People Aren't Stupid

Everybody responds to incentives and adapts to changing conditions. When politicians try to change the world by passing new laws and regulations, people change behavior in response, producing unexpected and sometimes counterproductive results. It doesn’t help that the rules often address symptoms rather than problems and that politicians own incentives often involve ephemeral political and popularity more than policy considerations.

We all know that we respond to incentives and changing conditions. We also understand our reactions are often based on emotions of preference that we cannot adequately explain and that decision are not always or even usually logical or benefit maximizing. But we somehow assume that this doesn’t go for others. Many, especially on the left, assume that “the rich” (generally defined as anybody who makes twice as much money as you do) act out of calculated greed all the time. They are like the cartoon characters that just pile up riches for the sake of piling up riches. “The poor” (generally defined as anybody who makes less than half what you do) in contrast, are hapless victims. They don’t really make choices that are not manipulated by “the rich”. This kind of analysis dehumanizes everybody and attributes to them only simple motivations. People don’t act like that. They make complex choices.

Take “the poor” we talk about above. Some people seem to think they have no choices. This is not true. In fact, the middle class family of 1955 had lower purchasing power than a family in poverty today. Among "the persons whom the Census Bureau identifies as 'poor,' 38% were homeowners, 62% owned a car, 14% two or more cars, nearly half had air-conditioning, and 31% had microwave ovens. "Nationwide, some 22,000 'poor' households have heated swimming pools or Jacuzzis." link. And remember when only rich guys like Gordon Gecko has cellular phones (the size of a brick, BTW)? Today 40% of those living in poverty have cellular phones. Poor isn’t what it used to be.

Or how about CAFÉ standards? Will they save fuel? Forcing car makers to produce more fuel efficient vehicles and forcing people to buy them seems like a simple way to conserve energy. It would be, if people didn’t change their habits in response to changing circumstances. But when something people want gets cheaper, they use more. They drive more. Unless gas prices rise, consumers will not choose smaller cars or drive less.


People in advanced societies wax poetic about the supposed benefits of the simple life. The farther we get from actually having to live in nature, the more we claim to revere it. The great environmentalist Aldo Leopold was still close enough to the land to understand that “These wild things had little human value until mechanization assured us of a good breakfast.” Earlier generations tamed hostile nature. Now that it is tamed, many people want to bring it back. Mostly this is harmless, although I do worry about the nut cases that want to reintroduce truly dangerous animals such as mountain lions. related link

Speaking of old fashioned, nobody wants to be picturesque. I remember a situation nearly twenty years ago in Poland. I saw a guy harvesting crops with one of those old fashioned scythes. It was so picturesque. The scene looked so peaceful, quiet & contemplative. When I stopped to share my impression with the guy doing the work, he just told me I was nuts. He let me try out the scythe and I can say with moral certainty that nobody who could afford machinery would ever use this tool, except perhaps as a weird hobby. Once away from the reality of the “simple life” we think we want it back.

Anyway, the bottom line is what you think you want today is not what you will really want tomorrow. We all respond to changes and incentives. That means that any plan involving people cannot take them as they are, but must consider what they think they are and what they want to be, as well as the changes that will take place after conditions change. No wonder that no plan really survives real world exposure. People are not stupid. They figure out how to respond to changes in incentives. That is why they know better what to do for themselves than others can know for them.

Posted by Christine & John at April 22, 2011 11:48 PM
Comments
Comment #322148

C&J It seems to me that the right are the one’s that over state that its the so called job creators that are so smart that we should worship the ground they tread and any body that’s down on there luck is well.. just plain lazy.

Posted by: Jeff at April 23, 2011 10:34 AM
Comment #322152

Jack,

“Many, especially on the left, assume that “the rich” (generally defined as anybody who makes twice as much money as you do) act out of calculated greed all the time.”

Caricatures like the one above are what are keeping people apart, and they are continually perpetuated by those we “pay” to keep us informed.

Go figure.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at April 23, 2011 12:05 PM
Comment #322154

Rocky

I always figured that anybody how makes twice as much as I do was rich and everybody who makes half as much was poor.

