Rich People Don’t Change When They Aren’t Punished

Rich People Don't Change When They Aren't PunishedEarly Monday, Jonathan Chait wrote, America Hates the Republicans, and They Don’t Know Why. Since this is a badly written sentence, let me translate it: America hates Republicans who don’t even know why.

Chait goes on to talk about the negative stereotypes that America has about the two parties. Democrats work to counter these negative stereotypes (eg, “Democrats are spendthrifts”), but Republicans don’t (eg, “Republicans just want to give away money to corporations and the super-rich”).

Why Care About Bad Stereotypes

There are a couple of things to think about this. The first thing is that most of the negative stereotypes about Democrats are not based on facts. The Democrats are not spendthrifts. Despite most people thinking the Republicans are fiscally conservative, they aren’t. Whenever they are in power, they start expensive wars they don’t pay for, and give away huge amounts of money to the rich that they don’t pay for.

So given that the bad stereotypes are based on lies, why would anyone believe that telling America the truth would matter? Bill Clinton gutted traditional welfare in this country, and most Republicans I know still think that poor people can stay on welfare their whole lives. America has bought a bill of goods and nothing will stop them from believing them — regardless what the facts are.

When the Democrats were in power, they provided healthcare for the country because the positive stereotypes are correct: they are compassionate and generous. But they paid for it.

When the Republicans decided to give big tax breaks to the rich, they didn’t pay for. They cost the US government at least a trillion dollars. And note: that’s the absolute lowest estimate based on the most rosy assumptions. My bet (ask me about it in ten years) is that unless the Democrats get back in power fast and reverse things, this tax bill will be more like five trillion dollars.

Why Bad Stereotypes Don’t Change

When the bill for the tax cut come comes due, it is likely that the Democrats will be in power. And you can bet that Republicans will be on all the television shows talking about what spendthrifts the Democrats are. They will probably even blame Obamacare (which was paid for) or Social Security (that comes from a different revenue stream, and is also paid for). But don’t expect any journalists to push back on this other than to say, “But the Democrats say…” As though it is just a matter of opinion.

Look at the History

The Republicans new tax bill is nothing new. Republicans have been doing this for decades. Remember in 1980, Ronald Reagan criticized Jimmy Carter for the federal debt, even though it had been going down Carter’s entire term? Then what happened? Reagan was elected. He cut taxes for the rich and greatly increased spending on the military. The result: the debt went way up.

Now I don’t actually care about the debt. But Americans do. They just didn’t notice. Carter didn’t get credit for reducing the debt and Reagan didn’t get condemned for increasing it. America doesn’t care.

This happens again and again.

Look at the Facts on the Ground

Right now, Republicans control Washington. Even if Clinton had won the presidency, that would still be true. And they control most of the states.

So why should Republicans care that they are doing all these things that America hates? If it hurts them, it will only affect them for one (and in rare cases two) election cycles.

So I don’t believe Chait. I think Republicans know what they are doing is extremely unpopular. They just don’t care. They are getting a big win. And it might — Might — hurt them in 2018. Most likely by 2020, all will be forgotten, and the Republicans will get to gerrymander the districts so they will have another 8+ years of almost total political control of the nation.

Until the American people get hurt really badly and start paying attention to what’s really happening they might as well get all the goodies they can. And if the country regains its sanity, the Republicans will go back to being a traditional conservative party, and that will be the end of it. There will be no long-term harm done to them. Meanwhile, look at all the goodies they gave themselves and their friends.

Meanwhile, we liberals just need to hit the streets and limit the damage they continue to do.