Monday, May 23, 2016


In The New York Times, political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels argue that voters rarely vote based on issues, and that this is true even for Bernie Sanders backers. Citing a survey released early this year, they say that Sanders supporters are actually less likely to back a number of his issue positions than supporters of Hillary Clinton are:
In a survey conducted for the American National Election Studies in late January, supporters of Mr. Sanders were ... less likely than Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to favor ... a higher minimum wage, increasing government spending on health care and an expansion of government services financed by higher taxes.
And young voters in general, while they claim to be more progressive than oldsters, may actually be less so:
While young Democrats in the January survey were more likely than those over age 35 to call themselves liberals, their ideological self-designations seem to have been much more lightly held, varying significantly when they were reinterviewed....

For example, young Democrats were less likely than older Democrats to support increased government funding of health care, substantially less likely to favor a higher minimum wage and less likely to support expanding government services. Their distinctive liberalism is mostly a matter of adopting campaign labels, not policy preferences.
I don't know how reliable the survey is. If it's accurate, then a lot of the Berners are cheering for their tribe, which is defined as not being the Hillary Clinton tribe, rather than for Sanders policies.

But I'm trying to figure out how you can cheer specific Sanders applause lines about, say, health care or education funding without supporting "an expansion of government services financed by higher taxes." Maybe you're an old-fashioned blue-collar white Democrat and you just like a candidate who seems to stick up for working people. But the Sanders base is young people. If young voters claim to be more liberal than their elders yet support less redistribution of wealth to finance social programs -- while cheering on Sanders when he talks about expanding social programs -- what's going on? Do they think Medicare for All isn't going to be a tax-funded government program? (Keep your government hands off my Medicare for All!) Do they think tax increases won't be necessary in order for students to attend college tuition-free? Or do they think all of this can be accomplished merely by taxing other people (the "millionaires and billionaires")?

Or is there some notion here that the system just has to be hacked somehow, by someone like the brainiac heroes of Silicon Valley legend, and then we'll get a lot more for a lot less money? That seems to be the idea behind Trumpism -- that Donald Trump's brain is so special that he'll figure out how to bring about utopia and tax cuts simultaneously. Is that the notion behind Bernieism?

I worry, because I'm old enough to remember a time when CEOs weren't treated as messiahs. That really started in the 1980s -- Trump was one of the early figures of worship -- and younger people can't remember a time when we weren't worshipping business potentates while complaining that government is incompetent and awful. Sure, the kids hate Goldman Sachs, and the business messiahs they look up to wear hoodies and running shoes, but it's a variation on a Reaganite theme. I wonder if they think the "millionaires and billionaires" are the bad manipulators of the system while people with billion-dollar start-ups are the beneficent system manipulators. And maybe, to them, Bernieism is like Uber, but for politics -- it's new, it undercuts something old and seemingly sclerotic, so it must be cool.

I respond to the Sanders message -- but I know that what he wants to do would require European levels of taxation. I can see that as a worthwhile trade-off, but I think think a GOP general election campaign against Sanders would point out the tax cost of what he wants to do, and a lot of people who like him now would recoil in horror. If this survey is right, they don't understand what he's proposing.

Or maybe that's not really what's going on. I just don't know.


petrilli said...

I agree that European levels of taxation might not be what Sanders young supporters have signed up for. However, 50's style American tax levels of the sort that fueled the post war economic boom might be acceptable to them IMO. While we haven't had single payer for all yet, My generation had free or near free college tuition and low interest college loans. In 1972, I paid $4 a semester hour for Junior college, $12 hr for the state school my jr/sr years. In Texas. As for single payer, one good point that doesn't get made often enough is that the US already has the largest SP medical system in the world if one counts Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and IHS. But I get your point though if your point is that Sander's opposition would successfully define such ideas as a commie plot to seize private wealth, property and means of production.

Lawrence said...

European Scary Tax Levels is ignoring that we already spend this money. Looking at last Friday's pay stub, if I roll FICA and 401K into Retirement, Medicare, medical, dental, and vision into Medical, and fed and state tax into Tax, I already pay Retirement 9.25%, Medical 15.95%, and Tax 12.44%. So 37.64% already spent. Make it 40%. Make it 40% for Mitt Romney while you're at it. See where that gets us. And empower labor with minimum wage and union protections. And see where that gets us. Bernie Sanders, or whoever, doesn't need a new Grand Unified Theory of liberalism to be the preferable candidate. And yes, I know he isn't going to be the candidate.

Unknown said...

