Medicare Anyone? Photo by davitydave

After I finished my post on self-reliance, I found this article by Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff in the New York Times. Take a few minutes and read it; it is just amazing. Conservatives in the rural east Minnesota county of Chisago are fighting with themselves over their need for the safety net. The interviews would be great examples in a psychology textbook in the section on cognitive dissonance. If you have 20 minutes, here’s a TEDx discussion.

The article gives descriptions of people struggling economically whose lives and whose children’s lives would be much worse if they lost school lunches, the earned income tax credit, and especially Social Security, Social Security Disability and Medicare. Each of them claims that they don’t want government aid, and don’t want to pay more taxes. One guy whose 14-year old daughter is disabled explains that his generation (he’s 42) should shoulder the burden of loss of government benefits:

“They’re going to have to reduce benefits,” he said. “We’re going to have to accept it, and we’re going to have to suffer.”

They back this up by voting for Tea Party candidates who promise to cut spending on the safety net. They voted down school tax levies in each of the last three years, which resulted in cutting the school week down to four days. Of course, education cuts hurt their children. I think it is really bizarre that anyone would sacrifice their kids’ futures for the sake of an abstraction like self-reliance or whatever it is, but they don’t see this.

The article discusses the work of Dean P. Lacy, a professor at Dartmouth College, who seems to have been looking into the assertion that democracy will fail because people will elect politicians who will give them benefits while taxing others or increasing deficit spending.

Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.

Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.

There you are. People don’t want to take benefits from the government, even though they need them, and their families would be much worse off without them. They resolve their cognitive dissonance by voting against benefits, and by voting to inflict suffering on themselves and their families. My guess is that they spent their lives railing against the unworthy receiving benefits, I think you know who I mean (dog whistle), and now they realize they are the unworthy.

I do admire their consistency, though: all of the people who don’t want to pay more taxes say that they don’t think anyone else should pay more taxes. They seem to think that everything that went wrong is their personal fault. They should suffer, because they are failures, they cannot be entirely self-reliant. They don’t seem to have any understanding of the causes of the Great Crash, the current misery in the economy, or the success of the oligarchy in cashing in on both while avoiding all responsibility for their actions that caused the disaster.

Maybe they should quit listening to right-wing radio and TV, and learn about the real world. Factual information is one excellent cure for this kind of cognitive dissonance.



I read a lot of books.