Friday, November 20, 2015

"I Will Always Be Ignorant, But I Will Soon Be Rich"

Why do poor and working class Republicans vote against their own economic interests, going along with tax cuts for billionaires, dismantling of the safety net, annihilation of the Affordable Care Act, etc etc?

It's not a mystery. This puzzle was solved years ago. Poor Republicans are convinced they're just a few steps away from becoming rich Republicans (this is one of several reasons they flock to Donald Trump; they very closely identify with him as the guy they're destined to be: just as belligerent and as lazily uninformed as them, only with a huuuuge bank account).

But there's another question. Why do they hate "experts" of any stripe, be they journalists, professors, scientists, or anyone else with the stuck-up gall to proffer "facts"?

It's because such people don't reflect who they are, nor who they expect to ever be. A sizable chunk of the populace feels on the brink of prosperity, but can't even entertain the notion of being educated. And that's astounding, given that it's so much easier to get educated than to get rich.

On the other hand, what am I doing exploring quaint problems like this when American leaders are pointing to WWII Japanese internment camps as smart historical precedents? I'll just say this: if they start registering Muslims, I'll be first on line to sign up.

Also, remember: at times like this, even moderate Americans tend to shun Muslim businesses run by their friends and neighbors. Lebanese, Egyptian, Indonesian restaurants go empty. Consider joining me in going out for falafal for the next few weeks.

3 comments:

Janet Fuchs said...

Hi. Interesting, but totally wrong. Although, I can see why you believe this. The truth is that Republicans vote against their interests because they truly believe in small government. Same reason why very rich liberals vote against their interests. They really believe in big government. Sometimes, philosophy trumps financial interest.

Jim Leff said...


Thanks for the comment.

The Republican party is NOT in favor of small government. Post-war Republicans presidents have (I believe without exception, but at least mostly) increased government size and spending more than Democrats. The Republicans only favor smaller government in sectors where it has extenuating idealogical issues (i.e. services to poor and minorities who don't vote Republican, or regulation of environmental and other business interests run by folks who do).

The military (which is quite obviously for much more than "defense") is government. And the military budget is monstrously larger than the social services budget (apart from the entitlements which even most Republicans support). The copious subsidies paid to libertarian Western ranchers is big government. Social conservatism (at least when it's enforced by law) is VERY big government. Deficit uproar is a pose....the Republicans blithely increase it when they're in power (see Cheney's infamous quote "Deficits don't matter"). But in their case the spending goes to tax cuts for billionaires, subsidies for ranchers and corps, and the military/industrial complex. Y'know....constituent service. Politics. Happens on both sides.

That said, if you're referring to the current crop of libertarian radicals making up a small but noisy minority of the party, perhaps you're right. Though I believe they're functioning more as anarchists than libertarians (the debt ceiling threats, just to name one element, strike me as nihilistic). And I don't know how hawkish this current crop is, but if they support the military budget, then they, too, are all about big government.

On the other side, I know very few "big government" liberals. I think that died in the 1970s (though Bernie may, alas, be sparking a resurgence). Most Democrats I know (being a jazz musician/writer in super-blue New York City) are economic conservatives and social liberals. In a way, not so different from what those libertarians claim to be, though the respective tribal scents are repellant on both sides.

"Big government", on either side, seems to stand for the bundle of government functions and policies one side or the other disagrees with. Even the libertarians, if you study closely enough, are usually looking to expand it in one respect or the other. Not Ron Paul so much, but his son (who's actually more consistent than many current self-professed Libertarians) is another thing.

Jim Leff said...

PS - to your larger point, the fundamental perspective I described ("I'm on the brink of great wealth, myself") has been convincingly demonstrated, via polling and other measures, to be at the root of poor people's support of dodgy Republican branded policies such as trickle-down economics, austerity therapy for recession, and massive tax cuts to the wealthiest. The average working class Republican is not a deeply committed political theorist. I grant you that many would rotely invoke the term "Big Government" in explaining their perspective, but I don't think they'd have much substance to offer beyond the catch-phrase.

Note that I'm NOT saying there aren't principled, intelligent people in favor of this stuff (like you, very likely!). I myself was (if I'm not flattering myself!) one of them for a while: http://jimleff.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-i-outgrew-libertarianism.html . But I'm talking about the great masses of people who've adopted this in a more tribal, less thoughtful way.

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