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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press What's Ideological About Wanting the Government to Give Money to Rich People?

What's Ideological About Wanting the Government to Give Money to Rich People?

Monday, 14 March 2011 04:46

E.J. Dionne had a good piece pointing out that the country is not "broke" as many of the deficit hawks have been claiming. Dionne rightly points out that per capita income is continuing to rise; the problem is that the bulk of income gains have been going to those at the top. Dionne rightly identifies the claim of national poverty as part of an "excuse" for "policies to lower taxes on well-off people and business while reducing government programs."

However, Dionne bizarrely describes this effort as "ideologically driven." It's not clear what ideology Dionne sees here and he certainly doesn't identify one. The more obvious story is that wealthy people pay for the political campaigns of politicians who will support give policies that will give them more money. Ideology plays no more obvious role in this scenario than it does in the operations of the Mexican drug cartels.

Comments (12)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, March 14, 2011 6:00
Once there were some ideologues
Mired deep in national poverty

Said the ideologues to the masses
To hire you we must pay less taxes

With deficits exploding and incentives eroding
We'll all end up in pine caskets

It's ideological you see based on thee and me
And the control we have over markets

We pay for markets to deliver you a sliver
So our share can grow to a river

Of compensation and wealth in sufficient amount
To sell it as ideological drivel
Ideological Smokescreen
written by bakho, March 14, 2011 6:27
Rule by plutocracy and creating an American Aristocracy are the goals of wealthy special interests. It is an ideology. Millions of Americans who are harmed by these policies are swayed by the ideology.
written by JayAckroyd, March 14, 2011 7:35
If by "ideology" you mean "the pursuit of particular policies regardless of outcomes" then this is pretty classic.

We seem to have two operative ideologies--the traditional republican commitment to capital holders versus laborers. That is, taxes on capital holders should be as small as possible. The policy justifications are always lies "trickle-down" "Laffer curve" "entrepreneurs!" "starve the beast" which is what makes it an ideological, rather than reality-based position.

The ruling faction of the Democrats, the New Democrats or the Third Way have an ideological commitment to what they think of as meritocracy--that the economy should be run by, and for the benefit of, the bigfoots. The experts on health policy are the CEOs of big Pharma, HMOs, insurance companies. The experts on telecommunications and intelligence can be found in the telecom companies.

Despite the fact that the policy failure of having the oligarchs run the country is already manifest, Obama sticks with that program. That cannot be based on some kind of rational policy commitment--10% unemployment and a wrecked housing market is pretty strong evidence of this. The only explanation is ideological.

Or, perhaps more simply. Graft and corruption. A Yeltsin economy may be what we have. But there is clearly no interest in effective economic, foreign or military policy.
written by John Emerson, March 14, 2011 8:44
Free-market ideologues and right libertarians believe that the rich are wealth-producers, that labor is parasitical, and that graduated taxes "punish the successful". It's creepy, stupid ideology, but it's an ideology.

Most of the people I've know who believe this stuff are not rich, but merely upper middle class. Some of them believe that they'll be rich some day, and some of them suck up to the rich and identify with them the way dogs identify with their masters.
written by skeptonomist, March 14, 2011 8:49
Some people do have genuine leftist ideology and some have rightist ideology. Rich people tend to spend or contribute money which puts rightists in positions of power and influence. This is important in determining the biases of the academic and media economic establishments. The academic establishments are biased towards "free-market" ideology and those who write for the media are biased toward "business" (employer) interests. The bias in major media does not necessarily come from deliberate bribes or other expenditures; the media get most of their income from advertising. A rich donor to a college or university may or may not impose conditions on how the money is spent, but most of the money contributed does come from rich people, whose ideology usually favors their class interests.
written by Bruce S, March 14, 2011 9:16
I've put together a "Common Sense" Guide to the Great Deficit Debate, to help activists get basic background and facts to fight the hysterics generated by Tea Partiers, Koch apparatchiks and GOPer neanderthals:  
A PDF download - and related commentary, links & resources - available here:  
Hope this is useful to some of you - and spread it around if you are so moved.
written by skeptonomist, March 14, 2011 10:09
It is very important to understand that people do not act only from self-interest or from disinterested ideology. The Koch brothers probably will not make money directly from intervening in elections and they don't need it anyway. Like other social animals, humans are programmed to act on behalf of their clan or tribe, and in economic matters a clan may be in effect a class. For rich people the clan probably includes their rich friends and acquaintances and their business associates. Their ideology is that which serves the material interests of their group.
written by Gary Berg-Cross, March 14, 2011 11:53
I see the point that you could look at this as just personal gain, but people defend and rationalize their actions using assumptions and beliefs that part of ideological belief systems. This changes the nature of the argument between people and allows certain actions to be defended on what seems like principles even if they are not personally profiting. Indeed as in "What's the matter with Kansas" they may be huring their class.
written by Michael Klein, March 14, 2011 3:02
In olden days, crooks used to rob banks. Now the bankers are the crooks who rob the rest of us.
written by Calgacus, March 14, 2011 3:58
Dean's comments are bizarre, not Dionne's identification of this as an ideologically driven effort. The ideology of the American predator overclass and their poor, weak-willed, less violent cousins, the Mexican drug cartels is an ideology.

