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Monday, 15 May 2017 08:00

The Vicious Cycle of Disdain for Poor Americans

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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Poverty 0515wrp optA New Jersey neighborhood. (Photo: Phillies1fan777)Americans with wealth and power don't generally care about the middle and lower classes. Even worse, they are doing real damage to the people they don't care about.

But why? Either these well-positioned people are 100 percent out of touch with the realities of middle-class life in our country, or they're contemptuous of those they consider inferior, or they believe so strongly in individual 'freedom' that even the word 'social' is repugnant to them. Or perhaps they're just not smart enough to see the value of people who are different from them.

The assault continues non-stop: Taking away healthcare, either by disposing of the Affordable Care Act or slashing Medicaid; weakening consumer protection laws; repealing fair wage and workplace safety laws; cutting overtime pay; jeopardizing civil rights in the name of "religious freedom"; putting low-income mothers at risk by cutting their maternity care; increasing penalties for minor drug offenses; giving our public lands -- including the homes of Native Americans -- to oil companies; and even denying kids healthy lunches.

A method can be detected amidst the madness, looking at it from the disdainer's point of view.

(1) I'm an individual who succeeded on his own

(2) Poor people could make it if they worked harder

(3) No handouts for those slackers

(4) No regulations to interfere with MY success

(5) Back to (1)

Some evidence comes from a Pew study that found 2/3 of Republicans believing that a person is rich because he/she has worked harder than others. Those disdainful of the poor may not realize that in the eight years since the recession, the Wilshire Total Market valuation has more than TRIPLED, rising from a little over $8 trillion to nearly $25 trillion, with the great majority of that passive wealth going to the very richest Americans. In 2016 alone, the richest 1% effectively shifted nearly $4 trillion in wealth away from the rest of the nation to themselves, with nearly half of the wealth transfer ($1.94 trillion) coming from the nation's poorest 90% -- the middle and lower classes, according to Piketty and Saez and Zucman. That's over $17,000 in housing and savings per lower-to-middle-class household lost to the super-rich.

#1 Possible Reason for the Disdain -- They're Delusional

Ever since University of Chicago economist Arthur Laffer sketched a curve on a napkin to convince Dick Cheney and other Republican officials that lowering taxes on the rich would generate more revenue, conservatives have pounced on the concept, convincing submissive politicians that all tax reductions are revenue-producing. It was proved wrong from the start. Several economic studies have concluded that the revenue-maximizing top income tax rate is anywhere from 50% to 75%.

Conservatives are reluctant to change the status quo, and loathe to have their core beliefs challenged. This is Cognitive Dissonance. It's typical for them to construct their personal beliefs on a moral basis, before all the facts are in, and if necessary to reshape the evidence to fit these beliefs.

So conservatives tend to believe that inequality is part of the natural order, and that any attempt to change it is senseless. Cognitive dissonance kicks in for them with the overwhelming evidence for a collapsing middle class. Rather than re-evaluating their beliefs, they go to the other extreme and DEFEND the widening fracture in U.S. society:

----George Will: "How income inequality benefits everybody." Quoting John Tamny, Will agrees that "the best way to spread the wealth around is to leave it in the hands of the wealthy."

----The Federalist: "Income Inequality Is Good For The Poor."

----Goldman Sachs adviser Brian Griffiths: "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all."

----The Boston Globe calls the Oxfam analysis of extreme global inequality "irrelevant," and Reuters calls it a "silly stat."

#2 Possible Reason for the Disdain -- They're Narcissistic

The sense of "I'm better than you" is evident in the "white savior" approach to K-12 education, where billionaires assume their money makes them more qualified than lifelong educators to prepare our children for the future.

Numerous studies have shown that wealthier individuals tend to possess a distinct sense of entitlement. As their sense of superiority grows, they care less about the feelings and needs of others, they become anti-social, they are less generous with their money, they become less willing to support the economic needs of all members of society, and they even tend to behave more unethically than average citizens, doing anything necessary to get ahead. And as they degenerate, they move further to the conservative side.

The costly and dysfunctional state of health care in the U.S. shows the absurdity of entrusting basic human needs to the narcissistic tendencies of capitalism. As Time explains about the Ebola virus, "Even though it had been killing people on and off for decades, there were no drugs or vaccines approved to fight it--and there still aren't today, chiefly because there's little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to bring them to market." Little incentive, plenty of profits, lots of disdain for human life.

#3 Possible Reason for the Disdain -- They're Just Plain Dumb

A maxim by the name of "Hanlon's Razor" declares, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." So, for example, it's more mindless than malicious for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to impose work requirements on people who may be sick or disabled, seniors, students, or sole providers.

Numerous studies support the observation that conservatives are somewhat on the dullish side in comparison to liberals. Political conservatism is associated with low-effort thinking. Liberals have more gray matter in the region of the brain that helps people cope with complexity. Lower intelligence in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, largely through conservative attitudes.

Brainlessness is apparent in the conservative approach, little though it is, to global warming. Geo-Engineering is the favored approach for groups like the Heartland Institute. Rex Tillerson said climate change is "an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions."

Those 'solutions' include fertilizing the oceans to absorb more carbon dioxide, coating the upper atmosphere with sulfate particles to block the sun, or building millions of wind-powered pumps over the Arctic to bring more water to the existing ice.

No thought to the potentially harmful consequences of massive, untried, expensive, earth-altering productions that may or may not work. Now THAT is dumb.