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Economic self interest? With a massive national debt, money being shipped by the TRILLIONS overseas, and a balance of trade DEFICIT?

Get real.

Like most people who spent some time in Pennsylvania, I'm a rational person.

Stand up for America and stand against the Greed Over Principles 19 percent deadenders!

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 8, 2008 3:43 PM

If he's living off capital gains, then he should care about a strong economy. The Republicans have demonstrated that they can't deliver that.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 8, 2008 3:44 PM

Sounds right. But if you are thinking long-term, you could say that running the country for the common good will also benefit rich people. Good systems create wealth. The Bush tax cuts help a few people preserve their wealth, but they are probably an impediment to the creation of new wealth. As is everything else Bush has done.

Posted by yuiop | April 8, 2008 3:48 PM

economic self interest and rational economic decision making are two different things to be sure;

but lets get real here, you cant say that what is rational for you is rational for me. and even rational decisions can and often times are wrong.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 3:49 PM

What Bellevue Ave said.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 8, 2008 3:51 PM

BTB- GF and I will be there on Thursday Poe. There will booze consumed!

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 3:53 PM

Um, why'd you edit the headline? Now it makes no sense!

Posted by NaFun | April 8, 2008 4:06 PM

Voting Democrat is actually much, much better for your economic self-interest. See, a stable economy, a reduction in the massive federal debt, an end to deficit spending and giveaways to corporations and rich individuals, no more hemorrhaging money on the Iraq war, repaired infrastructure, all of those things have significant tangible benefits for US taxpayers. So if you're actually honest and account for more than just the numbers on your W-2, voting Democrat suddenly becomes a sound financial choice.

Posted by Greg | April 8, 2008 4:09 PM

Voting against your economic self interest when your rich is one thing. Doing it when your poor is another.

Posted by Giffy | April 8, 2008 4:19 PM

@9 - Thank you Giffy, i was wondering if anyone was going to bring some sense to these comments. There is NO similarity at all between someone making a vote that is going to mean one less humvee in the driveway and someone making a vote for less FOOD IN THEIR CHILD's STOMACH.

Also, i am pretty sure there are a lot of rich Republuican voters out there, voting what they think is in their best interest, and not having any clue that it may be part of the reason it isnt safe for them to leave their gated community.

It all comes down to whether you believe our country is best served helping those in need, or helping those who have way way way more than they need. That choice is pretty easy if you arent an idiot or a greedy asshole. trickle down economics indeed.

Posted by longball | April 8, 2008 4:29 PM

That makes sense. People who rely less on the system, should have to give more to it. Because people work hard in order to help other people. It would be a beautiful thing if that was how humans actually behaved, but from an evolutionary point of view it goes completely against human nature. Tax the rich to the point where making more doesn't translate to having more. That would be an interesting experiment to see what happens to human behavior. I hypothesize that the more you socialize the crappier the american work ethic becomes.

Again, it would be nice it humans could behave humanly, and idealistically. But we have to see ourselves for what we really are, and plan accordingly.

Posted by DW | April 8, 2008 4:30 PM

Capital gains, like any tax that discourages saving and investing, is a bad tax. It amounts to double taxation. It would be better to have a national consumption tax.

Posted by crazycatguy | April 8, 2008 4:37 PM

how much does anyone really neeeeeeeed?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 4:39 PM

crazy cat guy, capital gains tax isnt a double tax. you don't include capital gains into your income tax but your capital gains rate is dependent on your income tax bracket.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 4:41 PM

I think the point of "What's the Matter with Kansas?" is that going against your economic self-interest is a much bigger deal when you're barely scraping by. Going against your economic self-interest (in the narrow way this is framed - the 15% capital gains tax) hardly means the same thing to Warren Buffet or even Dan Savage than it does to your typical pro-forced pregancy voter in Kansas.

Posted by bobbo | April 8, 2008 4:41 PM


See ya there. I'll have a Jew stapled to me.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 8, 2008 4:44 PM

DW @ 11,

Uh, have you ever looked into what life is like for people in Europe? Especially places like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, etc. that have some of the world's highest taxes and also the happiest population and best quality of life.

The money shot:

"We have high taxes but we have generous unemployment benefits, a lot of life-long learning. We feel secure and we feel that we have opportunities.

"We have a lot of faith in government as an institution. The authorities are normally competent, uncorrupt and approachable."

Posted by Original Andrew | April 8, 2008 4:44 PM

Original Andrew, Have you ever considered that what works in nordic countries wont work here, not even because of a lack of trying but because of complete and utter differences in logistics, size and demographics and culture?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 4:48 PM

I dont get it poe, are you dating a jew now?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 4:50 PM

like the bumpersticker says: everyone does better when everyone does better.

Posted by konstantconsumer | April 8, 2008 4:51 PM


Maybe it would be a good thing for American to pull back on the work ethic a little and, you know, actually enjoy life.

