Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Republicans Use Psychology to Promote Fear

At one time in our nation's history a Republican actually supported the concept of our present day Medicare, but 100 years later they're busy trying to kill it. And they've been using psychology to drive voter's fear and to garner votes to accomplish this goal.

Take for example the current debate with the "budget crisis" and Medicare/Social Security. Before the Republicans took a majority in the House of Representatives last year, did a single Republican candidate ever promise to cut or end Medicare and Social Security if you voted for them? Not a one.

Before the November 2010 election our concern was with the "sustainability" of our current social programs, and the national debt was also just a "concern" for the Tea Party. But since the elections last year, it quickly escalated into a "crisis". Why?

All along the Republicans have been spending money and creating debt just as the Democrats did, long before President Obama was elected (or even born). Just prior to Obama, under George W. Bush, we've had two un-funded wars and simultaneously initiated huge tax cuts. We accumulated a massive amount of war debt with the double whammy of tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. Right now we currently have some of the lowest tax rates in history, but the Republicans and Tea Party are complaining about high taxes.

Now the Republicans, in there never-ending quest to cut social programs that ordinary working-class people enjoy, have created a "debt crisis" to force cuts to these programs that only the working-class enjoy, but at the same time the Republicans refuse to raise any revenues from the top 1%. And they're also complaining about cuts to "defense" (which are primarily government contracts going to corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Boeing).

Add to that, when the majority of Americans wanted to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and end corporate welfare such as tobacco and oil subsidies, and cut loopholes from the tax code that benefit the largest and most profitable corporations, the Republicans accused average working-class (and poor) Americans of "class warfare". If you'll notice, it's usually just Republican millionaires that are making these bogus claim, and a few misled and uninformed (and brainwashed) Tea Party followers believe them. (I know, I used to be one.)

But to better under the current debate, let's first look at the history of Medicare, and how it relates to today's discussion about cuts being made by a congressional "super committee").

The notion that the government should share some of the responsibility for health care has a long history, going back to at least the Greek city-states, where citizens enjoyed the ministrations of tax-supported public physicians.

Even the principle of compulsory participation is very old. In 1798 the U.S. Government set up a Marine Hospital Service (forerunner of the Public Health Service), and required the owners of merchant ships to contribute 20 cents a month into a sickness fund for each seaman in their employ.

In the 19th century, as the industrial revolution gathered momentum, a number of labor unions and individual employers required that their workers join relief funds, many of which eventually came under government regulation.

The first round of the public debate on Government health insurance (from 1912 to 1920) crystallized attitudes and shaped the whole character of the subsequent half-century of contention on this issue.

In a democratic political system its laws represent the collective decisions of the community, and of the country. Government health insurance was a proposal requiring such a collective decision, for it was to be an undertaking of the community. A Government agency was to be established to collect insurance premiums from workers and employers in the form of taxes, and to pay out benefits according to a predetermined schedule.

In the case of Government health insurance, a movement in the early 1900's was spearheaded by a private reform organization called the American Association for Labor Legislation (AALL). Founded in 1906 by a group of economists at the University of Wisconsin, the AALL represented no specific interest group or rank-and-file constituency. Rather, it was an informal coalition of about 3,000 reform-minded leaders from a spectrum of interest groups. Its roster included physicians, lawyers, businessmen, professors, labor leaders, politicians, and social workers, and the AALL's considerable influence in its early years derived in large measure from its illustrious and broadly representative membership.

The first major legislative campaign of the AALL was in behalf of State laws to require employers to insure their workers against industrial accidents--or workmen's compensation. To the delight of the AALL's leaders, there was considerable enthusiasm and relatively little opposition to the idea, and the drive for workmen's compensation was eminently successful. By 1915, 30 States had passed such laws.