Dollar addiction is not the natural state of humanity, and one should be kind to the superpredator addicts. Their treatment should commence with removing the object of their ideology of greed. Perhaps vast quantities of Parker Brothers' Mr. Pennybag's Monopoly Money could serve as a methadone for them. It is highly irrational for societies to allow these crazy addicts power to wreck so many millions of lives in pursuit of their drug.
written by Bill harrison, March 14, 2011 8:34
We're not "broke" if we end both wars and tax the rich, but the rich and stupid are too powerful to keep that from happening.

The rationale for separation of powers was that the Founding Fathers didn't trust power concentrated in too few hands. Yet, there is no correspondent check upon the power of concentrated wealth.

And, if you think about it, money doesn't just buy votes...money IS a vote, because it's a direct claim upon the allocation of scarce social resources. That's what a vote is.

This is why we live in an oligarchy and not a democracy - the rich simply have more say as to the allocation of scarce social resources, and the poor have almost no say. A positive feedback loop makes the rich richer, and because the poor cannot financially compensate those who help them, altruism toward the poor is punished in our society...yet, each of us WANTS to be altruistic. That is human nature.

Therefore, Money is a Law, because it governs how we must live. We have created a society in which capital = fitness, and thus we are socially selecting at the upper echelons of power psychopaths who will do anything for money. There is no cost to their fitness if they exploit people or waste money or hoard money, and so their insane behavior continues.

The legal system (1) protects the wealthy, who can afford the best attorneys and manipulate the tax code, and (2) takes violence off of the table for the poor to retaliate, when the rich commit daily acts of violence against the poor.

Yet, game theory (and common sense) suggest that punishment is necessary for cooperation to exist. If a worker cooperates with his employer by giving his employer a large surplus, and the employer exploits the worker, that arrangement won't last very long unless the employee has no power to retaliate or he has no ability to leave the situation. In many cases, where workers have been driven insane by poverty, they have very little ability to leave their job or improve their lives, meaning they are literally enslaved by the capital owner.

Working class Americans need to band together to change the law somehow in order to change the inequality differential (the rich are still getting richer, and the poor are still getting poorer). Right now, power/money -> more power, so we're losing. Something's gotta give.

My suggestions are: 1.) We take a page from the evolution of cooperation (or nature) and create "digital financial karma." We could create a digital punishment currency, so that at the cost of, say, $1 (or whatever ratio we want, and we could make it costless but limited) per day (which the Fed could adjust depending on how much deflation it wants) we can each destroy $2 of someone;s (we could limit it to millionaire's) money if we think it's ill-gotten. If you indirectly harm sufficiently large numbers of people, you get financially owned. It's self-enforcing, because if you abuse it, you will get abused. If enough people came to your defense you won't lose money. Forget due process, poor people are deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without due process, and the current system doesn't internalize for people the costs of their being psychopaths, and thus psychopathy abounds. Democracy means "the people rule," so we need to give SOME power to poor, uneducated people if inequality in this country is ever going to change. We should let poor people vent with digital financial violence, lest Marx's prediction comes true and technological progress creates a violent revolution of the ownership class by the working class.

2.) Whenever the Fed creates "votes", it shouldn't do so by distributing it to banks and having it trickle down. It should instead create the money at the same rate with every citizen, thus stimulating demand. We've tried supply-side economics, how about we give a small stream of money (3 dollars per day?) to people in need so they can buy the FOOD they need to have healthy brains, just for living in our society. Maybe when the demand (votes) is there for things that we actually need, then the REAL economy (people's brains, characters, communities, overall wellbeing) will grow a bit.

3.) We should reduce barriers to entry into all fields by requiring all colleges/graduate schools to create tests that allow the exact same degree to be granted, for free, to anyone who can pass the test. All knowledge can be recreated at zero marginal cost, so why should I have to pay the time/money cost exploiters demand if I am capable of teaching myself to do what I want to do?

4.) Extremely high tax rates on the wealthy would realign the incentives of the wealthy and the rest of the country. Everyone should watch Malcolm Gladwell's talk on income inequality. http://www.newyorker.com/onlin...dwell.html

5.) Kill the bankers :P Kidding, but seriously, something's gotta change; they're getting waaay too cocky.
written by urban legend, March 14, 2011 10:27
"Bizarrely"? Sure looks consistent with an ideology to me.

And who cares? There's plenty to get the Post with, and Dean usually is great at it, but this seems to be reaching way down in the barrel.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.