Ethics Dunces: The American Public

Is this a great country, or what?

Is this a great country, or what?

No surprises here, but still:

A sickening  McClatchy poll released today shows that a majority of the U.S. public opposes all measures that are necessary to address the nation’s debt and deficit crisis, except increasing taxes on the rich…which, by itself will be of minimal assistance in addressing the long-term problem. Its advantage, of course, is that it involves no sacrifices from the vast majority of the public.

Such irresponsible, lazy, ignorant and foolish judgment by the public, of course, would not be an insuperable problem in a properly functioning republic, in which dedicated, informed, selfless and courageous public servants were willing to come together, compromise, and make difficult but necessary decisions that might be unpopular with their constituents. Or if the nation had elected a skilled and persuasive national leader who could persuade the public to reject narrow, short-term self-interest as patriots and Americans, for the benefit of future generations.

We don’t have those things, however, so the public’s lack of responsibility, knowledge and common sense is, if not fatal, a serious threat to the national welfare and long-term viability of the United States.

At least we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves, and perhaps the Founders, for foolishly entrusting a representative democracy to a people too ignorant and selfish to keep it working.


Facts: McClatchy

Graphic: It is future

38 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: The American Public

  1. History is cyclical, Jack. Surely you don’t think the United States has too many more years remaining as the world’s leading super power. A fight’s a brewing between the United States and, China/Russia, most likely.

    Meanwhile, can’t you smell the change? Feel the pulse? Occupy was never dead. You can’t kill an idea. You can disparage it, like you continually do. You can ignore it, like many have. Still, understand one thing. There are great winds of change all around the world. Either you bow to the wind, or you break. Me, I’m bowing.

          • yeah, most idiotic comment I’ve heard. And this time, that’s not directed at you.

            America is the World’s Last best hope for how justice can really work.

            The only thing that can cause or is causing America’s decline is Americans who no longer believe in it.

            By any study, here’s a ground breaker, as astonishing as this sounds, based on pure available resources compared to population, America is among the LEAST developed nation.

            Oh yes, we could be far GREATER. If we’d start believing again.

  2. I think the polling questions were crude and confused. For one thing, what problem is being addressed – the fiscal cliff, or the long-term debt? The two problems have opposite solutions (in fact, the best thing we could do for the long-term debt is to just go over the fiscal cliff, although if we consider things other than the debt that’s a terrible idea). Someone who says “we shouldn’t let all the Bush tax cuts expire” is saying the right thing if we want to avoid the fiscal cliff, but the wrong thing if we want to cut the debt as fast as possible.

    The pollsters didn’t ask about more intelligent solutions. What if “rather than just one solution, the government should use a combination of moderate tax increases for most Americans and gradual reductions in Medicare spending” had been an option – don’t you think a lot of Americans would have gone for that? Or “a bill that combines a short-term commitment to avoiding the fiscal cliff and reducing unemployment, with long-term measures to reduce the debt”?

    I suspect a lot of Americans don’t want their own ox gored, but would be willing to put up with a little goring in the context of a compromise plan. But that’s not a response they were allowed to give on this survey.

    • Confirmation bias again, and on my part. I already believe that the public is inexcusably disengaged, ignorant and irresponsible—as far as I’m concerned, the election proved it. I agree that it’s not a great poll, but I’ve never seen a great poll. The responses seem consistent with my observations.

      As to your excellent question-What if “rather than just one solution, the government should use a combination of moderate tax increases for most Americans and gradual reductions in Medicare spending” had been an option – don’t you think a lot of Americans would have gone for that? My I would confidently answer: No, I don’t. No chance.

      • Wait a minute, Jack. Did you just say, “I already believe that the public is inexcusably disengaged, ignorant and irresponsible—as far as I’m concerned, the election proved it.” Does that mean you voted for Romney?

        No, please, God no. Tell me it ain’t so.

        • The election of a dysfunctional government proves it.

          But I would have voted for a lawn chair before I’d vote to return an inept and feckless leader like Obama to office. There was an appreciable chance that Romney would actually lead. There was no chance, based on my observation of the first 4 years, that Obama would, or could, or would know how to, or would learn.

          • Not awful, just disingenuous and dumb. Raise everyone’s taxes but mine, cut all the programs that don’t benefit me. That’s what “balanced” means in that poll. I suspect you know it, too. When the AARP agrees that means testing Social Security benefits is essential, you’ll have a good case.

            • I don’t “know it,” and neither do you. We’re both speculating. But this survey, compared to the other survey, certainly supports the claim that the majority of Americans would support some sort of deal involving a combination of entitlement cuts and increased taxes, if they see it as a compromise approach.

              Means-testing social security benefits is one viable approach, but it’s not the only viable approach, so it’s not “essential.” No single policy is essential, so making any single policy into a test is an unfair way of measuring things.

            • “Tragedy of the Commons”. Except in this case more like “Theft of the Commons”

              This system of entitlement developed slowly, little unnoticeable chunks of other people’s money. The beneficiaries of that not thinking the least they were hurting the whole or developing an addiction.

              Slowly but surely, different contingents of society legislated for themselves tiny, but increasingly larger chunks of other people’s money.

              Each step of the way, legislators doled out other people’s money under the guise they were ensuring people’s right to this or right to that. Invented rights no less, that way the people could be affronted and become enraged that their rights are being infringed when their little piece of other people’s money is under threat of reduction.