Buoyed by its success with this program the AALL set as its next major goal the enactment of Government health insurance on the State level, but between 1918 and 1920, several State-appointed study commissions reported unfavorably on the issue of Government health insurance. Soon afterward, the campaign for Government health insurance collapsed. The AALL then turned its attention to unemployment insurance and, later, to old-age insurance, and the movement for health insurance was not revived until the late 1920's.

Throughout American history, our political dialogue has been enlivened by two contrasting views of the role government should play in the life of the community. Some historians have labeled these as the "Hamiltonian" and "Jeffersonian" philosophies, named after two of the earliest and most prominent advocates, both Founding Father's.

Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, took an "activist" view, conceiving of government as a tool for promoting economic development.

On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Bill of Rights and our third President, felt America would best prosper by remaining a nation of individualistic small farmers. Jefferson, who was wary of governmental power, felt an agrarian society would be better able to avoid the necessity for a strong and active government. One of Jefferson's most famous sayings was: "That government is best which governs least."

Since the early days of the nation, these two opposing views have remained a part of our public philosophy.

During the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century, a Jeffersonian tide was running strongly. This was when America's transformation to an industrial society was proceeding most rapidly. As the more the rural way of life faded, the more exalted became the agrarian ideal.

The predominance of the Jeffersonian view of government in this era (at least with regard to social welfare) was reinforced, moreover, by two other ideas that were fashionable in the 19th century. One was the economic theory known as lassez faire, which held that economic progress is best achieved if competitive forces are given free play. The responsibility of government, accordingly, was only to ensure the maximum of freedom for private enterprise, which, of course, foreclosed government activity in the area of social welfare.

The other idea was Social Darwinism--the application of Charles Darwin's theory of biological evolution to social relations. Social Darwinism found in the theory of evolution a vision of life as a relentless struggle for "survival of the fittest." In effect, they saw in it a scientific justification for the doctrine of "every man for himself." While this was admittedly a harsh doctrine, its defenders claimed that it was nonetheless the mechanism by which society progressed. By implication, of course, government must not undertake to ameliorate hardship or protect the citizens against economic hazards for fear of frustrating the "natural" evolution of society.

(Ironic in that many of today's Republicans don't believe in the theory of evolution, but do subscribe to Darwin's principal regarding social programs.)

The progressives were divided among themselves over what kind of measures the Government should take to bring about reforms. The reformers advocated only those measures which would do away with industrial abuses and restore the older way of life. In fact, a significant debate over the Jeffersonian versus the Hamiltonian approach took place in the Presidential election of 1912.

Woodrow Wilson (a leader of the Progressive Movement and a Democrat in 1912 subscribing to the Jeffersonian philosophy) advocated measures intended "to sweep away special privileges and artificial barriers to the development of individual energies and to preserve and restore competition in business."

One of his opponents, Theodore Roosevelt (leader of the Republican Party and founder of the short-lived Progressive Party of 1912 and subscribing to the Hamiltonian philosophy) called for a broad range of positive social welfare programs.

Theodore Roosevelt's "New Nationalism" was savagely attacked by Woodrow Wilson who was antagonistic to measures such as social insurance. Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912, so any such action by the Federal Government had to await until the great shift in the public philosophy that would accompany the New Deal.

Theodore Roosevelt was the one and only (and perhaps the last) Republican president that endorsed government healthcare. In 2009 President Obama had aligned himself with the GOP hero on the issue of health care, and PolitiFact also found this to be true.

"Since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform nearly a century ago, we have talked and we have tinkered. We have tried and fallen short, we've stalled for time, and again we have failed to act because of Washington politics or industry lobbying."

Between 1917 and 1920 there was a dramatic polarization of opinion among key interest groups, a polarization that would persist largely unchanged throughout the subsequent 45 years of national debate on this issue.

In 1917 the lobbying group, the National Association of Manufacturers' [Committee on Industrial Betterment] declared that "sickness is not a problem for the community as a whole" and that Government health insurance was not "necessary, wise, or desirable." (Just like today.)

The most forceful opposition came from lobbyists for the insurance and the pharmaceutical industries and launched public campaigns to mobilize public opinion against the proposal. (Just like today.)

