Why Nothing Will Change

Going back to my post of a couple of days ago, on the S&P report on income inequality — There have been some more reactions to this. Basically, from the Left we’re hearing “Duh. What we said.” And from the Right it’s “[denial].” So, as usual, people believe what they want to believe, facts be damned.

One progressive reaction is at The Daily Beast, of all places, by Monica Potts, titled “The Big, Long, 30-Year Conservative Lie.” Potts concludes [emphasis added]:

Closing the gap by lifting low-income families out of poverty could do more to help the economy than any number of tax credits for “job creators” might, which is what Hanauer argued in Politico. And the S&P report puts more support in his corner.

On the question of what to do, there is widespread agreement on boosting educational attainment and increasing salaries at the bottom end. Policymakers have had a lot of time to think about how to help the middle class, since real wages began declining in the mid-1970s. Many of the problems of inequality have policy solutions ready to go, spelled out in a white paper stuffed in someone’s desk drawer. Why has it taken so long to think about addressing it? Was the political might of the right so overwhelming that they couldn’t speak up until people like Hanauer saw, as he warned in his essay, that the pitchforks would be coming for them?

The answer to Potts’s questions are in the several hundred comments, the bulk of which read like this one:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Similarly, we can provide opportunity, but you can’t make folks take advantage. So instead you have massive government welfare programs designed to redistribute the earnings of hard-workers to those who prefer the outcome be guaranteed for them with zero effort.. This way, we try to even outcomes. Maybe the inequality gap is growing because, when government incents folks to avail themselves of government largesse, folks lose ambition. Meanwhile, ambitious workers keep earning, and the gap grows.

Never mind that this entire line of argument was directly demolished in the S&P report. At this point, the Right cannot change.They’ve spent more than 30 years brainwashing Americans to believe what the commenter above believes — poor people are just lazy government moochers, and anyone can get rich if they just work hard enough, and if we can just cut taxes for job creators a bit more everything will be fine. And this is what the Republican base wants to hear, facts be damned. Any Republican who even gives off the appearance of being soft on moochers is asking to be primaried by some foaming-at-the-mouth bagger.

And, of course, much of their support is coming from the infrastructure of  “think tanks” and astroturf organizations funded by a relative handful of right-wing family trusts like the Koch Boys and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, many of which can be traced back to the old John Birch Society. But these are the people with the money bags and the influence. So …

The best Republican politicians can do is make speeches laced with buzzwords that suggest they understand the problem while proposing policies that wouldn’t actually fix it. Paul Ryan is particularly good at this, or at least, he’s gotten away with it so far.

Paul Krugman also hopes people pay attention to the S&P report.  He points out that the factors that cause an economy to grow or shrink are not as simple as just moving dollars around, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Programs like food stamps that provide nutrition support for poor children lead to healthier poor children and a more productive workforce in the long run, for example.

Not that anyone on the Right gives a hoo-haw about healthier poor children. Even the “this benefits you too” arguments fall flat because they require comprehending complex dynamic influences on economic growth, and a standard characteristic of righties is that they are stuck in simplistic and rigidly literal thinking. You might as well explain physics to a toaster, in other words. So ten thousand S&P reports won’t change anything.

Related: Timothy Egan writes about wildfires in Washington State: “People who hate government most are the loudest voices demanding government action to save their homes.”

Smart foresters had been warning for years that climate change, drought and stress would lead to bigger, longer, hotter wildfires. They offered remedies, some costly, some symbolic. We did nothing. We chose to wait until the fires were burning down our homes, and then demanded instant relief.

As a nation, we have lost the ability to actually do anything about anything, except to attempt to put out fires.

The nation that built an interstate highway system, and cleaned up its filthiest rivers and most gasp-inducing air, has become openly hostile to long-term investment or problem-solving, says Paul Roberts in “The Impulse Society — America in the Age of Instant Gratification,” a cautionary tale to be published next month.

