For me, the best parts of the holiday meal at my mother’s home include mashed potatoes, dark turkey meat with gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
The least favorite part of that meal is the conversation with Dorothy and Izzy, my mother’s upstairs neighbors.
Izzy says there is absolutely no need for the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, NASA, Amtrak or the Department of Agriculture. Nothing, not even the turkey we are eating, needs to be inspected by a government snoop.
Dorothy sees the unemployed, hippies, communists, vegetarians and President Obama as all being “un-American.”
While just about nothing anyone can say will budge either of them from their positions there is a lot we can say, if we sit down to dinner with a plan, that will be useful in clarifying things for the other people around the table. And when you add up all those “other people” at Thanksgiving dinner tables around the country, you’re talking about millions.
Working America, in a recently published guide, offers four tips for “talking turkey” at the dinner table this year.
The first is to keep the tone conversational. When “Izzy” says that corporations need tax breaks in order for them to be able to create jobs, don’t rant and rave. For the benefit of everyone else around the table, try asking a question: “CEOs are making record profits right now. So how do more tax breaks for them create jobs?”
The second tip is to carefully get out any fact that might be relevant to the conversation. The idea here is not to win the argument right there but to equip everyone at the table with a fact they will remember the next time they hear Izzy or someone like him making that same claim.
Example: The richest 5 percent of households obtained roughly 82 percent of all the nation’s gains in wealth between 1983 and 2009. The bottom 60 percent of households actually had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983, meaning they did not participate at all in the growth of wealth over this period.
When people start talking about politicians, try to steer the conversation toward issues. While Rick Perry’s debate flubs, Herman Cain’s memory lapses, and anybody’s sex scandals are easy to talk about, issues, when brought up clearly, will be remembered for a long time.
Example: Wall Street control of government is a big problem. When there’s a revolving door between lobbyists on K Street and Capitol Hill, you have total corporate control of government.
The fourth overall tip is to end with a solution. Example: We need to invest in jobs, not corporations.
To help with the second tip, getting out a relevant fact, Working America provides a bunch of facts about both the 99 percent and the 1 percent.
To name just a few:
The average wealth of the 1 percent is 225 times higher than the wealth of the typical household.
In just one generation the 1 percent almost quadrupled their incomes.
Thirty years ago, the average CEO made 40 times as much as an average worker. Now, it’s 200 times as much.
The 1 percent is not an accident – it is the result of policies pursued by lawmakers under their control.
When you sit down to dinner be prepared to use your questions, your observations, and your facts to debunk major myths that are sure to be told and re-told at the dinner table.
My mother reports that Izzy is already telling people in the building that the Occupiers are “America-hating elites who don’t even know what they stand for.”
She will be ready for him Thursday when she tells him the Occupiers come from all walks of life. They are teachers, unemployed, mothers, youth, seniors, professionals, construction workers, firefighters and so on and so forth.
Their message is clear: We need to end a situation where the 1 percent have almost everything and the 99 percent have almost nothing.
As for the protesters being un-American: This kind of protest is part of a proud American tradition protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The other people around her table will have more good information to take home with them.