The funny thing is that the goalposts move. I now make more than twice as much as I once did, but I still don’t feel rich. But I still think that anybody who makes twice as much as I do is indeed rich.

Jeff

Anybody can be down on their luck and be poor for a while. I was poor for a while. Maybe I will be poor again. But if you stay poor for a long time, there is something you are doing that is making that happen. It might not be a “bad” thing. Maybe you choose to stay in your home town where there are few jobs for family or emotional reasons.

My point is the choices. I do NOT act in ways that optimize my income. I don’t know anybody who does. Everybody has a complex set of motivations and they make choices based on them.

I have a simple rule which I call my vending machine rule. If I put money in a vending machine and nothing comes out, I don’t complain. If I put money in and extra change comes out, I don’t give it back. I figure it evens out. Lots of things are like that.

My employer made a paper work mistake on a raise I was supposed to get. I figure they own me a couple hundred dollars in back pay. I just don’t feel like going through all the paperwork and hassle to claim the cash. I figure that there have been days when I didn’t work hard enough to earn my wages, so it evens out.

Posted by: C&J at April 23, 2011 12:42 PM
Comment #322158


C&J, I believe you miss the point on the simple life. Technology can be used to enhance or destroy the simple life.

Think of how the house wife was enhanced by technology and compare it with how the cost of technology plus government policy became the bane of the family farmer, driving him into bankruptcy and off his land. The same thing probably happened to that Polish farmer.

The trend, corporations will eventually own all the farm land and there will no longer be farmers, only farm workers.

You are right about the cell phones. I know poor people who have nothing but a cell phone.

One thing you didn’t mention that poor people have is guns and many of them vote Republican because of those guns.

Some of them are evangelical Christians who also tend to vote Republican.

Where Republicans run into trouble is when they try to destroy programs that gun lovers, evangelicals, and even tea party members like.


Posted by: jlw at April 23, 2011 1:50 PM
Comment #322159

jlw

Chrissy’s family were farmers for many generations. They had a rocky patch of Wisconsin. Her father was the last of the farmers. It is a bit sad. But they were not so much driven off the land, as they found better opportunities. Chrissy tells me of the extremely hard work of caring for dairy cows. She said it seems so romantic, until you have to do it every day with no sick days.

The small family farm is gone and will never return. At one time, almost everybody HAD to be a farmer. As our society progressed, the numbers dropped. We really do not want to bring it back. Many farming operations are still owned by families. There is nothing wrong with that.

I am a tree farmer. I have 300 acres of pine. I could not support myself off that alone, but it gives me some connection. Most forest land in the East is privately owned and small guys like me sell pulp and timber to bigger operations. It is a good arrangement.

Part of the land I owned used to be a farm. The last guy to own it before it went into forest back in the 1940s was a guy called Silvanus (fitting name). From what I could learn of him and what I know of the land, this poor guy had nothing but a hardscrabble existence. Not a good thing.

Re poor people voting Republican. I suppose those that vote that way choose to do it because they think it is right. People are not stupid, as I say in the title. They do things for reasons they feel are appropriate.

Posted by: C&J at April 23, 2011 2:12 PM
Comment #322175

C&J-
According to the US Census, approximately twenty million households live in the bottom quartile of income. That’s about about 1000:1 ratio.

Seems your source got excited by the notion of thouands of poor households having such a luxury, and jumped the gun. Put another way, if we equate being in that bottom quintile with being in poverty, then owners of Jacuzzis and Heated pools represent a distinct minority in the face of the 99.9% of the poor who own no such item.

Your source failed to share that fact with us. The poverty line might raise that ratio up or down a bit, but I hardly think a few tens of thousands of households means much in the face of a few tens of millions.

On the subject of consumer goods, they’re all cheaper, more reliable, longer lasting. Microwaves, cell phones, and other gadgets and appliances used to cost a lot more, but no longer do. That does mean its less of a problem to be poor than it once was, in those terms, and we can be thankful for that.

But my own brushes with poverty don’t have me feeling much sympathy for the view that folks being poor nowadays have no hardships. The trick isn’t affording an occasional cellphone or MP3 player. The trick is keeping fed, keeping the lights on, keeping yourself clothed. The trick is affording repairs when your car breaks down, or a disaster of some kind hits your house.

