It’s always puzzled me how so many people believe that if they think like rich people (or at least how they perceive rich people think–which isn’t the same thing), they will become a rich person themselves. Edwin Lyngar, a former Republican in recovery, offers an explanation as to why, when he was very lower income, he was a staunch Republican (boldface mine):
Even though we didn’t take the food stamps, we lived in the warm embrace of the federal government with subsidized housing and utilities, courtesy of Uncle Sam [Lyngar, at the time, was in the Army]. Yet I blamed all of my considerable problems on the government, the only institution that was actively working to alleviate my suffering. I railed against government spending (i.e., raising my own salary). At the same time, the earned income tax credit was the only way I could balance my budget at the end of the year.
I felt my own poverty was a moral failure. To support my feelings of inadequacy, every move I made only pushed me deeper into poverty. I bought a car and got screwed on the financing. The credit I could get, I overused and was overpriced to start with. My wife couldn’t get or keep a job, and we could not afford reliable day care in any case. I was naive, broke and uneducated but still felt entitled to a middle-class existence.
If you had taken WIC and the EITC away from me, my son would still have eaten, but my life would have been much more miserable. Without government help, I would have had to borrow money from my family more often. I borrowed money from my parents less than a handful of times, but I remember every single instance with a burning shame. To ask for money was to admit defeat, to be a de facto loser.
To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me. They earned it. My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash….
They crash companies, loot pensions and destroy banks, and when they hit a snag, they scream to be rescued by government largess. By contrast, I continued to pay my oversize mortgage for years, even as my home lost more than half its value. I viewed my bad investment as yet another moral failure. When it comes to voting and investing, rich people make calculated decisions, while regular people make “emotional” and “moral” ones. Despite growing self-awareness, I pushed away reality for another election cycle….
The people who most support the Republicans and the Tea Party carry a secret burden. Many know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government. They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe “freedom” is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system.
The chains that bind us tightest are sometimes of our own making.