There are two conservatives for every liberal in America. That’s the message of a recent David Brooks column as well as a Gallup survey. I think the imbalance is much starker. I would guess there are four conservatives for every liberal. Maybe even more.
Here’s a test I invite you to take. Watch C-Span’s morning call-in show and listen to what people who phone in on the “Democrat” or “liberal” line have to say. When is the last time you heard a caller say, “We should all pay higher taxes so that the government can provide us with universal day care”? Or how about, “We should all pay higher taxes so the government can provide us with universal long term care”? I bet you can’t remember ever hearing that.
Here is what I suspect you will hear: Teachers complaining that teachers aren’t paid enough. Union members complaining about competition from workers overseas. Senior citizens whining about the meagerness of Social Security or Medicare benefits. Minority callers advocating more affirmative action. What is the common denominator of these comments? Self-interest.
Yes, I know. Special interests are in both parties. Why wouldn’t they be? Yet as I wrote in my analysis of “progressivism,” the left in America has elevated special interest privilege to an art form.
Here’s the point: people wanting more, more, more are just people pursuing their own self interest in politics. They are not in principle different from any other special interest group. Importantly, they have nothing in common with what we normally have in mind by the term “liberalism.”
There are very few people around who want in principle to give government more power over their money, their property or their lives. And Brooks is probably right about the reason why: Most people don’t trust government. In fact, only 10 percent trust the government to do the right thing most of the time, according to opinion polls.
Here is a second test. Keep watching C-Span. After the outside callers are gone, most days you get to watch Congress in action. Have you ever watched a series of speeches on the House floor? Have you ever watched a real Congressional debate? Try it some time. Then ask yourself this question: Do you trust the people you are watching on TV to manage your retirement pension? Or do you have more confidence in your employer or Fidelity or even Merrill Lynch? Do you trust the people on the House floor to manage your health care? Or do you have more confidence in your employer or even UnitedHealthcare or Aetna?
Congress in action most days reminds us of school children insulting and taunting each other. It’s like a group of adolescents desperately in need of adult supervision.
It takes a very special kind of person to watch lunacy in action and then opt to give the lunatics more control over your life. There are such special people, of course. They are disproportionately congregated in Hollywood, on the campuses of the nation’s colleges and universities and in the elite news media.
What are the common characteristics all too many of them share? Arrested development (they never bothered to grow up), aversion to the rest of humanity (they really are elitists), a lack of common sense (they’ve never really managed anything) and a failure to master the syllogism (they approach the world emotionally, not logically).
Here is something you need to understand: liberalism is not an ideology. It’s a sociology. It’s not a way of thinking. It’s a way of responding to the world emotionally.
What was the core issue during the dispute over the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s requirement that everyone buy health insurance? It was whether there are any limits to government power. If the government can force you to buy health insurance, can it also require you to eat broccoli every day, one federal judge asked. Surprisingly, liberals in general refused to draw a line on the hypothetical broccoli mandate. They were unwilling to say that it’s unconstitutional for the government to tell you what you must eat for lunch.
Then George Stephanopoulos during the Republican presidential debate the other night surprised Governor Romney with a truly off-the-wall question: Do you think state governments should be able to outlaw contraceptives? Romney was nonplussed, as were the other candidates. They can be forgiven for not knowing that all true liberals believe it is unconstitutional for government to tell you what contraceptives you can and can’t use.
Think about that. It’s permissible for government to tell you that you must eat broccoli, but not permissible for government to tell you that you can’t have a contraceptive. Anyone who thinks this way isn’t thinking at all. He’s emoting.
That’s why you don’t find very many real liberals in places like Dallas, Cincinnati or Indianapolis. If liberal candidates get a lot of votes in cities like these, it is only because they are appealing to self-interest, not because they are pushing liberal sociology.
Then there are the trust fund babies. They come from all over, but they tend to congregate in places like New York, San Francisco and Aspen where they meet like-minded folks with a common affliction: they feel guilty. On the plus side, they are the reason why high-priced Manhattan restaurants can keep their doors open. On the down side, they are the main reason Barack Obama is going to have close to a billion dollars to spend going around the country explaining why the distribution of wealth is so unfair.
Put all these people together and you have an amazing phenomenon: roughly 10 percent of the population — a large proportion of which are disaffected, unhappy misfits — imposing their world view on the other 90 percent. They don’t win every election of course. But they are almost always represented by candidates who are in contention.
If sociologists really want to do something useful, they can try to explain all this.
John C. Goodman, PhD, is president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is also the Kellye Wright Fellow in health care. His Health Policy Blog is considered among the top conservative health care blogs where health care problems are discussed by top health policy experts from all sides of the political spectrum.
It’s funny that the author bemoans “elitists” when the CEO of the “think tank” he works for is a Dupont, and the organization was founded by a bunch of CEOs.
He does more than work there. He’s the president.
Here ya go…
For these guys comments threads are no more than gnats on a cow chip.
John- Good to see you can reiterate RNC talking points. You did miss a few, but hit the big ones. Let’s move on to health care. This part was especially good.
