Dividers to the right, please.

Why do so many Americans vote against their own best interests?

As noted previously, I have lived for extended periods in the USA, Canada, and several EU countries.

With the exception of the USA, most citizens vote pragmatically in line with the best interests of their class.

Only here in the USA do working stiffs (eg, NASCAR Dads) enthusiastically support tax cuts and other actions designed solely to put or leave still more money in the hands of the wealthiest 1 or 2%.

Some try to describe this phenomenon as attributable to these people perceiving themselves not as poor but as "pre-rich".

Which then begs the question how did they become so badly deluded to begin with?

Do they really believe that by fixing up and selling the four Trans-Ams rusting on their front lawns, they will be propelled in high society? Or by joining an MLM?

Discuss!
Permalink Great Expectorations 
March 18th, 2005
I can answer this question if you can tell me why the Democrats support abortion-on-demand and the Republicans oppose it. The basic ethos of the two parties suggests it should be the other way around.
Permalink Kyralessa 
March 18th, 2005
The simplest answer is: Advertising.

Folks in the US are bad at math, solving complicated things is also beyond the realm of expertise of most folks here too.

Things are also complicated enough to the point where folks just don't want to think. There is a 35 year old book called "Future Shock" which describes the situation reasonably well.

The purpose of advertising, marketing and propaganda is to short circuit any thinking process by using symbols. As a result, many words have become so debased as to have lost any useful meaning. Samples are: democracy and freedom.

When you hear any sentence on TV/radio, you should immediately think of the line from the Princess Bride: "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

We've had more than 20 years of the right wing controlling "framing" here in the US. And it has been paying off very very well for them. So well, that they will go postal if you point it out to them.
Permalink Peter 
March 18th, 2005
The general population in the US never bought into the idea that "the rich" should be taxed at progressively higher rate. Joe 6-pack is actually rather good at math, and understands that 10% of a large sum of money is proportionally more than 10% of a small sum of money. Takes a genius to figure that out, right?

So when Reagan proposed a "more flat" tax, of 3 basic brackets and closing special loopholes, then the population resoundingly replies "YES".

So there you go, a flat tax - or an approximation thereof - appeals to Americans' basic sense of fairness. And when life isn't fair, your mother told you "life isn't fair, get used to it".

And when someone's parents did not instill them with these values, they become thumb sucking special flowers, unable to adapt to the environment and get along with others.
Permalink hoser 
March 18th, 2005
Obviously there are as many motivations as there are people, but here are a few others besides OP's single theory:
1) (sadly, probably the majority) Don't think "tax cuts for the rich" but rather "tax cuts" - as in "cutting my taxes." The massive tax rebate was brilliant social engineering, making the concept that "'tax cut' = 'more money to you'" concrete.
2) Some people aren't voting to cut taxes; they're voting to cut federal revenues, hoping to cut federal spending (again, sadly, we're a dying species)
3) As previous posters pointed out, not all people are hopelessly self-absorbed; plenty of people don't think *anyone* should pay more tax.

And from all of those, may I turn the subject line around:
"Why are so many people in other countries so willing to fuck their neighbors?"  ;)

Philo
Permalink Philo 
March 18th, 2005
"And from all of those, may I turn the subject line around:
"Why are so many people in other countries so willing to fuck their neighbors?" ;)"

You mean by sharing the costs of having universal health care, livable minimum wages, and other safety nets?
Permalink Great Expectorations 
March 18th, 2005
No, it is all part of a vast Republican slant to discredit Government service, and all that Government does, in an attempt to destroy the New Deal policies of FDR. It is largely self-defeating. Should they succeed in destroying the New Deal, the old draconian business cycle would take hold. But they don't look that far into the future.

I live in America. I use to great advantage the roads, the schools, the industrial infrastructure, the airlines, the labor laws, the civil rights, the police, the fire departements, the hospitals, the anti-trust laws. I expect to have to pay for those things as my part of the society. I don't expect to get them for free. In fact I expect to pay 30% of my income for these taxes and Social Security taxes. If it's more than 30%, I can get a little cross about it.

But the Republicans have said, since Reagan on, that Government does not solve problems, Government IS the problem. Thus the Taxes I pay to support the Government are largely "wasted". Thus I should not have to pay Taxes which are "wasted". Thus the revolt.

But every "waste reduction" attempt that has been tried shows that MOST of what Government does is NOT 'waste'. Sure, there's some off-the-wall pork-barrel projects. But these are trivial compared to the large bulk of what the US Government does.

You want waste? How about 300 billion dollars in debt service -- is that waste? Actually, no it isn't, it is paid to people who hold US Treasury notes, so it goes right back into the economy. That is, the amount that isn't held by Germany, Japan, or Korea.

