Saturday, December 9, 2023

The More Money I Make, The More Conservative I Get (And Vice-Versa)

There is a correlation between wealth and politics - for some, anyway.

Over the years I have been writing this blog (about 15 years now) my opinions have changed on occasion.  What frustrates (and even angers) some readers is that they read one posting and think I am "conservative" and then are shocked to find I am also liberal.  Liberal readers are similarly pissed-off.  But like most people, I think, my views are all over the map.  You cannot pigeon-hole people based on their generation, gender, party affiliation (if any), or other demographic.

Even wealth.

It is true that wealthier people tend to become more conservative, as they want fewer regulations and lower taxes.  But then again, some of the poorest people in America are rabid Trump supporters, which should make "traditional conservatives" very nervous.  Populism is, by its nature, liberal.  And these Trump supporters from poor rural areas are expecting some sort of payback down the road, just as many "National Socialists" thought they were part of a labor movement.  Both will be (or were) disappointed in the real outcome.

But taking aside the bamboozled voters (on both extremes) who vote against their own self-interest based on "social issues," the vast majority of people, when it comes down to it, vote their pocketbook. If they are having trouble making ends meet, they will vote for the party they think has their best economic interests at heart. Social issues are nice icing on the cake, but when real economic hardship comes, people vote based on economics (or their perceptions thereof).

As Bill Clinton famously said, "It's the economy, stupid!" and won an upset victory over George Bush.

When I was a young man - in my teens and 20's - I had a lot of naive notions about liberal social policies. Yea, we should tax those "rich folks" and give all the money to more deserving people such as myself.  And that's not a wholly bad idea - some government programs do actually help people get ahead in life.

For example, I was the recipient of Pell grants and guaranteed student loans - which helped me get an education and succeed.  The payback for society was one less person living in the margins or on welfare.  One more taxpayer in the higher brackets, too!  I also had a "Farmer's Home Administration" subsidized loan which enabled me to buy my first home at age 22.  That benefited me and society as well, by subsidizing the housing market.  That loan also had a claw-back provision, so the interest that was subsidized was paid back (thank you very much!) when I sold the house.  It was not so much a giveaway program as it was a way to help people and help society and break even (in most cases).

But as I became more successful and started my own business, well, I started to see another side of things.  As I noted before, I had an employee ask me if I was in favor of "sexual orientation" being added to the list of protected classes for the purposes of employment discrimination.  I told him "No" and that surprised him, until I explained that I could be sued by an ex-employee who might claim I fired them because they were straight.  The saw cuts both ways, you see.

And yes, people file frivolous lawsuits, alleging discrimination.  When Mark worked at the gourmet food store, they caught a guy, on the security camera, loading hundreds of dollars of food and wine into his car.  When confronted with the evidence, he claimed it wasn't him, even though you could clearly see his face and read the license number on his car.  He cried, "discrimination!" and threatened to sue.  It was not the first or last time something like this happened.

As an employer, you start to lose sympathy for employees and the "working class" in general. Yes, most are hard-working and honest. But there are always a few loudmouths who want to "work the system" more than actually do the work they are hired for.  And yes, some spend more time and effort trying to pull a fast one than actually doing their jobs.  They are the first ones to claim they are being victimized by the system, too. It is all so unfair!  Waaaaah!

Sadly, society caters to this mentality. The media loves a "little guy against the system" story as it sells newspapers, or today, eyeballs and clicks. The working slug identifies with "the little guy" and vicariously lives through stories like this.

But when you are running a business, risking your own capital and risking real failure, you get fed up with folks like that.  You get fed up with fake "homeless" who are just drug addicts who find it more profitable to panhandle than to actually work at a job (and indeed, it can be far more profitable!).

I said it before and I will say it again: Never become an employer - it will turn you into a Republican! Or at least you may become more conservative as you realize that a lot of people are a bunch of whining losers who want a free hot-meal and someone else (preferably the government) to pay for it.

You work hard, try to have nice things, try to save for the future, and you get a tax bill for your grief.  You are so successful!  You need to pay more - and more!  Pretty soon, you get fed up and realize that it ain't worth it to try to be successful, as the game is stacked against you.  Better off to be poor - you don't pay any taxes that way!  And indeed, I have paid little or nothing in the way of taxes since retiring.  In fact, if you factor in my Obamacare subsidy, my tax bill is a negative fifteen grand, each year, for the last five years.