The trick is living on the margin, trying to keep yourself in a house, while somebody’s ****ing with your mortgage trying to make you default despite the fact you’ve not missed a payment as long as you’ve had your mortgage serviced by them.

And really, I know I haven’t had it the hardest. So I just have to wonder how much harsher it is for those who haven’t had my income.

On the subject of CAFE stardards, the big issue is, there’s only so many hours a day you’re just going to want to spend driving around. You can only go so far. Yes, people might consume more fuel if they drive that hybrid around a lot.

But really, I think that’s the point of it.

If you’re driving a hundred or two hundred miles a week at current gas prices ($3.75, let’s say.), and your car gets twenty miles a gallon, that’s five to ten gallons, or $18.75 to $37.50 a week. Get the Hybrid, at 40, and its less than $9.50 to $18.75 a week, and you’re burning through that much less gas.

Higher CAFE standards mean that whatever you’re doing, whether it’s taking a trip, or doing your necessary business, you’re using less fuel to do it. With other limits on driving behavior (Like for example, wanting to be home with your family at some point, or just not having any reason to drive anywhere else), there are pretty much limits to how many miles people will drive when the cost of such movement is reduced. Efficiency can increase the demand for fuel, but only to the extent that other reasons drive their demand for it.

It’s like with food. There’s only so much grain that we can eat ourselves, even if we gorge ourselves fat to do so.

You claim that folks like me want a luddite nation, back to nature, and everything. Actually, no. People like me aren’t against technological advances. We understand, more than perhaps some folks, that doing things the old way doesn’t necessarily mean doing it more efficiently.

Rather than hold back technology, most liberals want to leave the old technologies behind, rely less on fossil fuels, and more on renewable energy sources. We want to improve the ability of this country to adapt to its current circumstances.

As for your final paragraph?

Sweet Jesus. The problem isn’t that people can’t figure out what’s right for them from their own perspective. People are great at figuring that out for themselves. The problem is getting people together in populations of any real concentration, and making sure that all these people seeking their self interests are well coordinated enough, well educated enough, and willing and able enough to work out decent compromises between themselves to be able to live together as a people.

It’s not about having some nanny plan out every inch of your life. It’s about being willing to admit that in a country and society this size, there have to be referees, traffic cops, and various others around to resolve our differences, and keep our society from flying apart, or collapsing into ruin.

Seen from this perspective, the question is not how much, or how little, but of what kind and quality? Do we have a government that can allow the American people to successfully resolve their differences, promote the general good of our country, and keep our economy, and our sovereign territory a going concern?

What we need are the people who take the job of governing the country seriously, not just the getting and keeping of the job.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 23, 2011 9:16 PM
Comment #322180

People aren’t stupid, C&J but they do stupid things sometimes. As an example the Heritage study referred to by the WSJ article you link to is over 20 years old. What is the point? It seems if the WSJ article were to have any useful purpose aside from misguided propaganda it would compare the changes in the poor of today and the poor of 1990 with something relevant, instead it chooses to use cellphones. Something only the rich could afford in 1990 now much more common doesn’t make those using a cellphone today rich. The fact is it is cheaper to use a cell phone today than a land line.

Why not buggy whips and horses if we are comparing the poor of the early part of the 20th century with the poor of today or 20 years ago. Are the poor less poor today because they have a car but no horse? In this day and age having a car can mean a lot of things, from a clunker up on blocks to a Maserati. Some cars could be a boat anchor around the necks of the poor. Without knowing the values and condition of the cars in question the Heritage study seems to prove nothing.

You have stated in the past that you were poor for a period in time. So was I, a couple of times in fact. Did you lose everything you had previously owned and were so destitute you had a card board box under the overpass for a home? Or did you stay with someone that had air conditioning and a TV set? My point is these statistics from the Heritage Foundation are basically worthless in proving much except the bias of the Heritage Foundation, IMHO. To reuse this study in a current article in the WSJ shows how far the WSJ has slipped in recent moths, I wonder if it is due to the new owner?