"Dont trust anyone under 30" has always been my motto. Even when I was under 30 myself. If you knew how many Hippies I knew in 60's Greenwich Village and 70's San Francisco (shit I was working Hippy) that wound up voting for Reagan you would faint.

jsrtheta said...

@Lawrence: 40%? How about personal income tax levels of 58% (which have gone north of 60% some years)? And that's just Denmark.

A 40% personal income tax rate won't do it. Uh-uh. Even if you hit Romney for it, which won't happen, because those who have the big bucks will see it coming from a mile away, and that money will disappear. Private enterprise thrives in Sweden, for example, meaning there are some very rich people there. And the personal income tax rate is still well north of 50%.

This is actually what Bernie wants - he has no problem with everyone paying this much. That's what social democracy (the actual name for what he believes, no matter how he switches it round) costs on a good day. Without really having much of an army, or navy, or air force. (Some might think that's keen - fine. I'm just noting that.)

If you want to change our economy and create a welfare state, fine. But we have to understand what that actually means. And Bernie ain't really being explicit about it.

jsrtheta said...

What no one wants to face is that "young voters" are generally clueless about what things cost. I doubt many of Bernie's supporters are paying much income tax, if they pay any at all. How many are going to school on Mom and Dad's dime? How many of them are in the work force and not going to school at all? I suspect damned few.

"Progressive ideals" have a shelf life of "up until Graduation Day." Once these Berners start paying their own rent, their own taxes, or, at the latest, their own mortgages, once they're buying clothes for kids, once they're looking at what kind of car they can actually afford, massive social programs paid for with tax dollars will look very different to them.

This is also a problem with coming from Vermont, which is kind of a cross between Middle Earth and Deliverance. Note that both of those things are for white people only.

Joey Blau said...

We need to have many more tax brackets. And we need a disunified budget. Social security and FICA, and Medicare and its tax should not be included in the regular budget. We need to cash in the trust fund and see how the program looks in 20 years before any changes.

Then we need brackets for .5,1,5,10,15,25,50,75+ million a year income. Eliminate capital gains breaks over 1 million. Eliminate charitable contribution deductions and Eliminate tax free for churches. Eliminate mortgage deduction over some loan size and income level.

Set the estate tax at 50% over $x millions and charge corporations tax on revenues generated in the US.

Cut most aid to education, cops and arts. Cut the defense budget in half to $400 billion for starters. Increase federal support for clinics and GP doctors and dentists to actually provide services as employees. Double and triple the number of doctors graduated each year and pay their schooling for exchange ten years service. Same for teachers.

Cut the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the prison system, INS, maintain the coast guard and border control. Legalize all drugs and prostitution and pay people to deal with addicts and sick people.

Cut the deficit while providing services directly to people. Eliminate disablity payments and snap and wic benefits. Hire people to run group homes and kitchens and then hire other people to check up on them. Hire cleaners and security guards who have to go to school for social work. Hire accountants and building maintenance personnel. Round up all the homeless by declaring them a danger to themselves. Build new mental health facilities.

petrilli said...

I just don't buy the idea that Sanders wants to turn us into Finland or something. Most of of what I hear him saying is just go back to the new deal. That's a message that can sell after 36 years of supply side failure.

KenRight said...

The whole thing is rendered more complicated by the fact consistent leftists
point out Sanders own economic programs cannot possibly be instituted while the war machine he in large part supports or has been silent on churns on.

jsrtheta said...

@petrilli - We haven't left the New Deal. We have far MORE than what the New Deal was. There was no free college under the New Deal. There was no single-payer health care under the New Deal.

He has said he thinks we should be "more like Denmark." And if you look at analyses of his spending plans, they say he would have to raise taxes significantly. And I mean significantly.

Now, if that's what people want, I am not saying they're wrong. But taking this country from what it is now to a welfare state (a term Swedes, for instance, are proud of, so I'm not blowing a dog whistle here), then it is only just that everyone understands it. Otherwise, it's a lot of promises without honesty about how they would be paid for.

My disdain for Bernie is due not to him personally, but to his history of advocacy which is devoid of particulars or, frankly, candor. It's great to be for lots of things. But if you don't map out a plan to get there, and then harangue those who point this out, I'm not impressed.

The Framers had no intention of government through big strokes. It is designed to be more efficient than what they had. But it also designed to operate by compromise and agreement, understanding that no one gets everything they want, because there will always be those who disagree with what you want. So it is meant to accomplish much, but through a deliberative process. It is most definitely not designed to operate through "revolution."