“What are the common characteristics all too many of them share? Arrested development (they never bothered to grow up), aversion to the rest of humanity (they really are elitists), a lack of common sense (they’ve never really managed anything) and a failure to master the syllogism (they approach the world emotionally, not logically).”
Here’s the line I like:
“the left in America has elevated special interest privilege to an art form.”
Even after Mr. Goodman said he read David Brooks piece which contains this:
“It’s not because recent events have disproved the liberal world view. On the contrary, we’re still recovering from a financial crisis caused, in large measure, by Wall Street excess. Corporate profits are zooming while worker salaries are flat.”
“Some of these rent-seeking groups are corporate types. Will notes that the federal government delivers sugar subsidies that benefit a few rich providers while imposing costs on millions of consumers. Other rent-seeking groups are dispersed across the political spectrum. The tax code has been tweaked 4,428 times in the past 10 years, benefiting interests left, right and center.”
Mr. Goodman states;
“people wanting more, more, more are just people pursuing their own self interest in politics. They are not in principle different from any other special interest group. Importantly, they have nothing in common with what we normally have in mind by the term “liberalism.””
Yes John, “conservative” lobbyists are rewarding politicians for giving their clients less and less from government and pursing the common good.
John, what would we “normally have in mind by the term “liberalism”” when conservatives have successfully demonized the word and the people who might want to identify with it? If fact every attempt at tackling status quo issues from health and safety, to animal rights, to environmental pollution, to humane rights is met with rebuttals from the “right” that, “that’s just “liberals” talking, pay no attention, we should be left alone to do what we’ve always done (and made money from), no matter who it hurts”.
“roughly 10 percent of the population — a large proportion of which are disaffected, unhappy misfits — imposing their world view on the other 90 percent.”
What “world view” issue are you talking about John that you would like a discussion about, or are the words “misfits”, disaffected and “world view” another attempt at blocking discussion of real issues?
Tom is correct, the use of proxy terms is an attempt to block any conversation on real issues and protect entrenched power.
It seems clear that Dr. Goodman has no idea what “rent-seeking” means. If he does and is deliberately ignoring it, this op-ed is even more cold-blooded than one expects from anyone in the medical profession. He is not alone. The phenomenon is way more embedded in our economy than the political examples listed regarding tax codes.
The global financial crisis of 2008, which most Americans think is history, was not the main event. A growing number of smart economists (along with a handful of political types) are predicting a global credit meltdown which will make 2008 look like an after-shock. And THAT financial catastrophe will be a demonstrable result of rent-seeking that will make the US tax code look like the neighborhood covenants of a gated community.
Anyone driven through a gated community lately? Last time I was in one I saw vacant lots overgrown with weeds and several deluxe houses stopped in mid-construction two years ago — scattered among upscale places with manicured lawns and high-end cars in three- and four-car garages… some with real estate signs. (Where in our history do we find the term “upside-down mortgage”?)
This Liberal vs. Conservative claptrap is a smoke screen hiding rent-seeking behavior all over the world. The Haves are pulling up draw-bridges from the Have-nots. A few years ago anyone speaking of a 30 to 1 leverage ratio would be considered part of the lunatic fringe. Now, thanks to widespread rent-seeking, conversational remarks such as that are no more remarkable than sports statistics.
Rent-seeking, indeed. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
I could not agree more. See Michael Lewis’ “Boomerang,” Yves Smith’s “eCONNED,” and the books “This Time Is Different” and “Debt: The First 5,000 Years,” for starters.
Let me clarify that 30% stat above. 15% equally liberal and conservative extremism that has no interest in the basic majority of America. Both parties are morally, spiritually, and ethically bankrupt, but society is so dumbed down and dependent, both sides win in the end.
Carlin was right. The public sucks, f— hope. How ironic that was part of Obama’s campaign 4 years ago. If there was a God, he would allow a moment of brutal candor before early November and let Obama slip with this: hey America, hope is the new four letter word, you’re hoped beyond repair!
And Santorum is the Republican answer? Wow, the world will end by 2013. Health care options will be a dead afterthought.
You know what? 30% of the population politically is irrelevant. So is this post being placed at a health care blog. I think the authors of this site are getting desperate for viewer hits. Shame, there once was viable dialogue here.
I once heard a self-proclaimed conservative making more than $250,000 a year call in to a radio program to complain that she would no longer be able to send her child to a baseball camp hosted by professionals if Obama raised her taxes. I once read a blog post written by a conservative law professor making more than $250,000 a year that explained he would no longer be able to keep his landscaper and maid around if Obama raised his taxes.
“What is the common denominator of these comments? Self-interest.”
John Goodman seems to believe that this type of self-interest is more valid than the type displayed by liberal teachers who want to make more than $35,000 a year and unemployed union workers who wonder where manufacturing jobs are going.
The Gallup poll is generally pretty worthless when trying to assuage ‘liberal/conservative’ and political scientists readily acknowledge this.
