Red brain, blue brain: Does political affiliation reflect intelligence?

By Ronald Bailey

People use reason to convince themselves, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that their side is right and the other side is wrong. That's the conclusion of a new study by the Yale Cultural Cognition Project, an academic group that studies how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs, headed by law and psychology professor Dan Kahan. To explore the sources of ideological polarization on subjects such as climate change, gun violence, and nuclear power, Kahan and his team devised and tested three theories:

The public irrationality thesis. Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman argues that humans employ two different cognitive systems to evaluate new information. The first uses fast rules of thumb– heuristics that are triggered by emotional reactions to new situations– while the second relies on slower, systematic reasoning. People adopt many rules of thumb from groups with whom they share cultural or ideological commitments. This theory implies that when people are challenged with new information or arguments, they find it quicker and easier to believe what their peers believe.

The Republican brain hypothesis. This idea relies on research that shows a negative correlation between political conservatism and the traits of open-mindedness and critical reflection. Those findings suggest that conservative cognition asymmetrically relies on fast rules of thumb to make decisions and that conservatives are less likely than liberals to engage in cognitive reflection. Consequently, while liberals evaluate information with the aim of developing useful public policies, mule-stubborn conservatives dismiss discomforting scientific facts and spend their time just 'standing athwart history yelling Stop.'

The expressive rationality thesis. Perhaps beliefs about issues such as the riskiness of climate change or nuclear power constitute part of what it means for people to belong to specific groups. Shared beliefs form part of their identities. People assess new information so that their conclusions signal their trustworthiness and loyalty to social groups.

Both the public irrationality thesis and the Republican brain hypothesis claim that ideological polarization arises from overreliance on cognitive rules of thumb. In the case of expressive rationality, people who are good at cognitive reflection will be better able to rationalize their beliefs in the face of any contrary evidence. If liberals really are more inclined toward cognitive reflection, Kahan writes, that implies they 'are all the more likely to succeed in resisting evidence that challenges the factual premises of their preferred policy positions.'

The Yale researchers asked 1,600 Americans to place themselves on a continuum stretching from 'strong Democrat' through 'independent' to 'strong Republican.' Next they were asked if they considered themselves 'very liberal,' 'liberal,' 'moderate,' 'conservative,' or 'very conservative.' Once sorted by partisanship and ideology, the participants completed a short cognitive reflection test.

Then Kahan used something like this three-question cognitive reflection test devised by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers: 1) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? 2) If it takes five machines five minutes to make five widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? 3) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half the lake? (Answers below.)

Once participants had completed the cognitive reflection test, they were divided into three experimental groups. In the first group, subjects were told that 'psychologists believe the questions you have just answered measure how reflective and open-minded someone is.' In the second group, subjects were told that people who are not skeptical of climate change tended to get more answers correct. The third group was told the opposite, i.e., climate-change skeptics got more answers right. Then each group was asked how valid they thought the test was as a measure of open-mindedness.

Recent polling finds that conservatives are more likely than liberals to be skeptical about man-made global warming. Thus the Republican brain hypothesis would predict that right-wing subjects would be more inclined to see the cognitive reflection test as valid when told it suggests that climate-change skeptics are more open-minded. On the flip side, if left-wing subjects really are more natively reflective, their assessment of the test's validity should not depend much on the putative correlation between one's score and one's views regarding climate change.

The public irrationality thesis predicts that motivated reasoning, i.e., jumping to conclusions congenial to one's social group, will be more common among people who score low on cognitive reflection, no matter their ideological biases. Unlike both the public irrationality and the Republican brain hypotheses, the expressive rationality thesis predicts that the higher people score on cognitive reflection, the more their assessments of the test's validity will turn on their prior ideological commitments, whether they lean left or right. The idea is that the ideologically motivated flatter themselves with the belief that people who share their views are more open-minded than those who do not.

So what did Kahan and his colleagues find? First of all, it turns out that conservatives and liberals score about equally badly on the cognitive reflection test: 64 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats got all three questions wrong. In fact, the difference between the two groups of partisans is less than the difference in scores associated with education, gender, and race. Recall that the Republican brain hypothesis predicted that cognitive reflection would be negatively correlated with right-wing ideology. "This hypothesis is not confirmed," concludes Kahan.

Furthermore, both liberals and conservatives displayed ideological bias when assessing the validity of the cognitive reflection test. When climate-change skeptics were characterized as open-minded, Republicans thought the test was nifty. When skeptics were branded as closed-minded, more Democrats found the test results convincing. Ideology distorts both left-wing and right-wing thinking.

Were high scorers more or less likely to be politically polarized? The researchers found that the higher either conservatives or liberals scored on cognitive reflection, the more likely they were to judge the test as valid when its results supposedly confirmed their ideological views about climate change skeptics. People skilled at systematic reasoning use that capacity to justify their beliefs rather than seek the truth.

Kahan notes that research has found political independents and libertarians score better on cognitive reflection than do liberals or conservatives. But before we brainy libertarians and independents start patting ourselves on our collective backs, could this simply mean that we are especially good at justifying our beliefs to ourselves?

The new Yale study finds that when it comes to thinking about policy-relevant scientific information that challenges their ideological views, liberals, conservatives, and libertarians are inclined to violate physicist Richard Feynman's famous "first principle." As the irreverent genius put it, "You must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool." And the smarter you are, the easier it is to fool yourself.


Ronald Bailey is Reason Magazine's science correspondent and author of "Liberation Biology: A Moral and Scientific Defense of the Biotech Revolution."