How about the 500 Billion dollars that is spent on Defense. Is that waste? (Maybe some. The $3,000 toilet-seat is still out there somewhere. Sure, it's a really-really reliable toilet-seat, tested to MIL-SPEC standards, but still.)

How about the xxx Billion dollars spent annually in Social Security, Medicaide, and pensions. Is that waste?

The REST of the budget is about 100 billion to do EVERYTHING ELSE. Is that waste?

But the Republicans have successfully sold this idea to a large enough group of the American people that they will vote AGAINST their economic self-interest. Don't balance the budget. Cut taxes. Privatize Social Security. Don't take My money. The Government is all waste.

Throw in Gays and Abortion to get the wavering 10%, and you have a slight majority in this country that will approve an agenda that will ultimately see themselves poorer, the rich much richer, and the social and economic climate of this country much less stable than it has been.
Permalink AllanL5 
March 18th, 2005
"Joe 6-pack is actually rather good at math, and understands that 10% of a large sum of money is proportionally more than 10% of a small sum of money. Takes a genius to figure that out, right?"

Unfortunately, hoser, you are incorrect. 10% of a large sum is proportionally the same as 10% of a small sum. They are both 10%. 10% of a large sum is actually MORE than 10% of a small sum -- if that's what you were trying to say.

However, if I make $25,000, then 10% of that is $2500. I may be using all $25,000 for rent, food, transportation. That $2500 taken out has a large impact.

If I make $100,000, then 10% of that is 10,000. Yay. But I'm only using 60,000 for rent, food, and transportation. That $10,000 has a much less impact on me. I can still save $30,000 for retirement and my son's education.

If I make $1,000,000, then 10% of that is 100,000. Yay. But I'm only using $600,000 for housing, food, transportion, and a much higher standard of living. That gives me $300,000 for investement, retirement, education, whatever. Including investing in whatever political candidate I think can maintain this situation.

The point being, a flat tax hurts the poor and middle class the most. But the poor and middle class can't think this way? Perhaps it just hasn't been presented the right way yet.
Permalink AllanL5 
March 18th, 2005
Well said, Great E. In America, the well-off don't WANT to fund resources for the poor. That's why this latest budget of Mr. Bush is not balanced, but seeks to become more balanced by cutting Medicaid.

Who uses Medicaid? The poor, that's what it's there for.

Mr. Bush is actually increasing the Defense Budget, then turns around and tries to reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor. Classic.

And Mr. Philo says the Europeans want to fuck their neighbors? Who's getting fucked in this situation?
Permalink AllanL5 
March 18th, 2005
It just comes to personal preference, guys.

Sometimes being moral means doing things despite of your own interests.
Permalink Rick Tang 
March 18th, 2005
Another problem is there are no reputable third parties.

And Republicans and Democrats know very well that it is in their best interests for this to continue.

Again, what are your Public Education people doing?
Permalink Rick Tang 
March 18th, 2005
I live in America. I use to great advantage
the roads,  -- state
the schools,  -- county/local
the industrial infrastructure, ? generally commercial
the airlines,  -- commercial; federal enforcement
the labor laws,  -- state
the civil rights,  -- state
the police,    -- state & county/local
the fire departements, -- county/local
the hospitals,  -- state & county/local
the anti-trust laws. -- federal

Just to be clear, I don't have a problem with paying state taxes. I have a problem with a lot of federal programs because they're redundant and/or unresponsive. I want my schools run by the county, not the federal government. I want my police forces run by the county and the state. I want my roads built by the state, not some faceless committee in DC that has some huge "five year plan" that might get a road built once a decade.

I believe in managing at the lowest level possible and empowerment.

Look at your latest pay stub. See the numbers labeled "Federal withholding" and "State withholding"? If those numbers were reversed we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Philo
Permalink Philo 
March 18th, 2005
"And Mr. Philo says the Europeans want to fuck their neighbors? Who's getting fucked in this situation?"

the point is - if you think taxes are too high, shouldn't you vote to lower taxes? If you vote that the rich should pay more taxes what you're really voting for is "someone else should pay for all this crap, because I sure don't want to"

Philo
Permalink Philo 
March 18th, 2005
It's not just the Europeans, some of my neighbors hot.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 18th, 2005
A couple of years ago I read an article in New York Times, and I can't remember exactly the figures, but they were on these lines:

- 50% of Americans believe their earnings are in top 5%.
- 90% of Americans believe their earnings will be in top 5%, 5 years from now.

I remember that article because I laughed so hard.

So the answer to your question is very simple, Americans indeed vote for their best interest, in this case because they truly believe they are among the richest people in America, or if not, they will be soon enough.
Permalink coresi 
March 18th, 2005
Could you look at another persons who support the opposite party in their eyes, and see that they are generally no more or less good or bad than you?
Permalink Rick Tang 
March 18th, 2005
Since everyone is clarrifying their positions:

I pay very little tax (at least as I view the world). After all deductions, etc. my federal tax rate is around 12%.

