Our unbelievable inability to admit mistakes. Especially political ones.
This isn't the first time I've written about this and, given what I've learned about this county over 59 years of living, it probably won't be the last. Every now and then, however, some event or news story triggers my anger over this and motivates me to comment on it. The most recent trigger came by way of the New York Times--specifically, this article in which the author attempts to identify the reasons for the rise of anti-politicians in the current Presidential race.
As the headline indicates, most of the voter frustration that leads them to support the Trumps and Carsons of the world stems from flat wages. Fair enough; they should be frustrated by flat wages. But the author's attempts to drill deeper doesn't produce much more than than, except a generalized belief that both of the major political parties have somehow conspired to make a mess of the lives of everyday Americans. Even worse, one individual ends up explaining everything with the tired old Reagan mantra of government-bad-and-rich-people-good. He is quoted as saying “For me to prosper, the economy has to prosper, and it’s the rich people that produce jobs," and blames government overkill for driving jobs to Mexico, citing an E.P.A. fine of "tens of thousands of dollars" as an example.
And as for the inconvenient truth that wages in Mexico are lower than they are in the U.S.? Well, it turns out that he hasn't looked into that.
Really? All of that information is a few clicks away on the Internet, and a hard-working guy like you can't be bothered to take the time to look into it? Seriously? You wait for it to show up on Fox News? Well, be prepared to wait a very long time. Because Fox News is owned by the very same "rich people" you claim "create jobs." And those rich people have a vested interest in not telling you what's going on. Which, among other things, is that they don't believe they're making money when they "create jobs." Their idea of making money is hoarding it overseas.
And if they do decide to employ people, it will be people who expect even less in pay than you do. And expect less from the government. Take a look at China, where unregulated capitalism has produced air pollution so terrible that wearing surgical masks in public is routine. Better yet, spend a week in China, and see if you still think the E.P.A. is a bad idea. You might come home wanting to become a member of Greenpeace.
Or maybe not. Because that would require you to look at more than three decades of voting for the people who told you to love rich people and hate the government at all costs. And admit that you were wrong. And that is something that the members of the whole conservative project, from Ronald Reagan on down, will never, ever do. Because the entire conservative project depends on never admitting mistakes, and explaining them away when they happen.
And there could be no bigger mistake that saying that "rich people" create jobs. Rich people do nothing of the sort. Spending creates jobs. My spending is someone else's income; someone else's spending is my income. That's how rich people become rich in the first place: by inducing other people to spend money. This is Econ 101. This is ridiculously easy to understand. Why don't these people get it?
Because, from 1980 onward, they found it easier to believe than to think. And, even as the evidence that their belief was wrong piles up with each passing year, they still find it easier to believe than it is to do the right thing: admit they were wrong, and change course.
It will take an entirely new generation to do that. This is why I have said many times that, more than being local, politics is generational. The good news is that a new generation of voters is on its way, one that isn't carrying the Reagan baggage.
For my taste, it can't get here soon enough. And here's hoping it will be able to admit its own mistakes, when it makes them.