I'm not a typical bleeding heart by any means. I prefer programs that help people get out of poverty vs. the government cutting poor people a check every month. But, we have to have a progressive taxation system in this country. That's the only way to get ourselves out of debt and maintain our infrastructure, and the only way we'll ever see universal health care.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 8, 2008 4:52 PM

I'm with Dan. I do pretty well for myself and I think those of us who can--should be doing what we can to level the playing field for those who aren't as fortunate. I can actually afford to pay my taxes, and some people out there can't afford their groceries. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. And fuck all-y'all who disagree. Heh. (kidding) (kind of)

Posted by Carollani | April 8, 2008 4:59 PM

Bellevue Ave @ 18,

Well, you can look at Canada, our largest trading partner with whom we're closest to geographically and financially, for a good example of a country that has a very diverse population but also has real universal health care, high education, long life expectancy and high living standards, less of a gap between rich and poor, higher taxes than the US and social services that are the envy of much of the world.

There are a dozen countries in Europe that have similar social welfare systems. They work well there, so why not here?

Can you name one country that successfully follows the extreme libertarian capitalism promoted in the US?

Posted by Original Andrew | April 8, 2008 5:08 PM

Well I'm right in the fucking middle and neither party does much for my economic self interest, well, at least not immediately. No kids, no mortgage, no joint income, and not a single damn write-off. I make a pretty damn good living too, err... well, if I lived anywhere but SF I would, but in reality I'm at the bottom of the middle here, or, at the top of the bottom, it's hard to say. I pay a SHIT TON of taxes too, all things considered, probably more of my salary than average, and I STILL think George Bush's "stimulus package" (Hi-yo!), probably the only tax law that is immediately affecting me, is a bunch of bullshit.

Posted by Dougsf | April 8, 2008 5:25 PM

How convenient it is for libertarians and conservatives that so few Americans hold passports or do much traveling abroad, and thus don't realize that the rest of the world's developed nations are, in fact, often nearly the opposite of the miserable shithole that libertarians and conservatives assure them they are.

Posted by tsm | April 8, 2008 5:29 PM


Indeed. Very much so. With latkes on the side.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 8, 2008 5:32 PM

@24 - wrong. The Dems do more for you.

Only the ultra-rich are doing better under Bush. The merely rich are doing about as well as they always do, and everyone who is middle class is getting screwed six ways to Sunday.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 8, 2008 5:43 PM

#11 - If you believe that humans make rational calculations to serve their immediate economic self-interest at all times, and that this is somehow what evolution requires, please read Stephen Pinker's article from the NYT a few months ago for the baby-talk version of why that's wrong - If you want to dip into more formal treatments, check out the work of people like Pinker, Karl Polanyi, Martin Daly & Margo Wilson, and Amartya Sen.

Posted by Sister Y | April 8, 2008 6:05 PM

#27 Will - I'm more likely to agree with that than had you said Republicans, but I certainly can't think of anything quantifiable to support that opinion. I'm happy to pay my share, but this close to tax time, our system of "we'll take it all, then you come beg for some of it back, but oh yeah we need just a little bit more" doesn't leave me with anything great to say about either party regarding my personal tax situation.

Posted by Dougsf | April 8, 2008 6:25 PM

How refreshingly honest Dan, thank you. From those that don't have to worry about capital gains taxes.

Posted by 2LesMoms | April 8, 2008 7:54 PM

@18 @23

yup social democracy a priori conclusions from theories doesn't prove jack. Strong social programs, strong nanny state, higher taxes, socialized health care, strong government investment, etc. is found in many cultures including
Most of Europe
hey look at Portugal and Ireland and Spain join the ranks of the just, rich societies now that they are in the EU....

See a pattern? Similar policies work the same across divers cultures and nations.

Note this too: they all have strong national gun control that works pretty good, too.

Economic self interest:
the rich people in these countries aren't exactly all movign somewhere else. There is no low tax nation that most people would want to move to. So having higher taxes or the "right amount" of taxes is in the self interest of the rich as well as the poor....who wants to be rich in Colombia where you you can avoid most taxes but you have to have armed guards take your kids to their private school and you live in fear? Or in Rio where if rich you just can't go in most neighborhoods?

WE all in it together a bit more than some people think.

Posted by unPC | April 8, 2008 8:12 PM

If you have a retirement fund that's invested in mutual funds, you do indeed have capital, and depending on the type of retirement fund, you may be exposed to capital gains taxes. More likely though, it'll be taxed as ordinary income.

Posted by Gitai | April 8, 2008 8:26 PM

What kills me is when people who have gotten rich in non-traditional ways - counter-culturally - turn Republican when the bank account gets big enough. I hear Tiger Woods is a Republican now. It happens with rock stars, too. It's like they're saying, "Oh forget about all that stuff I stood for when I was broke and struggling. I have dough now - and that's what's really important."

