The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Electorate, As a Whole, Punishes People Who Tell Them the Truth

A portion of the Tuesday Morning Jolt is spurred by a column from Matt Walsh, contending that the vast majority of Trump fans demonstrate an insane double standard when it comes to “straight shooting” and “telling it like it is”…

The Electorate, As a Whole, Punishes People Who Tell Them the Truth

After the 2012 election, Ross Douthat offered the grim suggestion that the lesson for candidates was to always endorse the bailout of an industry – particularly one like the auto industry – and never, ever discuss entitlement reform. Never talk about taking something away, always talk about giving people more.

Why do people think Republicans want to reform entitlement programs? Because we’re mean? Because we like taking things away from people? No, because the programs are unsustainable. Down the road, too much money goes out, and not enough money comes in. We’re proposing these ideas because these programs have to be saved for the people who really need them to get by. Trying to solve the whole problem through tax hikes on a shrinking workforce would be a formula for economic disaster.

(Notice our friends on the Left insist we need to make far-reaching, sweeping changes to prevent a two-degree change in temperature in the year 2100, but they refuse to consider means-testing, raising the retirement age, or private retirement accounts to prevent Social Security from using up their funds of money in 2034.)

Conservatives – at least certain factions of this philosophy – are usually trying to persuade people to think ahead and contemplate the long term. Have a decent savings rate and a rainy day fund. (Revel in the wonders of compound interest!) Stay in school. Get married and raise children. If you want peace, prepare for war.

The problem is that human beings aren’t great at long-term thinking, and the dominant culture of the United States in the year 2016 seems particularly bad for it.

The vast majority of the public says they support a balanced budget; the vast majority refuse to consider anything close to the level of cuts needed to get us there:

No – but try telling that to the American public. According to the poll, on average, Americans estimate that foreign aid takes up 10 percent of the federal budget, and one in five think it represents about 30 percent of the money the government spends. But the actual figure is closer to one percent, according to data from the Office of Management and Budget from the 2010 fiscal year’s $3.5 trillion budget.

OK. Let’s try more low-hanging fruit – funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Our survey indicates nearly half of all Americans would like to see major cuts.

According to our poll the public estimates that the government spent five percent of its budget last year on public television and radio.

Not even close. The real answer is about one-tenth of one percent.

The electorate wants someone to tell it that the answers are easy, that no sacrifice is needed and everything’s going to turn out all right. Obamacare is going to save your family $2,500 a year! The stimulus is going to bring unemployment down to 7 percent by 2010! Here comes “Recovery Summer!” Osama bin Laden is dead and GM is alive! We can bring all of our troops home from Iraq and nothing that happens over there will ever affect our lives again!

Then when things don’t turn out as they expected, they flail around looking for scapegoats. 

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