Posted by: j2t2 at April 24, 2011 12:26 AM
Comment #322181

Stephen

Let me share a terrible statistic with you. HALF of all Americans are below average.

Yes, about twenty million households live in the lowest quintile, since there are about 100 million households. It will always be the case that around 20% of the people will be in the lowest 20%. Does that bother you?

“The trick is keeping fed, keeping the lights on, keeping yourself clothed.” Not much of a trick anymore. If you can afford a cellular phone, an I-pod etc, you can afford to eat and buy clothes.

In fact, the poor today have access to more goods and services than a solid middle class family did the year I was born. Put another way, if we took what the average person consumed in 1955, he would be in poverty by today’s standards. Poverty is not what it used to be.

Re hybrids - it changes your behavior when you have changed conditions. I had an example today. My son wanted to go play basketball. It is only a little more than a mile away, so I told him he should walk. He pointed out that he was taking the hybrid. It is not 100% logical, but it is indeed how people see things.

Re renewables - we all want them. They just don’t exist in forms we can afford to use. You have a touching faith in the power of government bureaucracies to create innovation. Last time we had a big government push was Carter’s synfuels. It produced mostly waste.

On the other hand, we had great progress in computers, materials sciences etc. The market kind of does these things when they are possible to do.

BTW - other governments, such as the Germans and Spanish, have poured money into these things. Is only American money good?

Re government - we need referees and traffic cops. We don’t need planners and commissars.

Posted by: C&J at April 24, 2011 12:26 AM
Comment #322185

C&J-
The point of telling you about the number of poor households was to point out the absurdity of thinking that 22,000 jacuzzi or heated pool owning poor households was a terribly large number.

No, half of everybody are not below average, they’re below the median. Averages come from totals divided by the number of people out there, and the rich raise what the average is with their disproportionate income, and the poor and middle class lower with their greater numbers. Average income per person is $46,000. Median is more like $33,190.

On the grocery front, it costs a great deal more, these days, to eat. I know because I’ve kept rather careful track of prices over time. What used to be a comfortable income to feed folks on now isn’t so great.

See, up there in the higher incomes, it’s more comfortable, so you wonder what the big deal is. Prices have gone up, but you’re not hurting. People often formulate their opinions from their feelings about their own lives, so naturally, they’ll trust their instinct that they can keep things together, so why not everybody else?

The Rich, especially, don’t understand that the big deal is. They’re back in business, so everything’s right with the world.

But it isn’t. The upper quintiles are the ones back in business, while everybody else suffers.

You talk like you’re just being realistic, but what you’re being is relentlessly focused on defending the status quo, what is known to be working for us now, what is tested and up and running.

Unfortunately, that status quo is not sustainable.

The question is not if we will become dependent on renewals. The question is whether we do so sustainably, and whether we have room to make errors without crashing the economy.

You’re making a suckers bet, that the market will behave prudently. These days the market doesn’t tend to behave so smartly, because these days people invest a lot of time and money into screwing up the market signals so they can profit off of all the people who assume the market peforms ideally and efficiently.

The oil market is an example. You cite numbers that show average gas prices at around $1.85 in Jan. 2009. You act like this was some kind of policy success, not the result of a sharp decline in consumer demand and investor market manipulations. But just look at gas prices and everything before Sept. 2008.

That’s where your derivatives policy and your oil policy are taking us, and that’s what you’re fighting hard to prevent us from changing.

But change it will. We’ll only see more competition from abroad for the same resources, especially since we shifted so many jobs and so much economic growth overseas. People will want our lifestyle, and as free traie allows them to get more of it, they’ll compete for the resources it depends upon against us, oil being the principle one, and the one we have the least recourse about.

We will turn to renewables. We’ll have to. The alternative is an unacceptable level of cost for our energy needs.

We can either be behind or ahead of this curve. Yes, getting ahead of the curve costs money. So does being behind it.

It won’t be done without at least some government intervention. Given the fact that your people seem to think its necessary to intervene economically, even in a time of record deficits, to prop up already profitable oil companies, is it not reasonable to invest in a less short-sighted set of energy sources, and do so soon enough that the baton on energy can be passed with little disruption to the renewables?

