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Vote to Help the Rich, Hurt Yourself

Why do so many ordinary folks vote to help the rich and hurt themselves?

Why do those on (or who will be on) Social Security and Medicare vote for Romney and Ryan? Ryan calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme, a collectivist system that we should end. Romney wants to turn Medicare into vouchers, which won’t adequately cover costs. And if you’re old and in the private market, who will insure you, anyway?

I have friends who don’t make enough money to pay income taxes, but they want Romney even though his plan will bring Mitt’s taxes down and raise their own rates:

For those making Taxes would
Under $30,000 Increase $183
$50-75K Increase $641
$1 million + Decrease $87,000

(Source: Tax Policy Center and Brookings Institute)

Romney complains about people who pay no income taxes – the lazy 47% — and says everybody should pay them. Unless you’re an investor. Ryan wants to bring the capital gains rate down to 0. Then Mitt wouldn’t pay income taxes, either.

One of my friends who’s uninsured hates Obamacare, but now his daughter’s in the hospital.

Another guy I know is blind but he’s a Romney fan. Since Romney will cut all spending outside of defense, Social Security and Medicare, this guy will be out of luck.

What’s up?

Turns out, people tend to see through the eyes of the privileged because the privileged have more control over ideas. They own television and radio stations, newspapers and magazines. They run government — and get campaign contributions from wealthy donors, who expect something in return. They fund think-tanks to create an acceptable message. Billionaire-owned Fox News and friends then spread the word.

Example: A wealthy Wall Street businessman makes a big contribution to his local member of Congress. He has a conversation telling her that a low rate on capital gains will encourage investment (a message created in think tanks). There’s no proof of this, but the excuse will do. Fox and friends then spread the word. Now repeat over and over so that people begin to believe it.

Others could find excuses for tax cuts, too: I should pay lower taxes because…

  • My job is dangerous
  • I’m a small business owner whose work involves manual labor and I must retire early
  • I have to work hard for a living instead of sit on my butt and let my money work for me

These folks just don’t fund think tanks or have the campaign cash to change the tax rate.

For good measure think tanks message claims that minorities take money – in the form of welfare – away from hardworking whites. Welfare uses less than 1% of the federal budget. But it’s a great distraction from the redistribution of wealth from the middle-class and the poor to the rich, via outsourcing, offshoring, union-busting, technology replacing workers and failing to raise the minimum wage, for instance. (Not to mention big tax cuts, loopholes and shelters for the wealthiest).

As Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, describes the charade:

Do everything you can to exaggerate the disincentive effects of higher taxes, while trying to convince middle-income voters that the benefits of government programs go to other people. And at the same time, you’d do everything you can to disenfranchise lower-income citizens, so that the median voter has a higher income than the median citizen.

Ah, but what if the truth comes out?

Easy-breezy: Warn against academics, liberal media bias, and fact-checkers so that folks will continue voting in the interests of the rich and powerful, and against themselves.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, Dorothy.

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No Longer Blinded by the Right

“It’s not fair that you get a free lunch when my mom has to work to pay for mine.”

That’s what I told a classmate at age 10.

In this view I was like a lot of conservatives.

In his book, Why Americans Hate Welfare, Martin Gilens found that while most want to fight poverty, many don’t like welfare, feeling the recipients are lazy and undeserving.

George Lakoff studies how language affects the mind. He says conservative morality is based on the notion that people should have “liberty to seek their self interest and their own well-being without worrying or being responsible for the well-being or interest of anybody else,” especially since — in their view — welfare fosters a “culture of dependency.”

All we need is equal opportunity, right?

Until taking a high school course taught by a conservative economist and a liberal political scientist, presenting opposing views, I had thought that equal opportunity meant that everyone was free to get a job.

Turns out, there’s not an even playing field.

A poor child sits in class but can’t read the chalkboard or a book because she needs glasses. Or she can’t focus on her studies because of a toothache. Or she can’t concentrate because she’s so hungry. If she’s not white she’ll likely face racial discrimination, too.

This little girl is less likely to learn, graduate and work, becoming a drain on society instead — whether through welfare or crime.

How can she get proper nutrition and health care so that she can get a decent education? Taxing those blessed with more is an obvious route. After all, it’s not fair that some kids are lucky enough to have rich parents and all the advantages that brings.

Republicans say tax cuts for “job creators” (the rich) will cure everything, including the economy. Even though businesses don’t hire just because they have extra money on hand. Really, businesses hire out of increased demand from consumers – who would have more money to spend if tax cuts were focused on the middle class. And if jobs for teachers, police, firefighters and people who build infrastructure were brought back.

But if those with more are unwilling to pay a bit more in taxes, how can poor kids get a shot at success?

Some suggest charity. But even with all the charitable giving little children still go hungry and go without healthcare. And go without educations.

So I moved leftward.

And so did Jeremiah Goulka, a former conservative strategist. As he explained in a post he wrote for TomDispatch.com and reposted in Common Dreams:

My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality.  To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.  I think this shows why Republicans put so much effort into “creat[ing] our own reality,” into fostering distrust of liberals, experts, scientists, and academics, and why they won’t let a campaign “be dictated by fact-checkers” (as a Romney pollster put it).  It explains why study after study shows – examples herehere, and here – that avid consumers of Republican-oriented media are more poorly informed than people who use other news sources or don’t bother to follow the news at all.

When I scolded my young classmate with a free lunch ticket I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t fair that I was lucky enough to have parents who could feed me.

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