Posted by Bauhaus | April 8, 2008 8:40 PM

I totally agree with you about the happiness responses being higher in those nordic countries that have higher taxation. But you also have to consider the homogeneity of those countries. It's much easier to please the masses when you're all similar. Whereas in the US you have an extremely diverse group of people, and getting them to agree how to spend their money is almost impossible.

That's kind of the purpose of having states. Each region of the country has different values, cultures, priorities. But then you have places like Israel and Denmark which are very socialized, but they're also about the size of a state. If you tried to combine the two into one country you would have huge issues. Sure they're both highly socialize, but how they deal with things like abortion are totally different. Having a unifying culture is the reason socialism is able to work.

Look at things like monasteries and similar organizations. People can "support the group" because the group has specific interests common with each other. It's easy to have people give you their money/energy/time when they know it's going to a cause they support.

As for the extreme capitalism, there haven't been many other examples of it in history other than the US. And whether people like to admit it or not we are still the number one world power and have the most economic power, recession or not. And our unique economy is a main reason for that.

I just don't think socialism is a realistic model to try to implement in our country because of our huge cultural diversity. Plus, I also think socialism runs the risk of killing advances in given industries because of the loss of an environment of competition.

Posted by @ Original Andrew | April 8, 2008 9:21 PM

yeah I fucked that post up. obviously I wrote that (#34) directed @ Original Andrew.

Posted by DW | April 8, 2008 9:22 PM

Sister Y @ 28

Well actually, being a good evolutionary biologist I don't believe people base their rational decision making based off what's economically beneficial for them. They base everything on sex! And some of the most "moral" and selfless acts can have the greatest benefit to their fitness (genes passed on). I'm not saying that this is why people do what they do. Just some of these behaviors/tendencies have a history of being adaptive depending on the environment. Of course that doesn't guarantee that these "moral" people will reproduce. But unfortunately those moral genes could very well then be lost.

Posted by DW | April 8, 2008 9:49 PM


The fact still remains that you can't run a huge, rich country like the United States without a lot of fucking money. The most logical place to get that money is from people who have a lot of disposable income. As the tax burden keeps getting passed onto the middle class more and more, we've been seeing even basic things like infrastructure (that all except the most loony libertarians agree the government should take care of) start to crumble.

Taxing the poor and middle class == a shithole country. There's pretty much no exception to this rule.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 8, 2008 10:43 PM


I agree that in order to solve the deficit problems one of two things needs to be done; increase taxes - and targeting the richer makes more sense because smaller increases go a longer way - or, cut spending which may mean closing some government programs.

The question is, is it fair to increase the income taxes of the people whom lots of the programs don't directly benefit. You at the very least can't blame them for being resistant.

I would say that a luxury sales tax may be more appropriate . Because if their money is so "disposable" then they wouldn't mind having the price of their luxuries hiked up. As opposed to telling people, "You don't need all that money that you earned, therefore we're going give it to someone else." At least give the people the option to choose how they spend their money. Live an upper class life, but help others in the mean time, or live like everyone else and keep more of the money you earned. I just have issues with people's money being taken away just because they make more of it. It also seems like a negative reinforcement to working hard and making more money.

Posted by DW | April 8, 2008 11:41 PM

Consider the long-term effects of a decision to vote Republican. If wealth- and dollar-conscious Republicans knew that in 2008, they'd be facing a record budget deficit, record trade deficits, a monumentally weak dollar, a national recession, a burst housing bubble, a trillion-dollar war, and a host of other economic woes, would they have voted Republican?

Voting against one economic self-interest (the capital gains tax) to support other economic self-interests (responsible foreign and trade policies) is not extraordinary.

Posted by Ryan | April 9, 2008 7:54 AM

@36, there's good evidence that moral behavior IS adaptive for social animals like people - cooperating leads to better survival and reproductive prospects than non-cooperation (leading, for instance, to more sex, which is part of the reproductive success story, but not all of it, especially for women). The adaptiveness of morality explains why the rate of sociopathy in humans is consistently only 1% to 3%, across all societies.

Posted by Sister Y | April 9, 2008 10:05 AM


Yep, totally agree about "moral" behavior being sometimes adaptive. But shouldn't someone not get anything from performing "true altruism?" Wouldn't benefitting from your actions call into question just how selfless you're acting.

Some people are capable of acting totally selflessly, and in reality are not benefitting at all. It is the non-adaptive application of these behaviors that I think most would consider "true altruism." But I would also argue that these cases are far and few. Studies have shown that animals that act "kindly" or "selflessly" are in reality giving themselves a reputation as someone dependable to raise children with.

Humans are programmed to worry about themselves first, and others when appropriate and depending on who they are. I think it's important to recognize this reality. I'm not saying this is ALWAYS true, for EVERY individual. But when developing a program that requires the effort of the masses, it's something that needs to be thought about.

Then there is the whole question about "what is morality?" Something that biology doesn't attempt to define. Just because something is adaptive doesn't mean it's moral. But I think I've digressed far enough in this comments section.

Posted by DW | April 9, 2008 2:59 PM

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