We don’t need to be trying to figure this all out when we’re sucking air on the gas tank. We need to have the cushion of a still existing, still economical oil supply, even as we work to depart from it. We don’t need to be depending on high gas prices to push change, because those high prices will become a drag on our economy. This is one place where more centralized planning actually makes sense.

But not completely centralized. We need the markets to tell us which of the alternatives works best for the public. What we need government planning for is to work the incentives and details necessary to encourage this transition on a truly national level. This is not something each person can do on their own, this is something that has to be coordinated at the top.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 24, 2011 1:09 PM
Comment #322191

Stephen

Okay - half are below the median AND always will be. The lowest 20% will always be the lowest 20%. These are just the truth in the past, present and future.

Re the gas price - I have said many times that Bush was not responsible for the prices going up. You and others said he was. Now when exactly the same thing is happening to Obama, you and others must admit that it is Obama’s fault. Otherwise, you have to give up on the blame Bush.

The problem for liberals is that we caught you all on this one. You are hoisted on your own petards.

Returning to “the poor” I have been poor. I didn’t like it so I stopped. People move through poverty. Today I am in the upper 20%. Thirty years ago I was in the lowest 20%. In neither case was I oppressed or privileged. I was just poorer or richer.

Posted by: C&J at April 24, 2011 4:49 PM
Comment #322194

Stephen

Re somebody has to coordinate this at the top. It depends on what you mean by coordinating. If you mean, helping create conditions for people,organizations and firms to be successful, I agree.

If you mean planning and making decisions about details, I say no. I prefer freedom and think that it works better in the long run.

I do NOT believe we should think of ourselves as one people, with one country and one leader.

Posted by: C&J at April 24, 2011 6:24 PM
Comment #322198

c&J-

Okay - half are below the median AND always will be. The lowest 20% will always be the lowest 20%. These are just the truth in the past, present and future.

Indeed. But as the definitions will tell you, it’s important where these points land. Yes, the median will always represent a 50/50 dividing point. But where is that, relatively speaking? If that point rises, it can be good for Americans, meaning that more of the average people in America are earning good money. The quintiles represent nothing more than similar measurements of where smaller chunks of the population are.

Regarding the gas prices?

I critiqued Bush on specific policies, not just being there when the **** hit the fan. I’ve always thought being too generalized on points made it harder for the criticism to stick.

Bush is responsible for much of current energy policy, and Republicans are doing their best to prevent change to that policy, to roll back green initiatives.

If Republicans had let Democrats set the policy, they could disclaim responsibility, or draw equivalences. Instead, they’ve done their best to set policy themselves, but avoid responsibility for what follows from that policy.

You’ve done a good job of beating the brains out of that scarecrow you attacked, but the real Stephen Daugherty knows where the bodies are buried on your policy. He knows that it’s not accident that Bush policy was shaped to hand huge amounts of private and public money to the energy companies, or that they fight so hard to defeat the undoing of those policies, including government subsidies and tax breaks for energy companies.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 24, 2011 7:26 PM
Comment #322199

Stephen

If Republicans had let Democrats set policy it would be even worse, if the Obama management is any indication. And even when Democrats are in charge, they disclaim responsibility. What did Democrats do when they were in charge since 2007? What changed after Obama was elected and Democrats held all the cards?

What do you really think there would be? Do you really think that if government bureaucrats had planned energy policy much more closely that we would have some sort of magic energy source?

And what are the Obama policies that are giving us such a success these days? Oh yeah, no matter what power they hold, Democrats are “never allowed” to do anything. So there is no hope. Democrats are such losers that they can never do what they want.

re the quintiles - my point exactly. There will always be a poorer 20%. The median has generally risen, so Americans are better off than they were. Maybe not anymore, of course, since the Obama policies have slowed progress.

Posted by: C&J at April 24, 2011 8:00 PM
Comment #322211

C&J-
Four-Fifths of the Democrat’s agenda got killed by filibusters or secret holds. Hundreds of appointments remain unfilled on account of the actions of your party.

But no, Democrats hold all the cards. Apparently, you don’t think I was taking notes in Civics class.