I am not opposed to a tax increase. Personally, I would favor a federal tax increase. Unlike Philo, it is my opinion that my State of residence, WA wastes far more money than the feds. Therefore, I would be more in favor of a federal tax increase than one by our localities. This is born out of a snapshot in time pragmatism as opposed any world view (as Philo has formed, and I'm not so inclined to do so).

However, the basic premise, that Americans are not predisposed to vote their pocket book (although they will in some cases - especially when they sense that something needs adjusted as in 1992). This comes as no surprise to me, and as a whole I think the American popluation understands that a tax increase on you for my benefit is legalized theft.

As for how to caluclate 10% of numbers with zeroes following them, I did not want to belabor the math. I'm just a joe-6'er after all. I think I made my point.

The war should be funded - simple as that. As for universal healthcare the answer is simple: you're a citizen. Part of your moral responsibility is to be a contributor. That at least means taking care of your own basic needs. By vote and attitude I think this is the dominant view of the American public. Take it up with them.
Permalink hoser 
March 18th, 2005
The statement about the working class as seeing themselves as the "pre-rich" - you have something there, but IMO it's only part of the equation.

I've observed that the rather strange alliance of the working stiffs and "red state" types with the interests of the rich is largely due to misplaced, highly personalized idealism.

IE: the working classes are increasingly manipulated to view politics as a referendum on personal character. Vote conservative and you're a good person, vote liberal and you want to kill babies and give away the wealth to undeserving lazy bastards.

I witnessed pretty intelligent professional people being snookered into this game in the last presidential election. You literally couldn't state a political opinion without being tarred as a "traitor" or a callous war-mongerer.

It's a sort of personal flattery and seeking of personal ideals being indulged: you can be "just like the Bushes" or other purportedly admirable personages by voting for them. The pragmatism is left farrrr in the background. Same for the apparent motivations of the liberal voters, by and large.

"True" pragmatists would vote Libertarian, but that's not pragmatic because it's essentially a wasted vote, and YES I know I am not supposed to think like that. :( Only Libertarians seem to be interested in taking a non-ideological view of governmental problems and proposing solutions.
Permalink Bored Bystander 
March 18th, 2005
Well said, BB.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 18th, 2005
For jaw-breaking bafflegab about the word "aspirational" it's hard to go past this 4th google hit:

http://www.capstrans.edu.au/about/projects/aspirational-class.html

These voters were hip-pocket nervy about interest rate rises, having maxxed out credit on lifestyle.
Permalink trollop 
March 18th, 2005
"Unlike Philo, it is my opinion that my State of residence, WA wastes far more money than the feds."

9 years in the Navy
5 years in (federal) Gov't contracting
3 years in law school with a LOT of federal employees

And I watch local budgets as well.

You don't have to trust me, but I have a reason for the way I feel.

Philo
Permalink Philo 
March 18th, 2005
All this makes me want to go live under a rock somewhere.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 18th, 2005
FOR ALL OF THOSE WHO WANT A TAX INCREASE, feel free to either:

A) Pay more directly - though this may make accounting difficult - OR
B) don't take all of your deductions

No one is stopping you from doing either? Put up or shut up.


Why do you insist on pushing your beliefs for higher taxes on the rest of us?

Or is it that you know what's good for everyone else... but don't have the balls to do it yourself?
Permalink KC 
March 19th, 2005
OK,Ill pay more for public health care, but then I don't want to pay for the military.
Why do you insist on pushing military spending on the rest of us? You pay for the military if you want it so bad.

(I'm not a US citizen, just playing one to illustrate the absurdity of KCs argument.)
Permalink Eric Debois 
March 19th, 2005
Worst argument ever Eric. Regardless of the tax rate you still don't get to choose where to spend the money. This is an argument about RATE, not tax SPENDING.

<muppet mode>Moron</muppet mode>
Permalink ronk! 
March 19th, 2005
Actually, it would be nice if people had choice in allocating budgets. That would be democratic.

Of course, that's not going to fly, since we don't seriously believe in democracy. Spoiled Yale fratboys must be better at making decisions than normal Americans.

People who argue against such citizen participation, assume that a true democracy looks anything like what we have. To the contrary, people will be required to have data at hand in order to make intelligent decisions, rather than professional politicians.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
March 19th, 2005
It is you sir, that is a moron. The underlying point is that tax is a communal decision. The rate and the spending. I was merely demostrating that thinking about taxes as individual decisions at all is absurd.
Permalink Eric Debois 
March 19th, 2005
"demostrating that thinking about taxes as individual decisions at all is absurd."

Hardly. And this is just one more reason why the Democratic party fails to win federal elections.

Whether myth or reality, the individual thinks that he/she counts. The Democratic party discounts this notion exactly as you have. You lose. Keep it up.