And although the idea of government health insurance was popular among the rank-and-file of labor unions, the AFL did not officially endorse the principles of social insurance until 1932.

In subsequent rounds of the Government health insurance debate there would be a gradual change in the position of the President - - from being opposed (Woodrow Wilson) and for (Teddy Roosevelt), to being friendly but noncommittal (Franklin Roosevelt), to being an active supporter (Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson).

A Republican once loved the notion of "Medicare", but 100 years later the Republicans have been trying to kill it. And the very same forces at work that were opposing Medicare ("government healthcare") since 1912 , are still at work today...lobbyists on behalf of large corporations.

While one can argue that corporations (businesses) are good because they provide jobs, it's actually people who really create jobs with "demand", and businesses (corporations) only provide the "supply". But we have to get over the notion that corporations are good just because they provide jobs, when jobs are only the by-products of a corporation's drive to create maximum profits. Corporations don't exist to provide jobs, but to create wealth for those who govern them.

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich was speaking at the "Summit For A Fair Economy" in Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 10, 2011 and debunks the Republican myth that "debt is to be avoided and it is mostly caused by Medicare. (Not if debt is properly used to grow the economy. It becomes a smaller part of the budget because of increased revenue, and Medicare has the lowest overhead of any health insurance plan out there.) See the video Robert Reich debunks The Big 6 GOP Lies

As of 1964 there were still lingering doubts about the prospects for Medicare, but they were dispelled by the outcome of the 1964 election. President Johnson was returned to office by the largest plurality in history, carrying in on his coattails the biggest congressional majorities since President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal days during the Great Depression.

In the House, the Democrats picked up 38 seats, to give the Party a margin of 295-140. In the Senate, where the Democrats already had held a lopsided 66-34 majority, the party gained two more seats. The long-standing Democratic commitment to Medicare was well known, and President Johnson's oft-repeated vow to give the measure top priority if elected underscored this commitment.

(Pictured below) In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare bill at the Truman Library and gave the first two Medicare cards to Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess to honor his fight for government health care as president - the first Chief Executive to endorse health insurance under social security.

And the Republicans have wanted to kill Medicare and Social Security ever since.

That's why I've often wondered, with all we've learned since the financial collapse of 2008, the birth of the Tea Party in 2009, and the debate over ObamaCare®, why Republican voters (whether they like Obama or not, and/or agree with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), why they would continue to vote Republican - - - even knowing full well that Republican leaders are still aggressively trying to cut and/or eliminate Medicare entirely - - - when just two years ago Republican voters and Tea Party members had feared losing Medicare. (See: The Tea Party Loved Medicare, before they Hated It)

Why are Republican voters still voting against their own best interests? To me, it's a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

I'm perplexed as to why any working-class stiff (especially those in the lower income brackets) would vote against his or her own best interest and vote for a political party that clearly only represents corporate and wealthy interests (such as tax breaks for the rich and huge government contracts for conglomerates such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Boeing (defense spending versus Medicare spending).

But I'm not the only one: There are those in the field of psychology who were also perplexed enough to research this phenomenon and tried making sense as to WHY people willingly hurt themselves and their families in this political conundrum.

Perhaps armed with some answers to this riddle, those who vote against their own best interests will be able to open their eyes and realize, they are doing themselves in, little by little, Republican by Republican.

From his article "What Makes People Vote Republican?" by Jonathan Haidt, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, writes: "Conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate."

And the Republicans know this, and they have always played on those fears, to gain political power and control for their corporate masters.

PolitiFact has assigned "Pants on Fire" or "False" ratings to 39% of Republican statements compared to just 12% of Democrats since January 2010.

And Fox News, the propaganda media arm of the Republican party, uses out-right lies to sway general consensus. A watchdog group called News Hounds monitors this media outlet and dispels many of the deceptive reports Fox News puts out on the air.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Lawrence O'Donnell also do a great job of debunking false reports by Fox News as well. Just keep an open mind, listen carefully, and verify what you read and hear.

