Over the weekend The Times had a great piece on critics of government spending that also rely heavily on it.
But the reality of life here is that Mr. Gulbranson and many of his neighbors continue to take as much help from the government as they can get. When pressed to choose between paying more and taking less, many people interviewed here hemmed and hawed and said they could not decide. Some were reduced to tears. It is much easier to promise future restraint than to deny present needs.
“How do you tell someone that you deserve to have heart surgery and you can’t?” Mr. Gulbranson said.
“You have to help and have compassion as a people, because otherwise you have no society, but financially you can’t destroy yourself. And that is what we’re doing.”
He paused again, unable to resolve the dilemma.
“I feel bad for my children.”
Cognitive dissonance all over the page. I think it’s fascinating that our form of government relies on ordinary, non-economist citizens to have an opinion on what sorts of tax policy and economic philosophy the country should follow. The situation seems ripe for emotional exploitation, which is one plausible cause for the link between political philosophy and federal “welfare” (sum of federal taxes paid minus federal payments received by state) as indicated in this chart:
And those numbers are averaged over 20 years. When you look at the rates of change, according to the NYT article,
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.
Now I’m no sociologist (although I play one on the internet), but it seems that there may be some human desire to rail against the government because you’re ashamed that you need help in the first place. Rather than confront your own reality, it’s easy to submit to the reality of a politician telling you that you’re a great rugged individual that can do it alone and that government is the problem. Indeed,
“It’s hard to beat up on the government when they’ve been so good to you,” he finally said. “I’ve never really thought about it, I guess.”
It’s ok. No one else in your state thought about it either.