Car, To Advance Their Agenda

Progressives can use the metaphor of a moving car to reframe the debate when discussing the economy.

The image of an uncontrolled car represents the idea that, if left unchecked, the economy will cause unpredictable issues and outcomes that can’t be controlled.

This framing emphasizes the need for government intervention in order to “steer” the economy on its course.

Additionally, it implies that aiding individuals in achieving their goals should be a priority for economic policy.

The character description is also important; it’s used to illustrate that some people are equitably disadvantaged prior to entering competing in life-affirming areas such as education or employment due to outside factors beyond their control.

To promote this concept, phrases like “different starting points” and “carrying more baggage” can be used to bring attention to these potential obstacles while also conveying hope that they could possibly change through redirecting focus on social policies within our economic system.

Progressives Should Be Careful What Words They Use To Advance Their Agenda


To effectively promote the progressive point of view on the Great Recession, pundits and advocates should ditch words like crisis when attempting to make their case.

While this may seem harmless to some, these kinds of trigger words carry subtle yet powerful implications.

For example, the word “crisis” would normally connote an emotionally significant event that doesn’t necessarily require outside intervention to be resolved – which does not match progressives’ message that the economy collapsed in 2007 due to intentional missteps and errors, and that with stronger government regulations we can avoid a similar tragedy in the future.

By replacing words such as “crisis” with terms like “economic blunder” or “damage”, it communicates a much more urgent problem that needs strong action from authorities.

Similarly, phrases like “financial overhaul” or “consumer protections” might have better success conveying a broader vision for financial reform than simply calling for a reform of neoliberal principles.

Thus, if progressives want to truly get their message across, they must choose their words wisely.

Words can have great power – so make sure you don’t let them work against you!

How The Passive Voice Obscures Responsibility And Perpetuates Financial Inequality

The passive voice is often used to describe economic events which has the insidious effect of preventing people from being held accountable for their actions.

We’ve all seen it in the discussion of the 2007 financial crisis: “the unemployment rate rose” or “the dollar fell.” By stating facts in the passive voice, we create a false sense that these events happened on their own, rather than as a result of real people’s bad decisions.

This prevents us from being able to identify and hold accountable CEOs and traders who obcscured risks and evaded regulation leading up to the crash, nor do we have any recourse against those profiting from taking people’s homes away or paying them insufficient wages.

The language minimizes public empathy with those most affected by careless decisions, placing an implicit burden on them instead of recognizing that they are victims.

Using passive language during discussions of economics is dangerous because it prevents us from holding people responsible for their poor decisions.

Doing so would enable more clear-eyed analysis and greater protection for those worst-effected by negligent individuals and organizations.

The Power Of Language: Why Progressives Should Speak Of Inequality In Terms Of Imbalances And Barriers


Inuit populations have understood for generations that the language we use influences the way we think.

Today, this important lesson has been taken up by political theorists when it comes to discussing inequality and social mobility in the United States.

Currently, political discourse is dominated by metaphors related to vertical height – but this undermines the progressive cause.

Language like “the top/bottom 20 percent” implies notions of hierarchy and deservedness which support a conservative agenda.

Furthermore, terms such as “up” and “down” evince a connection between belonging to the upper classes and being better than those below – these metaphors promote inequality rather than equality.

To really energize public debate in support of progressive causes, it is therefore more effective to talk about imbalances and barriers instead.

To illustrate the importance of this framing, simply consider how ‘being off balance’ or ‘being held back’ resonates more deeply with people than ‘top/ bottom’.

Reimagining inequality as man-made roadblocks and traps reinforces our understanding that structural conditions created by those who possess more are especially limiting for those with comparatively little.

Martin Luther King Jr., understood this principle well – his calls for an end to segregation utilized barrier metaphors successfully to draw attention to institutionalized issues and hold those at the top accountable for constructing them in the first place.

Wrap Up

The final summary of Don’t Buy It: Progressives and Language by Michael Dobbins is that progressives should be mindful of the language they use in conversations about political and economic issues.

By staying aware of the metaphors used, progressives can develop a distinct narrative to counter conservatives and appeal to their own principles more effectively.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that language shapes our thinking, and so it is essential for progressives to always keep a critical eye out for false narratives being pushed in public discourse.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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