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Unenlightenment among the masses

By Owen Paine on Sunday October 8, 2006 10:01 PM

Though still in arboreal retreat mode til the day after election day, none the less in an effort to at least partially fulfill my bloglogations -- I stumbled upon a paper from 2005, sure to become a golden oldie someday. It's by our ambitious but affable pal, Princeton poli sci tiger Larry Bartels.

With a good degree of success, Larry attempts to unlock the paradox we progs found so prevalent, looking back over the voting behaviour of America's most jobbled palefaces -- i.e. their persistent tendency to prefer candidates of the party of rich man tax cuts, and their patently false promises of abundance for all, over the long-eared supposed party of the common man.

Now of course we hear the line that the fools were voting their values, not their pocketbooks -- as if they bought the costless placedo snake-oil at top dollar, just so long as the Bible said to "follow such men."

But Larry sez "Just wait a second here." Larry's discovered another possibility, dearer to the hearts of Benthamites and liberators and free-traders everywhere, namely: "self interest." Only it's unenlightened self-interest -- the great abiding fear of J S Mill and Gladstone.

Seems if you review the mind-set surveys around the time of the two big tax cuts in '01 and '03, as Larry sez, you'll find in there Homer buying the notion of cutting Mr Burns' taxes, cause Homer figured "there's a little something in it for myself" -- even if, as he seems to know,, it's a very little.

And here's the farce of it: a full 180, taking in all the major knock-ons and other secondary effects like spending cuts, deficit increases, even higher taxes someday -- it all turns the paltry up-front bird-in-the-hand jobblers' share of the tax cut into a long-run net loss, for maybe the whole bottom 80% of American households.

Now as we all recall, this was not the first jobblers' blanket-toss by the Repubs. They'd been at it for 30-plus years at this point. Just how nasty had it gotten, even before, yes before, the '01-'03 bush plutotax cuts?

I like this comparison. Larry points out: In the late Clinton 90's, the top 13 thousand households had pretty close to the same total income as the bottom 20 million households. Don't think Homer didn't kinda know this, dislike it and wish it were otherwise. And yet, instead of a massive rectification of this re configurement, after Bush got appointed and went to reward his base, damned if the Homericans didn't cry "more more more!"

Why? Not because they didn't understand the '01 cut would grossly favor the rich. Hell, 85% even knew it wouldn't do them much good at all. But according to Larry's sifting of the surveys, it was because they didn't "connect all the dots," either because they weren't paying attention, or not thinking beyond step one -- i.e. they were not informed, not "enlightened," and they didn't tie the cut to all its nasty blowbacks for them.

The assumption is that by behaving -- that is,voting -- differently, they might have achieved a different result. But while the Repubs were cutting income taxes, there was a bipartisan raising of payroll taxes. And then, Clinton promised a jobblers tax cut, renegged in '93.

To me it makes sense: when somebody gives you money, take it. Take whatever the bastards give you -- and the donks give you nothing. Especially if you play by the rules, you get nothing but lectures to play by the rules some more.

To my way of thinking, Larry quite nicely gets all the way to Monte Hall's final prize doors, and then chooses the wrong one.

Homer don't trust the donks' long-range promises. He'd rather have the repugs' short-term up-front workin slobs' rebate tip. It may not be much, but it's better then a sermon on the need for the groundlings to get some Higher Ed.

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