Individuals vote. Individuals are counted by the census (even still). Individuals (at least think) they are in control of their own destiny and responsible for it. You would like them to think otherwise.

However, at every macro choice a voter makes here, they apply it in micro terms and will try to make their choices consistently:

"Why should I make my neighbor pay for my health benefits? Would I exepect them to pay for my car?"

"Why would I tax my neighbor more if his company successfully IPO's. Would I want him to do that to me?"

No, instead we're supposed to think like this:
"The UN, bless their hearts needs more money. Let's raise taxes."

The Republican Party needs some competition. Power is begatting huge corruption lately. I suggest you get your shit together in the next 4 years.
Permalink hoser 
March 19th, 2005
Re: Philo.

If you're going to force me to think rationally about Federal spending, then I have only one word: Uncle.
Permalink hoser 
March 19th, 2005
Damn hoser, you've got both barrels firing... I mean, you competition wasn't all that much of a challenge, but he may be hiding under his bed by now.
Permalink KC 
March 19th, 2005
Hoser, wtf? Just because I have a say via the vote doesnt mean I can choose my own individual tax. What the hell are you talking about?
Permalink Eric Debois 
March 19th, 2005
He's pointing out that no matter what the government - or any entity says - the actual paying of taxes comes down to the individual.

By requiring that the individual spend their money on one thing, you effectively take it away from them being able to spend it on the things they deem important.

As I mentioned before, there is absolutely NOTHING requiring an individual to take the deduction options they have. Therefore, an individual can pay as much in taxes as they want.


STOP FORCING YOUR BELIEFS ON ME!
Permalink KC 
March 19th, 2005
Philo, I love this statement of yours:

"Look at your latest pay stub. See the numbers labeled "Federal withholding" and "State withholding"? If those numbers were reversed we wouldn't be having this discussion."

That sums it all up.
Permalink KC 
March 19th, 2005
>>STOP FORCING YOUR BELIEFS ON ME!

Ok, I aparently assumed to much, with regards to your mental capacity.

Its called democracy. Right now roughly 50% of the US population is forcing their beliefs on the other half. After the next election it will hopefully be the other half. Tax rates is only one area where this is reflected. (I have a right to drive as fast as I want, stop forcing your beliefs on me =P)

If you dont like it, there are countries in north africa experimenting with a different style of nation called anarchy where anyone can force anythin on anyone else if they have the weapons to do it. Or there is the totalitarian style where a single ruler forces his belief on the entire population. 50/50 isnt half bad in that context.
Permalink Eric Debois 
March 19th, 2005
If you vote for more taxes on the rich, you're voting against your own dreams, and vice-versa.
Permalink Cowboy coder 
March 19th, 2005
First Eric espoused:

"Just because I have a say via the vote doesnt mean I can choose my own individual tax."

Then rebutted:

"Hoser, wtf? Just because I have a say via the vote doesnt mean I can choose my own individual tax."

(Allow me to sum up my ramblings: Americans vote globally as they would locally. Think globally, act locally - more than a stupid bumper sticker, they do so with their taxes).

And KC is correct in summarizing my position: people act to their federal neighbors as they would their next door neighbors.

Oh, and most US citizens don't give a rats ass what their friends in Sweden think.
Permalink hoser 
March 19th, 2005
Again I say WTF.

You are having a different debate. KC argued that Democrats have no right to want higher taxes. I argue that they do.
Permalink Eric Debois 
March 19th, 2005
"KC argued that Democrats have no right to want higher taxes. I argue that they do."


No, I simply said that if YOU want to pay higher taxes, there is absolutely nothing stopping you.

If you choose not to pay more, why is it okay to force someone else to do it.


You sir are the one espousing a belief system where you force others to work for your ideals and call them names if they refuse.
Permalink KC 
March 19th, 2005
Dude, I dont think I follow you. What would my skipping deductions solve? And why would I when I have no say in where its spent? (Hence my detour into the democracy bit which is the only belief system I'm arguing for here.)
Permalink Eric Debois 
March 19th, 2005
For a different take on taxation (and many othetr things) try reading this:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0609604465/ipmm/104-4028691-1994353

Postulates allowing taxpayers a say in where the money goes.

Pipedreams of course.
Permalink trollop 
March 19th, 2005
""Why should I make my neighbor pay for my health benefits?&#160; Would I exepect them to pay for my car?"

because its cheaper if we all pitch in? why do you expect your neighbour to pay more than he has to for his health benefits?

..besides which, if you truly dont see any difference in the relative importance of health and a car then you have been brainwashed well beyond anything I have seen before.
Permalink  
March 20th, 2005
oops, sorry, that was me above..
Permalink FullNameRequired 
March 20th, 2005
I'm surprised nobody's yet mentioned Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas":
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0805073396
Permalink Kartik Agaram 
March 30th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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