In the July 9 issue of The Economist magazine, I read this interesting article about why it is so difficult to stir up public sentiment in the United States against the wealthy. For example, why do so many people get riled up about the idea of eliminating the tax cuts for the wealthiest people, when we’re talking about 2% of the population who are radically better off than the other 98% of the population?
One paragraph in particular caught my attention:
“The point here is only that Americans do not seem to mind about the widening inequality of income and wealth as much as you might expect them to in current circumstances. By and large, they have preferred opportunity to leveling; equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome. The trouble with this is that America is a long way from providing equal opportunity.”
I continue to wonder why it is that when you talk to people individually, they are very much in favor of creating truly equal opportunity. Somehow, though, en masse, they become reverse Robin Hoods who support the taking from the poor and giving to the rich. Even more confusing when it is against their own best interest to do so.
I don’t think it’s the mass that becomes “reverse Robin Hoods” – rather it’s the legislative and executive that favors the rich. Those 2% are the big spenders in the ludicrously expensive election campaigns.
Part of the answer lies with the amount of money spent on lobbying the congress and senate. They want to run for re-election and of course get “help” with the duties.
I also realized most of the politicians running for top posts belong to the elite wealthy sector of the population. This may also contributes to the influencing factor. I suppose?
I think the simple answer is that many Americans don’t believe they’ll be any better off with the government taking in more money and deciding how to spend it. I think many people believe if you have to choose between a fat cat and a politician, the fat cat is probably more trustworthy.
Your friendly neighbour is a perplexed as well. I’ve often wondered why the almost venomous reaction against taxes. I don’t like to pay taxes but I also know what it’s being used for. Are their inefficiencies? Of course – a lot of corporations have them as well. As the wealth is concentrated more and more – it’ll become increasingly difficult for the ordinary folks to get opportunities. I guess some people buy into this myth that if you work hard, you’ll get rich.
It’s very strange, but what is there to do? Will politicians, who get their donations and returns from the wealthy elite, do anything to compromise their donors?
Because they’re Republican.
@yang1815 – I’m not sure that it is exclusively a Republican issue, Andy. A lot of Americans across the political spectrum have these anti-tax, spare-the-rich sentiments.@ElusiveWords – And a myth is largely what it is. The article went on to explain that many social scientists have observed that the ability to get ahead in the “classless” US is now roughly on par with the ability to get ahead in presumably “class locked” Europe.@secade – @beowulf222 – @Fatcat723 – The cost of elections is undoubtedly a big part of it, although it doesn’t explain why the average everyday Joe supports those policies.@ordinarybutloud – True, many people may feel that way. But they fail to see the contradiction in their position that they want all of these services but don’t want to pay for them. When you ask people which services they receive from the government they are willing to do without, they can’t answer. Food safety inspection? Clean water? National parks? Defense? Medicare? Social Security? Folks seem to like their “big” government all of the sudden when asked to make cuts.@CurryPuffy – The number of millionaires in our Congress is pretty amazing. Hard to vote against a fat cat when you might be one yourself! Ha ha…
this is a great post and to be honest, the answer is as plain as day but i don’t want to be demonized for writing it out – the last time i did it, i ran into someone who just didn’t want to believe it so much so that his reaction was beyond comprehension. i will say that i’ve discovered a damning truth about people, in that – if they look long and hard enough for an argument against Reason, they will find it. and that pretty much sums up the last 4 years in America.
Then you would favor a property tax over an income tax? With the top 1% in income paying about 30% of all income taxes that could not be your target
Yup. A strange, fascinating and sad phenomenon this, I think…
@ThePrince – Reason and logic have no place in our political discourse…@trunthepaige – Good question. I think we could start by evaluating and likely eliminating the various tax loopholes. Deductions on mortgages for second homes, for example, strike me as maybe not necessary. Restructuring capital gains taxes might work, too. The wealthiest Americans pay tax at rates that are among the lowest in the last 100 years and we are extending those tax cuts at a time when the country has a huge deficit. But all that is really beside the point I was making: what struck me in the article was that while people prefer equality of opportunity to equality of outcome, they seem generally unwilling to support systemic changes that would actually provide equality of opportunity.I think that we could eliminate a whole lot of our “big government/nanny state” if we would make more of an investment in infants and children, making sure that all children in America start out with good health and a great education. If we did that starting today, we would see a huge reduction in the coming decades in everything from welfare costs to healthcare costs to prison costs. We would also improve our workforce productivity by having a more highly educated and more motivated workforce.@Zissu25 – Thanks for your comment and subscription.
@christao408 – Yeah definitely not exclusive, but I would be willing to bet that there are more of them that are Republicans. It really amazes me on how little some people know about politics and yet may voice their opinions and even vote.