What is much more interesting and fascinating is the huge divergence you see right now in the GOP primaries between those you are younger and those who are older. Paul’s support has primarily been among those you are younger. Gingrich among those who are older.
I haven’t seen recent rolls among the two frontrunners between Romney/Santorum but I would be willing to bet that Santorum enjoys a real advantage among seniors. White rural older Boomers and elderly were a huge block for Santorum in PA when he got elected Senator here and a huge reason he got crushed by 19% percentage points by Casey in ’06 because this base largely didn’t either turn out or supported Casey in similar numbers.
My own theory: self-identifying one’s stance on complex issues by using overly-simplistic terms such as “liberal” or “conservative” is itself a very traditional thing to do. The gallup poll was about self-identifying ideology. I know many people whom you might consider “liberal” but would not self-identify as such. Why? Because they don’t want to put a one-dimensional label on their political views. Any political opinion, if well-thought-out, is going to be far more complex than a simple scale going from left to right.
People who attach the “conservative” label to themselves are, in my experience, likely to define conservative as “the good guys” and liberal as “the bad guys,” and the arguments are invariable appealing to other self-identifying conservatives. Any issue, no matter how complex or poorly understood, is reduced to “us vs them.”
If you want a serious conversation about issues, describe your position without using proxy terms like “conservative” or “liberal.”
Worthless op-ed. Why not try disentangling some of recent public opinion polls on reform instead and some of the conflicting views?
“Then there are the trust fund babies.”
Ahhh…. the totemic upscale rentier class counterparts of the lobster-eating, Caddy driving “Welfare Queens.”
John, is Rick Santorum ghostwriting for you to make some additional campaign cash? The class warfare name-calling is right down there at his level.
I second the observations by Will and southern doc above, too.
“What was the core issue during the dispute over the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s requirement that everyone buy health insurance? It was whether there are any limits to government power. If the government can force you to buy health insurance, can it also require you to eat broccoli every day”
Straw Man Slippery Slope 101. I know that a number of the amicus briefs full of this kind of End-Of-All-Freedom Line Drawing Fallacy handwringing (the Cato et al brief is particularly poignant), but, please…
I’m no fan of the kludgy PPACA, but “force”? No, you have a choice. You gotta “be in the Pool” one way or another, no more free riding.
Interesting to note that the AHIP/BCBSA brief makes no bones about it: “If you strike the Mandate, it All Falls Down and WE’RE going back to 2008 – Individual risk rating, exclusion, recission, etc.
Isn’t it odd that the populations closest to science, history, literature, the arts, business education and all that other academic clap-trap “disproportionately congregated in Hollywood, on the campuses of the nation’s colleges and universities and in the elite news media” should be overwhelmingly Liberal? Wonder what that’s about…
Here’s a video for you.
This is the how science impacts the G.O.P.
If you haven’t done so yet, you may want to read the recent long NYT article about a very conservative county in Minnesota where the Teabaggers are chowing down at the public trough like there’s no tomorrow.
“Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”
Most importantly: I don’t see why this rant deserves a spot on thehealthcareblog. It’s a Left-vs.-Right op-ed piece… this is not what the readers of this blog are here for.
That said, I think the author engages in a lot of low-brow emotional rhetoric without any real evidence:
“What are the common characteristics all too many of them share? Arrested development (they never bothered to grow up), aversion to the rest of humanity (they really are elitists), a lack of common sense (they’ve never really managed anything) and a failure to master the syllogism (they approach the world emotionally, not logically).
Here is something you need to understand: liberalism is not an ideology. It’s a sociology. It’s not a way of thinking. It’s a way of responding to the world emotionally.
What was the core issue during the dispute over the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s requirement that everyone buy health insurance? It was whether there are any limits to government power. If the government can force you to buy health insurance, can it also require you to eat broccoli every day, one federal judge asked. Surprisingly, liberals in general refused to draw a line on the hypothetical broccoli mandate. They were unwilling to say that it’s unconstitutional for the government to tell you what you must eat for lunch.”
John, if you want to argue against strawmen, go ahead. But the truth of the matter is the government makes limits on personal freedoms such as smoking indoors or providing sugary drinks to children in school because these things are doing public harm. If your view of freedom is so sacred that you don’t think the government can require cars to slow down in a school zone or to limit deceptive advertising by pharmeceutical companies, you probably need to enter the real world.
Then again, I’m too busy emoting my concerns about my fellow citizens to possibly have a valid opinion. Silly little me and my arrested development.
…Ugh, I really can not be more unhappy with the tone of this op-ed. It’s so dismissive and has no sense of self-awareness.
” liberals in general refused to draw a line on the hypothetical broccoli mandate”
And most self-labelled conservatives also refused to draw that line on health insurance mandates until January 20, 2009.
How people label themselves is about the most meaningless statistic one could ever waste a blog post on.
“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.”
– George Washington, 1st President of the United States
I’m not sure if this is tongue in cheek. In case you are that ignorant, just look up ‘classical liberal’ sometime.
I’ll leave you to guess.