Paying With Fairy Dust

Paying With Fairy Dust

by digby

Over at Salon John Sides has posted a graph illustrating an important point about what someone has dubbed the "conflicted conservatives," people who say they believe in cutting go government spending but who can't name a program they would cut.

Very few conservatives said they favored reducing (or cutting out altogether) spending on any program. The least popular program proved to be childcare -- with a grand total of 20 percent of conservatives saying they’d slash it. The most popular is highways; only 6 percent want to cut spending there. Even bugaboos like welfare and foreign aid fare well, attracting the ire of only 15 percent of conservatives. Amazingly, the survey found that, on average, 54 percent of them actually wanted to increase spending.

Political scientist James Stimson has suggested that a fifth of the country consists of what he calls "conflicted conservatives," those who might respond positively to a broad appeal like Pawlenty’s, but not once specific windows start getting smashed.

I think this may be one situation where "welfare reform" deprived these people of a much needed boogeyman. I think had this been done a couple of decades earlier a much larger percentage of these same people would have chosen it. It's just that it's getting harder to find programs that benefit the "lazy and undeserving" poor, mainly because they've been eliminated during this period of conservative rule. Now these questions hit closer to home. Even nice law abiding white people would be harmed.

I think calling them conflicted is being a little bit too polite. The proper term for these people is "free lunch" conservatives. The one thing these people really care about is taxes, which they think are evil and believe they should never have to pay. They actually like the spending on programs from which they all benefit, which is why they are so gleeful about these "fleecing of America" earmark stories --- there's some spending which clearly benefits someone else and so it is safe to call it "wasteful."

Maybe we could be a bit more polite and just call them "magical thinking" conservatives, but "conflicted" would imply that they feel some sort of dissonance, and it's quite clear that they do not. They truly believe that government should provide all the services they use but that nobody should have to pay any taxes to support it.

I believe it's the central economic difference between liberals and conservatives. We all like the welfare state and want more of it. They just think it should be paid for with fairy dust and we think progressive taxation is the more logical choice. Sadly, the political system has chosen to go with fairy dust. It's more marketable.