“We can make great plasma screens and seat warmers and teeth whiteners and apps that will guide you, turn by turn, to the nearest edgy martini bar,” writes Roberts. “But when it comes to, say, dealing with climate change, or reforming the financial system, or fixing health care, or some other large-scale problem out in the real world, we have little idea where to start.”

And they can’t change, because tribal loyalty to ideology — which I write about in the book — trumps actual evidence and reasoning. Apparently even watching their own homes burn doesn’t wake people up to realizing why there’s a fire.

24 thoughts on “Why Nothing Will Change

  1. Even Stalin, psychopathic and tyrannical pseudo Commie that he was, had 5 & 10 year plans.

    In America, we have politicians who have plans for election, and then reelection.

    Businesses no longer have long-term plans – it’s, what can we the bosses get NOW, before the poo-poo hits the spinning and oscillating blades, and we have to get out of Dodge with our winnings, ASAP!

    The Horatio Alger myth is too ingrained in American society.
    And so is the Puritan work ethic.
    But our conservatives cut-off their noses to spite their own faces, because they believe that “ethnic’s” don’t have a work ethic.

    This country is dying, because of stupidity, ignorance, and misunderstood Christianity.

    And between liberals and conservatives, there is a massive “Empathy Gap” which can’t, or won’t, be bridged.
    Too many people want to pull the ladder up, even though they’re only on the very first step.
    But, it is what it is…

  2. I live in the most Republican county in the state. Recently, we’ve had several flash floods in the area, ruining people’s properties.
    Guess what the people who have been preaching low taxes and less government for all are complaining about this week!

  3. IMO, it’s only going to get worse, especially given the likelihood of Republicans capturing both the House and Senate this fall. Enjoy what’s left of “autumn” of the Obama years. And for that matter, the autumn of this country.

    I expect the gridlock in this country to get even worse, and the problems to get so severe, that a political figure will arise and basically offer to be a dictator. And the public will go for it. That’s the trajectory I see.

    Digby wrote something yesterday about how Nixon’s fall made us as a country start to mature a bit in how we view our political leaders; but how Reagan’s sunny optimism sent us back into childhood. We would never have to grow up, and could live in the warmth of conservative fantasies about how exceptional we are. Thirty years of infantilization and here we are, our country’s institutions shredded and on the verge of embracing a dictator, a daddy figure who will fix everything.

    In the meantime, certain individuals and countries continue to move ahead. Elon Musk will likely produce a somewhat affordable electric car in the next few years. Maybe not affordable for you and me, but he is almost single-handedly changing the direction of the auto industry. Read elsewhere that China will be installing in 2014, in one year, as much solar photovoltaic as currently exists in the USA, from the time solar was first installed here, to now.

    I read somewhere that there’s a mathematical relationship between the cost of solar and how much solar is deployed. Something like, the cost of solar drops 20% for every doubling of solar deployed. I think it’s called “Swanson’s Law”. At any rate, the Chinese realized they could stop importing expensive coal and stop subsidizing electricity so much if they would only go mad with solar, which would drive down its cost, making it more competitive with coal.

    And do check out this interactive world map, showing how countries rank in terms of being peaceful. Not everyone is as screwed up as we are.

  4. moonbat,
    That wannabe dictator’s name wouldn’t happen to be Ted Cruz-ader – that Christian Conservative Warrior?

  5. Hmm…
    If she had to be – imo – she’d be a somewhat reluctant dictator.

    The Cruz-ader would put the crown on himself, eagerly – like Napoleon.

  6. Gulag, I think it’s only a matter of degree. Cruz is a bona fide egomaniac/nuts, but Hillary has lived so long in a bubble that 1) she’s going to try to work the 90’s formula that worked for her husband – suck up to Wall Street and Israel – basically Republican Lite One More Time, and 2) she really believes it’s her turn, she’s got the answers, and she deserves it. The look on her face on the cover of her book scares me. She’d enjoy being Queen.

  7. I’ve been wanting to learn more about Huey Long. He seems almost like science fiction these days–a southern white man who was an open and unapologetic redistributionist.