A New York City "99er" by the name of Yvonne (who is very active in the Occupy Wall Street movement) also moderates a Facebook group at and has a Twitter account at!/stopfox that scrutinizes the Fox News "reporting". (There are other Facebook groups but too numerous to list.)

According to USA Today the most recent report of the independent Social Security Trustees says that "the trust fund is currently in surplus and growing. Even though Social Security began collecting less in taxes than it paid in benefits in 2010, the trust fund will continue to accrue interest and grow until 2025, and will have adequate resources to pay full benefits for the next 26 years.

For years, the surpluses in the Social Security trust fund have helped to mask our deficits elsewhere. Now that we are paying Social Security back, the problem is not with Social Security, but with the rest of the budget. In 2001 and 2003, Washington cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and later expanded Medicare D [the prescription drug program for corporations] without paying for it. Then they gave us two un-funded wars.

"Blaming Social Security for our fiscal woes is like blaming you for not saving enough in your checking account because the bank lost all depositors' money."

When the Republicans say they want a balanced budget, they just want YOU cut out of the budget.

It's the same as when the Republicans blame 14 million Americans for being jobless, calling them lazy, and accusing them of being alcoholics or drug addicts, and then saying they're just "gaming the system" to collect a government "hand out". But then they actually admit that there are no jobs when they want to bash the Democrats for a bad economy.

After the last 40 years, anyone with any common sense should know how the economy got to where it is today, and with the Republicans de-regulating the banks, that didn't help much either. (And today they still coddle them!)

The Republicans don't represent the American workers (or the unemployed workers), just the interests of large corporations and the wealthiest 1%. So why do so many Republican voters keep voting for Republicans? Are they really that afraid? And if so, of what? Their neighbors, who are also patriotic Americans?

Low Corporate Taxes = Excessive CEO Salaries

It doesn't matter what a corporation pays in taxes as compared to GDP, or how it's compared to any other index of measure (to skew the numbers), it's what they actually pay to the U.S. Treasury after loopholes (aka "deductions") that matters most. And for the last 25 years corporations have actually paid historically low taxes.

While today some corporations may have paid the maximum rate of 35% (when it was over 50% in the 1950s), many others paid ZERO, with the average being only 18%.

The same can be said for their CEOs and other high-income earners. While although the top bracket is also almost historically low (at 35%, when it was once over 90%), what they actually pay is nearer to 15% because the majority of their income is earned through capital gains.

And because corporations have been paying a low effective corporate tax rate for decades, that didn't keep them from outsourcing jobs overseas for cheap labor, but rather, it did enable them to pay very excessive CEO salaries...who only mostly pay 15% in federal income taxes on their capital gains.


  1. What Occupy Wall Street Has Taught Me - by Alec Baldwin

    "Some financially successful people continually remind us all that capitalism is a contest, with winners and losers. And the winners want to enjoy their success and they want the losers to keep it down. The noise of the vanquished is spoiling the victors' fun. But what if unemployment were to rise, say, to 20 percent? There won't be enough cops anywhere in this country to rip down all the tents that are going to pop up in places you never imagined if we hit that figure."

    The Lessons of Ohio - by Richard Trumka

    "Cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires, scapegoating working Americans and their unions and downsizing Social Security and Medicare may get you a standing ovation from the 1%, but the voters who decide elections will not be fooled -- and you may just get more than you bargained for."

  2. The Republican deal...

    $300 billion in taxes for $4 trillion in cuts

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers suggested Republicans would be willing to raise certain taxes to shrink the deficit, as long as the debt-cutting super committee "goes big" and seeks a package of savings worth at least $4 trillion, The lead Republican on the supper committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), has suggested the GOP would be willing to raise $300 billion in revenue through tax reform, which would mean the rest of the savings would have to come from spending cuts and programs like Social Security.