Thursday, June 2, 2011

The "You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto" theory of politics

This KOS post is really on to something. Like, most Republicans really do seem to think that average current tax burden is A. extremely high, and B. has gone up over the last few years. Both these statements are quantifiably false. Right now, in the United States, taxes are extremely, extremely low! Lower than Reagan, lower than Bush, lower than Clinton. The lowest they've been since 1950!

What's frustrating about this is that, so often, disagreements are described as a matter of policy preferences. Like, "You don't mind high taxes, but I think low taxes are better." But here's the thing: if taxes really were as high as they were forty or fifty years ago, I would probably support lowering them! The disagreement is not over the policy. The disagreement is over the basic facts.

Really, it's sort of brilliant. If people think taxes are low, then convincing people that we need to raise them is easy. If people think global warming is happening, then everyone agrees that we should do something about it. If people understood that domestic government spending accounts for basically none of the deficit increase, then no one would want to cut domestic government spending to fix the deficit. So instead, you politicize the factual arguments, reduce these things to a matter of opinion, rather something that can be shown to be false with tables and graphs. And once it's matter of opinion, well... that's just the way things are. "You say tomato, I say tomahto, you're a Democrat, I'm a Republican." And there's just no good way to change someone's mind about something like that.

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