Self-Interest Always Beats Empty Theories

Ideas and Issues

February 20, 2021

            Pearl River     Man, it’s hard being an ideologue these days. You have to feel for them, truly you do. Combine failed dogma with politicians trying to reverse gears from the “anything for Trump” days to the “nothing for Biden” times, when sometimes they are talking about the same programs, like the stimulus money, and they sure have a problem. It turns out for the American public, not just the electeds, self-interest beats empty theories, forked tongues, and on-the-one-hand and on-the-other hand positions pretty badly. Sorry, Charlie, people want – and need – more money now. So do their schools, their local and state governments, and a long line of other folks.

The Times reports that more than 7 in 10 Americans now back Mr. Biden’s aid package, according to new polling from the online research firm SurveyMonkey for The New York Times. That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, 2 in 5 Republicans and nearly all Democrats. The overall support for the bill is even larger than the substantial majority of voters who said in January that they favored an end-of-year economic aid bill signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

It will be interesting to see the list of Republicans willing to jump on their own swords to oppose this bill as it moves ever more quickly towards passage.

More bad news, people also really want to have a job, and don’t like being unemployed. Most of us would think that for the Republicans, that’s good news. Isn’t that what the ideologues on the right have been arguing without much pushback for decades, despite the shortages of gainful employment. The problem now, according to most surveys, is that Americans like the idea that the government should provide them a job, if there are none out there in the private sector, when eleven million unemployed are still trying to find one. Worse for the ideologues, most Americans aren’t embarrassed working for a fair wage for the government, as opposed to an embarrassingly low wage in the gig economy or what might be left still open behind a Waffle House grill sling hash or something. Public works sound like a win in these circumstances.

As the strain of the virus lingers and people wait for a vaccination and have fever dreams about herd immunity some fine day, the realization that the shadow and circumstances of the pandemic could last minimally through 2024, another more than three years, is bad news for ideologues. A prominent economist argued recently that the economic impact of the pandemic could last another seventy years – think about that one!

The impact of this pandemic, like that of other major disasters, is going to mean some reordering of priorities and fundamental changes, even if we can’t be certain today which ones are temporary and which are permanent. Nonetheless, it is become a safer and surer bet that people in pain want relief, not theories, and expect their government to deliver, not just talk about it, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.