    Of course I don’t think he was the most admirable character in our nation’s history, but the fact that he did once walk the earth is encouraging to me. If it happened once, perhaps it can happen again.

    And besides, who needs Huey Long when you have Franklin Delano Roosevelt? The right can blah blah blah about Reagan all they want, but he was only elected twice. Our guy is the world record holder for getting elected President of the United States.

  8. Stephen Stralka… I remember hearing about Huey Long having a political opponent who had an intestinal disorder that caused flatulence.. Huey used to publicly refer to him as whistle britches.

  9. Yeah, I’m so old I remember that Reaganomics was pitched as a way to actually help non-rich people. Since that, like every other idea in the history of conservatism, failed completely and utterly, the arguments for it have become more frantic and pseudo-religious to the point where now they’re just basically screaming that we have to deny poor people a tolerable life because Thomas Jefferson, who died nearly 200 years ago, would have wanted it that way. Which 1) isn’t true and 2) who cares?

  10. The one thing that the right does that has the potential of truly destroying our country is home schooling.

  11. Bonnie, certainly not all but some charter schools and some small colleges are just gimmicks to make a few people some money while ignoring education. Just as bad as most home schooling.

  12. I sometimes think stores like 7-11 do more damage to poor people than anything else. Most everything is overpriced in poor areas that are not close to stores with decent prices (stores with unions by the way).

    Somewhere along the line, many Democrats lost their ability to think these things through. It’s ironic that being poor sometimes means the dollar doesn’t buy much.

    Do people have any idea how much money the poor waste on water bottles alone? Get together with a principal and a crowd sourcing group and bribe parents with pizza, a program and the distribution of an inexpensive water filtering jug with a small footprint. The program would pay for itself in just weeks.

    The bottom line is that a lot of scamming is going on. It isn’t just Republicans either. There’s a lot of business as usual Democrats being funded in more liberal areas who aren’t very liberal. We’re all guilty. I pay far more attention to national politics than local politics. But the best future leaders at the national level are always found at the local level first.

  13. I too, wonder why people vote with republicans, against their own interests and at times in direct opposition to their needs.
    My humble conclusion is that republicans were smart in the short run. They hooked up with the radical evangelical base. As long as abortion and homosexuality is mentioned, I don’t think people hear anything else.
    They promote anger and fear and twist the discourse to be about problems, NEVER solutions except tax cuts. Most people do not realize the tax cuts will rarely benefit them.
    Barry Goldwater saw the problem with mixing politics and religion 50 years ago and warned against them. “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

    I think this combo will ultimately destroy the republican party.

  14. Diane,
    I’m ok with them destroying the Republican Party.
    My biggest concern, is that they don’t destroy America while they’re doing it!

  15. If the Republican Party implodes, I see things going one of three way:
    * An actual Liberal Party evolves to fill the void and compete with Dems
    * The Dems lose their fear of the bogey man and start to govern again
    * An even more repressive far right party will fill the void and create a dictatorship
    I’m not optimistic…

  16. I sometimes think stores like 7-11 do more damage to poor people than anything else. Most everything is overpriced in poor areas that are not close to stores with decent prices (stores with unions by the way).

    Craig… thus the expression…The high cost of low living.

  17. Dan, the question is not entirely speculative. The Republican party has already imploded in California, and we’re doing great. We’ve got a balanced budget and we’re building a high-speed rail system. We can actually start feeling smug about being from California again after all those years of being a national embarrassment.

    At any rate, the reason I’m not too worried about a right wing dictatorship is that they just don’t have the numbers. Whatever party they adhere to, the base consists of the same people, who remain a shrinking minority. After all, an even more conservative party would be even more openly hateful of everyone else. That’s all they stand for anymore.

  18. Pingback: Somewhat Reassuring | The Mahablog

  19. The least reasonable thing I remember hearing from Ralph Nader was when he was offered a bottle of water at a speaking engagement, prompting a pretty good rant about how people were turning to bottled water as public water systems deteriorated just as other public infrastructure was being allowed to deteriorate in favor of privatized alternatives for the more well-off.

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