Thursday, October 28, 2010

How they got suckered. Us too.

Myriam Miedzian has an excellent piece at Huffington Post for all those who are continually baffled by working class people who vote against their own interests to protect the tax breaks of multi-millionaires.
In his recent book, After Shock, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich argues that the economic downward mobility of American workers, has "to do with power...income and wealth in fewer hands." Apparently, many working class Americans want to keep it that way. A recent SEIU poll reveals that, 38 percent of American voters are opposed to rescinding Bush's tax cuts for the 2 percent who earn $250,000 or more annually. 2 or 3 percent of taxpayers probably earn close enough to $250,000, to think they might be affected someday. This leaves about 33 percent voting against their self-interest -- higher taxes on the wealthiest would reduce the national debt, facilitate spending on levies, bridges, schools, healthc are, and create jobs. Similarly, an AP-GfK poll found that in the upcoming election, 58 percent of white working class Americans favor Republicans who opposed rescinding the Bush tax cut, and fought every Democratic bill benefiting low income earners including extending unemployment benefits.
On the other hand, a 2005 study by Dan Ariely of Duke and Michael Norton of Harvard, reveals that when presented with unlabeled pie charts representing wealth distribution in the U.S where the richest 20 percent control about 84 percent of wealth and Sweden where the top 20 percent control 36 percent, 92 percent of respondents -- who reflected U.S. ideological, economic, and gender demographics -- stated they would rather live in a country with Sweden's wealth distribution.
"Why don't more Americans -- especially those with low incomes advocate for greater redistribution of wealth?" the authors ask. Their answer: Americans drastically underestimate the disparity between the very rich and the rest of the population, are overly optimistic about social mobility, and there exists a disconnect between their attitudes toward inequality, their self-interest and public policy preferences.
And they didn't get to the point where they drastically underestimated that disparity by accident:
Instead, as Reich points out "rich and powerful think tanks, books, media, ads" were designed to convince Americans that free markets "know best" and operate in the interest of working people. They also convinced them that their enemies are not the heads of large corporations and the Republicans who represent them, but rather the Ivy League quiche eating, Eastern elite -- people like Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, outspoken supporters of policies beneficial to working class Americans. This has fed into a "Real Men Vote Republican" reaction among many white male blue collar workers.
Lest you conclude we are immune  to such mythology here in Canada, remember that organizations like the Fraser Institute have the unambiguous goal of making us just as ignorant about where our best interests truly lie.  If they weren't having great success at that project would we have the government we have now?

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