I rejoined hoi polloi.  It was a lot less effort and a lot less taxing - if you'll pardon the pun.  But now I am dependent on the government, to some extent, to continue programs like Obamacare (ACA) as well as Medicaid and Social Security, the last two being programs I "paid into" over my 41-year working life.  Of course, as some might point out, if I live a long time or get really sick, I will end up taking out far, far more than I paid in, to those two programs.

Nevertheless, I get nervous when GOP candidates flat out say they want to abolish Social Security and Medicare, or as one GOP hopeful put it, abolish Obamacare and replace it with bartering.  Sadly, my doctor not only refuses to take Obamacare, they don't take payment in chickens, either.

So I tend to be more "liberal" in my viewpoints these days, as these issues directly affect my pocketbook.  Now you could say this is "selfish" but it is the reality of how everyone works.  I have a relative with a cushy job, a defined-benefit pension plan, and a gold-plated health insurance plan provided by their employer. They would say I was being crass and selfish, but of course they have a cushy job and a defined-benefit pension and..... you get the idea. It's a lot easier to say you have altruistic principles when you are well-fed.

There was a recent article about Kelsey Grammer, who has "come out" as a Trump supporter, which puzzles many people.  After all, he plays the role of an erudite well-educated sophisticate!  He can't support a rube like Donald Trump! Can he? In a press tour for his lackluster-received television reboot, a BBC reporter asked about this, at which point, the Paramount "handler" said, "Interview over, thanks for coming!"  They know there might be blow-back from this.

Speaking of BBC, the National Enquirer or one of those other tabloids did a hit piece on Grammer a few years' back.  It was a photo montage of "what we found in celebrities garbage" which is paparazzi at its finest.  It was probably fake, but what they claimed to find in Kelsey's trash was the packaging for an enormous black dildo. BBC indeed. Maybe Grammer turned Republican to prevent such further attacks. I dunno.

I suspect the reason he "rebooted" his show (not really his show, but you know what I mean) is that he started running low on cash - like his fellow conservative re-booters Roseanne Barr and Tim Allen.  When the money runs out, you tend to blame taxes as the cause.  The reality is, you spent it.

It seems jarring that Grammer would be a MAGA-head.  Convicted Felon and snitch Tim Allen, not so surprising.  "Domestic Goddess" Roseanne Barr - why would anyone be surprised?  But erudite Grammer? He would support someone who talks only in incoherent sentence fragments?

Well, Julliard graduate notwithstanding, you have to remember that the "sophisticated" Dr. Crane he plays on television (or indeed, Sideshow Bob) are mere roles to play, not necessarily indicative of his own values.  Only his deep baritone is not an act.

And if you think about it, the roles he plays do not laud education or sophistication, but rather mock it.  In Cheers, Dr. Crane was always being mocked by the barflies and was always facing his comeuppance.  In Frasier,  the plot line was inevitably about how Dr. Crane would be forced to admit that the blue-collar values of his Father and caregiver were right, and that he was wrong to be a "snob." And Sideshow Bob?  Well, he always ends up hoisted by his own petard - and usually ends up in jail.

In fact, if you think about it, the characters he plays are a perfect stereotype that the working class might have about "wealthy liberal elites" - snobby and unable to appreciate the "real things" that the working class enjoys, like a decent La-Z-Boy Barcalounger.  If anything the MAGA set would love the shows he is on, as the "libs" get owned in every episode.  And maybe that is why the ratings were so high.

But the real Dr. Crane - Kelsey Grammer - is apparently nothing like his television doppelganger, but perhaps more like Sideshow Bob

"Your guilty conscience may move you to vote Democratic, but deep down you long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a King!"

Maybe here, we see the real Kelsey Grammer - the guy who made millions in television and then got the tax bill and decided that maybe the Republicans had the right idea - even if it meant pandering to the plebes with the likes of Trump.  Maybe.  I suspect so.

Because I think when you make that kind of insane money, you start to think that maybe you deserve it and that the world is divided into two classes - the ruling elite and the great unwashed masses.  And as part of the elite, you want to make sure the masses are kept down.  Cut education!  Teach them the Earth is flat!  Distract them with social issues!  And yes, rule them like a King!

But when you are one of the plebes, maybe one's perspective changes.  And let's face it, most all of us are plebes, even those of us who maybe flirt with real wealth in our lives by entering the professions.  But make no mistake about it, there is a real difference between a millionaire and a billionaire.

And that difference is, the billionaire pays less in taxes.