Everywhere you look, somebody or other is accusing republicans of "voting against their own self-interest." It's on TV, in print media, and all over the internet. Why, it sounds like you could practically call it waging war on self-interest!
But what does it mean? What are people really trying to say when they play the 'voting against one's self-interest' card?
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but "self-interest" seems to be a pretty euphemism for "other people's money." Voting for the people who promise you more of someone else's stuff, instead of the people who want you to keep more of your own stuff, is all the rage across the land. And really, what's the harm? Richie Rich has way more money than he needs, so why not take it from him? Why would anyone vote against that kind of "self-interest"?
We could start with "because it's excruciatingly unethical." Yes, that's right, boys and girls of the collective. I'm going to throw down the gauntlet and challenge your ethics. The law says you can vote yourself a lifetime supply of free cheese and beer at someone else's expense, and then vote for someone else to pay for your triple bypass and liver transplant too. But is that ethical behavior? Just because the system says you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD. So yeah, paying your own way is more ethical than robbing Richie to pay for 100 strangers whose only claim on his assets is that they want them.
The next problem is that those 100 strangers haven't earned that money, and Richie did. Speaking only for myself, I don't want other people's money. The "self-interest" shock is that more people don't feel that way.
How demoralizing must it be to have government and society at large telling you that you kinda suck, you can't make it on your own, and the government knows better than you how to spend your money? There's a reason that entrepreneurs are happy, and lottery winners are miserable. There is no satisfaction in wandering into a 7 Eleven and buying the right combination of numbers on the right day. There is immense satisfaction in being the dude who designed the machines that every 7 Eleven in the country uses to sell those slips of paper.
This raises another serious downer aspect of the entitlement mentality. It is completely devoid of optimism. The "someday it could be you" factor is why people invent stuff in their garages, or play their twelve-string guitar in dumpy smoke-filled clubs. And after you go through the lean times, do you really want to become an ATM machine for the Hooked On Lottery crowd?
But let's go back to Richie for a moment. Richie Rich OWES that money, doesn't he? I mean, to paraphrase Elizabeth Warren, he didn't do it alone. He took more than his fair share, otherwise he wouldn't be rich, right?
Well, not really. First of all, in what universe is it "unfair" that some people made better use of that which is available to everybody than others did? And secondly, when did it become a crime punishable by asset forfeiture to be born with advantages?
Those advantages are the luck of the draw. Some people are smarter than others, some are more attractive than others, some are raised by married parents and some are raised by single parents, some are born into wealth and some into poverty, some are taught how to set and accomplish goals and some are not. The list goes on and on. Unless we are ready to tell stupid, ugly, poor, unaccomplished people that they can't have children, these disparities will always exist.
But that's not the belly laugh here. The giggle-fest comes from the notion that Richie Rich should pay more in taxes because he uses more in public services. Sorry, Joe, but it just ain't so.
To illustrate this point, let us compare two zip codes. One is 90210 - 2010 census data at http://www.movoto.com/neighborhood/ca/beverly-hills/90210.htm . Do you know where that is? Of course you do. It's Beverly Hills. (It is horribly sad that more people know a California zip code than know what the three branches of the federal government are, but I digress.) The other zip code is 90220 - data at http://www.movoto.com/neighborhood/ca/compton/90220.htm . That's Compton.
Who is the bigger drain on public services? The 90210ers, who are mostly top 10% income earners? Or the 90220ers, who are mostly the bottom 10% set?
Let's start with police services. The vast majority of 90210 crimes are larceny and burglary. These are pretty much non-911 crimes unless the victims are home during the burglary. Even then, most of them have a home security system with someone monitoring it, which takes the load off the po-po. The majority of crimes in 90220 are robbery, aggravated assault, and auto theft. Emergency situations, emergency services, except for the auto theft. That's only an emergency situation if you happen to be in the car when it is co-opted for the greater good of Compton. The pie chart failed to differentiate between the two, but in any case, losing your ride to work is a bigger deal than losing Grandma's pearls, so the police prioritize "no wheels" over "no pearls."
Moving on to transportation, the 90210 denizens drive their cars to work. The 90220 folks utilize substantially more public transportation. Public transportation is heavily subsidized with tax dollars. So, gas taxes for filling up the Benz, and the nominal wear and tear on the roads, versus dollar bus rides that in fact cost five or ten dollars. Who is using more public resources?
The majority of 90210 immigrants are from Asia and eastern Europe. Most of the 90220 immigrants hail from Mexico and points south. The 90210 kids learn English, go to college, and become doctors or robotics gurus or physicists. The 90220 kids occasionally do that as well, but so infrequently that it's a major anomaly when it happens. Which set of immigrants' children places a greater strain on the school system?
I could go on, but you get my point. 90210 doesn't drain the public coffers like 90220 does. And yet, 65% of 90210 households make more than $75,000 a year. 88% of 90220 households make less than $75,000 a year. Off the top of your head, which group do you think is paying more in income and other taxes?
To sum it all up, we have ethics, optimism, and practical mathematics on the side of not voting for the politicians who want to steal your money and give it to someone else. And on the other side, we have the "I should have it because I WAAANNNTTT it!" crowd. If self-interest is all about being unethical, pessimistic, and arithmetically inept, then as far as I'm concerned, you can stuff your "self-interest" where the sun doesn't shine.