I know the numbers on your filibustering, and the political organization it took to pull it off. I know what happened to Arlen Specter when he tried to break away from that BS. I know the deals that Obama had to make in order to pass the stimulus package. I know what our numbers were from 2007 to 2009 in the Senate. I know what numbers it takes to change the rules, to pull your Nuclear Option out of the hat.

I know the numbers on the bills killed, the cloture motions filed. If you want to lay on the fainting couch and say that Democrats held all the cards, then my question is, what the **** was in the deck that allowed Republicans to kill 80 ****ing percent of what came out of the House of Representatives? Were they blown off the tables with Unicorn Farts, then lost in Narnia?

Maybe your arguments work with folks who are too ignorant to know what a textbook fallacy the logic of what you’re saying is based on, but I know how the government works here, and I know that you’re leaving that out, as you’re spreading the false impressions in your answers to my questions. Democrats can’t simply rewrite the rules on the fly to get what they want. They have to work within the rules of Congress, and the Laws of this country and its constitution.

As for the Quintiles?

There will always be a population that’s poor. The question is one of quality, as much as quantity. Quintile by quintile, what’s the living standard? You can have distributions, curves if you will, that are more favorable, that reflect more equitable income distributions, and you can have what some poor countries have.

The poor you will always have with you. The question is, how poor do you let them be?

As for whose policies slowed down income growth for the lowest quintiles? Go look at per capita and household income for the average person under Bush. It wasn’t just the Economic collapse that got people angry with Bush.

Obama, by the time he stopped the momentum of Bush’s recession, had an eight million job hole to fill, of which he’s only so far been able to fill an eighth. Your people are content to let that seven million job gap fill slowly, or even kick those long term unemployed off of their benefits. You’re willing to put millions of people out of work, just to satisfy your political antipathy towards government.

I don’t believe government is something that just works. I think it’s something you have to work at making function. I believe it requires vigilant oversight, and that policies should be be picked carefully, and discarded when they fail.

I don’t think small government is a panacea, just a political hobby horse for folks who don’t want the issue to be whether the government works or not, policy functions or not, but whether something lines up with a political notion of how government should be used.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 25, 2011 1:50 AM
Comment #322215

Stephen

Democrats held all the parts of power. If they were too dumb to use them, it was their fault. But they did use them. They used them to pass ObamaCare and other things like that, against the will of the American people. That is where they spent their time.

It is pretty silly to blame Republicans. There is no possible way you could be satisfied short of a Democratic dicatorship.

Democrats, especially the more liberal among them, are professional victims. They like being kicked around, or claiming it. It makes them feel virtuous. But the fact remains that the Democrats held greater majorities in 2009 than ANY Republican had since 1930. So if they cannot be held accountable for that, we should never elect those incompetents.

re the poor - you might be too young or not well enough travelled to have seen real poverty. Most of the poor in America are not that bad off. There are some poor people, but most people in that lower quintile would be the envy of the poor of earlier generation, and even the middle class of any time before the 1950s.

Re per capita income growth, look at what happened since Obama took office. Not great. Not even good. Before you say that he inherited it, what did you say about the 2001-3?

Posted by: C&J at April 25, 2011 5:51 AM
Comment #322217

C&J-
The only reason Healthcare passed at all was that in your fervor to punish Arlen Specter, you punished him so harshly that he became a Democrat and gave us sixty votes. We then ended up using reconciliation rules to pass it through the Senate, an issue since it wasn’t the sort of thing we could do more than once.

You think repeating that BS to me, somebody who knows how the numbers and politics went down, will convince me that the Republicans were just utterly powerless? I know the numbers on that period. I know how the filibuster works, how the holds worked, and why the Democrats couldn’t simply just force out the cots.

There is no possible way you could be satisfied short of a Democratic dicatorship.

Really. I’d settle for my party having the chance to rise and fall with the voters on its own, not be forced into inactivity by a zealous Republican minority that had to work lockstep on its strategy for it to work. I mean, you talk about not being satisfied except if my party had absolute power, yet you support a minority party essentially manipulating the rules to cancel out an election’s results, and maintain permanent power.

