I read an interesting article my old friend Professor Jonathan Haidt of New York University which had this memorable paragraph about the Republican voting patterns:
“What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.”
He then goes on to demolish this argument in interesting ways: here is the full article: http://edge.org/conversation/what-makes-vote-republican
This prompted me for some thoughts of my own on the contradictions of the US political system on the subject of government spending and government taxes. It would appear that most Americans really dislike paying taxes, more than any other country I know personally. In other countries people might moan about taxes but see a reason for them. In America this anti tax attitude is coupled with a love of government programs: Social Security, Medicare, Military spending. And this contradiction has given rise to a paradox. Democratic administrations typically spend more on social programs over time, and Republicans add to this by spending more on the military. Meanwhile Republicans do everything in their power to reduce taxes, eroding the basis for the spending, unless of course you like deficits which they profess not to. In reality the last Republican President to balance the budget was President Eisenhower in 1953-61, while the last Democratic President to balance the budget was President Clinton in 1993-2001. So we have spiralling deficits and deep contradictions in the party line of the Republicans as the latter demolish the tax base and both parties keep on spending….though over the last 65 year with the Democrats running smaller deficits until the recent financial crash where the deficit spiralled up largely because of dramatically reduced tax receipts and increased unemployment spending: both automatic counter cyclical stabilizers.
In passing, I would note that President Eisenhower balanced the budget by slashing military spending by 20%, not bad for a former General. And he had a rule that when conservative members of his party came to him demanding tax cuts. He said: sure I will cut taxes in the year following your showing me the reduced spending that justifies the tax cuts. No Laffer Curve bs for him.