              Soon this system become no less than the purchasing of loyalty with other people’s money, loyalty born of addiction. The addicts convinced they had a right to other people’s money.

              Now, the variables in the big mathematics equation have increased and the result on the right side of the equal sign are disastrous. Only no one considers their variable on the left side of the equal sign, no absolutely not…they are addicted to that and not only that, they’ve been convinced they have a right to it.

              • Not a bad idea, Ed, although I’ve never had a problem with anyone walking on my lawn. When did shrugging off irresponsibility and stupidity become a generational thing? Must have missed it.

                  • And that came in in the mid 1960’s… along with so much else. Property rights are a vital ingredient in any free society. The alternative is collectivism or just plain chaos. Right now, we’re on the verge of descending into a planned chaos that will shortly thereafter be followed by enforced collectivism. Call in Red January.

                    • The Fiscal Cliff Scare-mongering by the Left Leaning mainstream media is all obfuscation of the fiscal cliff’s kissing cousin: the debt problem. I wouldn’t worry so much about Scare of the Fiscal Cliff that the media is building up. We can survive another credit downgrade. Big deal.

                      The real problem is what happens when America’s creditors say “enough is enough” we aren’t loaning you anymore money. Like a parent telling their binge-drinking, all-night partying college son or daughter that they won’t subsidize irresponsibility anymore. That’s when Atlas will shrug.

                • I think the problem, regarding taxes, is that one party is fanatically against all taxes, the other party is fanatically against all taxes except for taxes on the top 2%. (Of course, both parties have occasionally made proposals that would in effect raise taxes on ordinary Americans, but only when those policies were disguised in some way).

                  I think the problem isn’t that Americans wouldn’t be willing to deal with some shared sacrifice if our leaders, in a bipartisan fashion, told us “sorry, but we will have to raise taxes on a lot of ordinary Americans, and the discussion should be about what’s the least painful and most economically beneficial way to do that.” The problem is that our political class isn’t willing to tell us that.

                  So for once, I agree with you: Blame bad leadership.

                  • Oh, I know you agree with me on lots of stuff—you just only comment on the stuff you disagree on.
                    I would say your characterization of the taxation attitudes of the two parties couldn’t be more accurate.

                • Shrugging off irresponsibility and stupidity isn’t a generational thing. I just think that baselessly ascribing irresponsibility and stupidity to other people’s political views is more common to those who are older and whose minds have become petrified.

                  Then again, I’m probably being unfair; every current demographic is filled with people whose worldviews are so intractable and lacking in self-awareness or humility that they’re willing to make pronouncements about poll respondents really meaning something other than what they said. I suppose it’s not a generational thing so much as it is the product of an historical moment.

                  • I don’t see how you get “baselessly.” You can quibble with the base, but the poll results speak for themselves. You may challenge the poll results and how they were obtained, as some have more or less persuasively. If you think you can defend the implication of the poll, do it. Your generalization is snotty without being the least bit analytical, and does not accept the necessary responsibility of having to articulate a coherent counter-opinion. We are seeing, in Greece, a population that insisted on retirement in middle age, refusing to pay taxes and a full-fledged nanny state, all of which ran ran the country into ruin, is now striking, screaming and bitching about the natural and fully predictable results of their responsible actions. I see very little difference between those attitudes and what we have here. You see something better? Show me. Once I believed, based on the sacrifice shown by Americans during World War II, that we had the unique national character to accept when mutual sacrifice was essential for the good of the nation and future generations. Do you still see that, in an electorate that simultaneously elected a House with members who have pledged never to raise taxes, a Senate with a majority the refuses to consider reforming out of control entitlements, and a President who has neither the skill nor the political courage to deal with either? If so, show us proof. I think the poll results combined with what we see and hear everyday is res ipsa loquitur.

                    “Get off my lawn” is just a cheap euphemism employed by arrogant wise-asses who think they have superior grasp on wisdom by virtue of a higher birth date year. That’s a common conceit; it’s also bigotry, and pretty clearly a fantasy. That’s OK, though, because they’ll be the ones suffering when the debt chickens come home to roost, and you can then try to reconcile your youthful conviction that all those people who warned you were just rigid and old happened to be dead right all along.

                    Anyone who reads this blog, and more, who knows me also knows that my “world view” evolves, as it should, with new experiences and information, which I am always seeking. That doesn’t mean that my core values and priorities are too much different than they were 50 years ago—they aren’t, because I was right then, and I’m more right now. Making pronouncements is what we call “communication and persuasion”…it is those who, rather than listen and consider, choose to denigrate with stereotypes that risk ossification.

                    I could probably use some more humility, but while my opinions are occasionally mistaken, foolish, half-baked, over-stated, inconsiderate and biased, they are not, and have never been,”petrified.”

    • I think most people (from any country) would agree that taxes should rise and spending should be cut in the future, so long as the future never actually arrives.

  3. Oh my! I’m sorry, Jack, but you asked for this.

    “I’m not gonna hit ya!…I’M NOT GONNA HIT YA!….Like HELL I’m not!!” – John Wayne – McLintock,

      • I knew that, Jack.

        See? See! people, people everywhere, I can see. I can see into the past AND the future as almost the same time as back in Firesign, with it’s tipped over mountains and yellow roads.

  4. Atlas will shrug. The reset WILL happen. It’ll be ugly.

    It’s just a damn shame that people are too obtuse to realize that we can have the reset WITHOUT the associated economic misery.

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