As for professional victimhood? Your whole political philosophy at this point is about teaching people to believe that they are victims of the government, robbed by taxes, their freedoms imposed upon by regulation, told what to eat, what to drink, etc, etc. You talked about having the Healthcare Law shoved down your throat and hastily written up after months worth of negotiations with your side meant to craft a bipartican consensus. And yet some of your people say they hadn’t read the bill!

If it’s not immigrants folks are taught to think themselves the victims of, it’s union thugs. If not the union thugs, than the mushy headed liberals that will let the evil foreign bastards of whatever political stripe attack us.

I mean, what else was Glenn Backs now declining moment in the sun, but a years long celebration of victimhood for the main constituents of the right wing? What else was Limbaugh’s odious rants about the “Halfrican American” who occupies the White House?

What else is your protesting that somehow, Bush was maligned simply because he was there?

As for 2001-2003? Well, we look at the laws that helped Enron and other financial scandals emerge, and we see William Jefferson Clinton’s signature on them, but a Republican Congress’s handprint on it. And what was Clinton doing? Clinton was not a big liberal, he was of the DLC wing of the party, the party that bought into Reagan’s “The Era of Big Government is over” policy. But he was a Democrat, sure enough.

My concern would not simply be that Democrats get back in power here, or even that they act stereotypically liberal. No, what I would want is for a certain level of critical appraisal of the results of conservative policies.

I would like, for once, for the Republican Party’s response to being kicked out to be something else than supposing that they weren’t devoted enough to their political dogmas.

So you believe in more limited government. Well, that doesn’t mean you should or have to believe in limiting that government until it becomes dysfunctional. So you believe in lower taxes, and keeping that rate low. Does it really help anything to believe that it’s right to keep pushing on that, even when your budget is in deficit?

Republicans have lost the ability to let reality get in the way of their good story, their point of view on how to govern. Their problem is that instead of seeing these principles as something that has to be expressed while running government prudently and moderately, they see those principles as driving necessary pushes to get their policies carried out at all costs, and are unwilling to check their excesses, admit their mistakes, or pull back when the problems of what they push through outweigh the benefits.

In short, the Republicans have made themselves too inflexible, and that will keep on knocking their heads against the wall of public opinion on one subject after another. Americans, at this point, I think have very little patience for people playing ideological games, or pushing more policy at their expense. They don’t want big or small government, they want a govenrment that works, and they are not prosperous enough, not unconcerned enough with what’s going on in the world to forgive their leaders’ hijinks. They want their politicians to get down to business and help the country out, not screw around trying to make their political dreams come true.

re the poor - you might be too young or not well enough travelled to have seen real poverty. Most of the poor in America are not that bad off. There are some poor people, but most people in that lower quintile would be the envy of the poor of earlier generation, and even the middle class of any time before the 1950s.

Do you realize how patronizing that sounds? I’ve been through enough boom and bust cycles, seen my father on unemployment and struck down enough by health problems which he didn’t have adequate ability to pay for to know what it feels like to descend into poverty, and if you look at the numbers, the consequences of your policies have been a greater number of people making that descent.

Obama’s had an eight million job recession to recover from. He’s probably, in the last two years, created more jobs per year than your President, in the best of times ever did. I know what it is to struggle against unfair odds, and a terrible situation.

You can’t ignore the aftereffects or causes of the recent collapse forever. At some point you must face that by letting the economy run the way it did, America’s economic strength was reduced in a way that will not be solved easily, or cheaply.

If I’m going to struggle, if America’s going to struggle, we might as well do so getting somewhere on recovering, than be struggling because we refuse to face the problem.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 25, 2011 8:13 AM
Comment #322241

So Republicans powerful with 40 votes in the Senate & no control in the House or presidency, but Democrats are powerless with those big things?

Do you really despise Democrats so much? I would be ashamed is I was a Democrat and a few Republicans kicked me around like that.

Your party did have a chance to rise and fall with the voters. The voters chose the alternative.

How many jobs could Obama have created, BTW? Unemployment was just over 7% when he took over. Is it higher now?

Posted by: C&J at April 25, 2011 7:26 PM
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