Not only don’t we look far enough into the future (which is hard), we don’t look far enough into the past (which is easy)

I was listening to BBC World, which sent a reporter to Georgia [USA] to check out the claims of tea party folks. Specifically, they were focusing on the plight of the middle class. And I was a little disappointed since, (1) the BBC doesn’t have a horse in this race and (2) their reporting is usually so good, that they didn’t press people a little more, forcing them to support their claims.

Now, I don’t think there’s any debate that the middle class is disappearing, with the rich getting richer and median income declining. The debate is over causes and solutions. And here’s where reality and many tea party advocates part company.

I’m not claiming to have a unique insight into how to run the country. I’m just looking at how it has been run. We’ve had almost 3 decades of “pro-business” policies, easy credit (for both individuals and businesses), mostly-decreasing financial regulation, and on-balance-decreasing taxes. Now, to me it is “obvious” that it is precisely these policies that have caused the economic problems of all but the wealthiest Americans. Basically an application of Occam’s razor: we do X, undesirable Y occurs, so we should stop doing X.

But it’s a complex system, so the obvious might not be correct. An argument could be made that the problem wasn’t being too pro-business, but not being pro-business enough. It’d take some work to convince me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

However, that’s not what I’ve been hearing tea party supporters and candidates espousing. I hear them saying that taxes are too high—while advocating a return to policies and/or times when taxes were higher. I hear them complaining about both lack of health care and health care mandates. I hear them complaining about unregulated banks and government regulation. I hear them complaining about high taxes and lack of government services. They’re not, for thr most part, saying that recent policies didn’t go far enough—they’re complaining about policies that don’t exist.

And this is before we even get to the political slant of their arguments: they claim to be anti-incumbent, under the reasonable argument that thr folks who’ve been making the decisions have made bad decisions. But they’re actively opposing politicians (mostly Democrats) who are at least paying lip service to policies that would address their concerns, while advocating policies much like those of the politicians (both parties, but mostly led by Republicans) that actually led to the current situation.

Or, in short, they have no sense of time: it takes years, decades even, to make significant changes in our society. So, whatever the current situation, good or bad, it’s probably the result of policies enacted a decade or more ago, and it is those in power at that time who deserve the blame or credit. They might be right that the policies of the last couple years are going to make things worse—but there’s no way to know right now, and returning to the policies of a decade ago seems the least-likely solution, since we are most likely currently experiencing the results of exactly those policies. Not to mention the fact that some of the most-reviled decisions (the bank bailout) were enacted before Obama took office.

And that’s without even getting into the issue of wanting services, but not taxes; or thinking that private business will step in in the absence of government services, despite no real evidence of it having happened in the recent past.


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