March 31, 2008
Those people in Kansas and me
Posted by: Andoni
I went to my accountant today to discuss my taxes and while driving home I couldn’t stop thinking about people in Kansas. You know, those people in the book, "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank. This is the book that asks the question why the majority of people in Kansas continue to vote Republican when it is not in their economic interest to do so.
Republicans do not have a track record of protecting jobs for the middle class, expanding health care, or benefiting the typical worker economically. Yet middle class and working class Kansans don’t seem to care and keep voting GOP. Kansans seem moved more by Republican positions on social issues like gay marriage and abortion than their own economic interests. Why can’t these people see the light?
Then, while driving home I realized that I’m a Kansan, too. No, I don’t vote Republican for their social values, I vote Democratic for theirs. But voting Democratic for me also puts me in the same category of those Kansans we love to criticize. It goes against my economic self interest.
Let me explain. I’m retired and my entire income comes solely from capital gains. Thanks to George W. Bush’s tax cuts a few years ago, for the third year in a row, my final total federal tax rate is 15% -- lower than Warren Buffet’s. The Democrats want to end this tax give away for the wealthy. McCain and the Republicans want to renew it. My economic interest would be to vote Republican to continue saving all this money in capital gains taxes -- a very, very sweet deal.
However, social issues like gay rights are what more important to me than my own economic interests. As a result, I’ll be just like those Kansans I used to like to criticize so much. I'll vote my “values” instead of my economic interest. Count me as irrational as those Kansans. This demonstrates to me that as much as I would like to think otherwise, values can trump economics and make people act "irrationally."
The question for this November is, will a severe recession cause enough Republican "values voters" to switch into economic voters; that is, to suddenly become rational?
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