*The correct answers to the cognitive reflection test are five cents, five minutes, and 47 days.

Read more on: Ron Bailey

65 comments

I :

- can't classify myself on a "very liberal" to "very conservative" scale. (If someone said are you liberal or conservative, I might say "yes" though).
- can't classify myself as "Democrat" or "Republican," and *won't* say "Independent" b/c in our tiny little dualistic box of a political world most just assume you're in the middle - which I'm not.
- I am not skeptical about climate change
- I got all three answers correct
- I don't think its a good test of "open-mindedness" or "cognitive reflection" - or whatever.

And in the end, I have absolutely no idea what any of that means.

I DO know that I already knew that humans are primarily symbolic and emotional & attachment oriented organisms rather than "rational" and "reasoning" organisms. A world governed by Reasoned persons was a nice dream of Enlightenment philosophers for a while, and it still animates our ideas about political-economy. But it operates more as a hopeful (though taken-for-granted) faith than anything real. So, even though I can't really sort out everything I was supposed to learn from this, I guess nothing about the whole thing surprises me.

So I guess the moral of the story is that if you give tax money to Yale they will waste it on useless info without any conscience and send the bill to our grandchildren to pay back with interest.

I say this test was racially biased. 1. Brothers play Basketball, not baseball. 2. We don't work, the government is our provider. 3. No ponds in the hood.

Brought to you buy the conservative thank tank of amerika.

I think Ponce de Leon shows clearly that, while this study indicates that the "Republican brain hypothesis" might not be a "law," or evidence for it might not achieve statistical significance or something, its got some basis in reality and applies to some people.

So let's see...we live in a political system that assumes the ability of citizens to exercise sound reasoning in political discourse. We have a research center at a highly respected university doing NSF funded research looking at political orientations with regards to the exercise of Reason, and all s/he can come up with is the same tired old conservative republican line we hear about everything - "oh, what a waste of taxpayer dollars." Its like a broken record. Yawn...

I'm a citizen. The NSF has, over the years, provided a great deal of good. I'm glad that some of my tax dollars go to support it. I'm glad this research was funded.

JS The problem is and always has been with liberals ... is that it is not YOUR tax dollars.. it is whomever has to foot the bill when the day of reckoning comes....

At least when Republicans spend money we don't have, they admit they are stealing it.

Since most liberals derive their income off of the government teat in one way or another all of their cognitive thinking is skewed.

Perhaps the reason conservatives are often matter of fact about their positions is that they have an understanding of how money and wealth is created and destroyed. They understand the importance of foundations to a building and that there are risk reward ratios to everything. In the story of the three little pigs it was the pig that built the brick house and the liberal out of straw.

"JS The problem is and always has been with liberals ... is that it is not YOUR tax dollars.. it is whomever has to foot the bill when the day of reckoning comes.... "

Sorry Bill - but that is not "always" a problem, and this "common sense" line that basically comes out of comparing states to household checkbooks is a good simplifying heuristic for the Republican brain. But it is simplifying. How about this - what I learned growing up in a small business family is, on the one hand - don't spend it of you don't got it. But on the other it was "you gotta spend money to make money." I'm not telling you that one or the other is the "right" way. I'm saying that both are true.

- And I am generally a Liberal but not a "liberal". Perhaps you should stop calling anything different from your own thought "liberal." The term has ceased to mean anything.

"Since most liberals derive their income off of the government teat..."

That is a completely ridiculous and false statement. It has become one of the most ridiculous simplifying heuristics for the "Republican brain" which aids in ignoring the real world in favor of the ideological one that exists primarily inside of the head.

"Perhaps the reason conservatives are often matter of fact about their positions is that they have an understanding of how money and wealth is created and destroyed. They understand the importance of foundations to a building and that there are risk reward ratios to everything."

That's also silly. Perhaps many people who are not conservatives also have an understanding of money and wealth creation. But perhaps its not as simplistic as neoliberal economics. Perhaps there are some non-conservatives that understand neoliberal logics, but also that our dominant ways of producing money and wealth are a) heavily affected by social structures and not just individualistic "choices" and actions; b) that things like NSF funding (and other state expenditures) have historically been crucial to money and wealth creation rather than just individualistic "choices" and actions, c) that money and wealth creation produce both positive and negative externalities, the latter being just hidden costs that many non-conservatives figure have to be paid for in one way or another, d) the state spends piles and piles more money every year supporting the fabled "money and wealth" creators than it does on things like NSF funding - except, of course, that NSF funding often provides the stuff that people can later take to produce money and wealth.

"In the story of the three little pigs it was the pig that built the brick house and the liberal out of straw."

I have no idea what that says. Perhaps it was a typo and you meant to say it was the conservative pig that used bricks? If so, that's obviously the cream of the crop for silliness in your post. This is an advertisement for the Republican brain hypothesis.

- Brought to you by laptop via internet, your thoroughly federally subsidized infrastructure for the global economy.

So what you are saying is that the welfare rolls, the public university rolls, the government workers rolls and even those sitting in jail are not heavily Democratic?

Infrastrucure spending is a purpose of government that expands opportunities.

Paying someone to sit at home and consume the fruits of anothers labor is not.

The liberals in moderation are good for the world. We can subsidize some starving artists and their daughters often make good strippers. But when bums call themselves artists and actually want the same standard of living as somene who uses their brushes to paint houses then we have a problem.

There are some very valid research that needs funding, however the way it should be done is that if public money is used for the funding then the public should get the rewards, Instead Univerities keep the patents and use the profits to expand into more and more ludicrous research ideas and lavish expenditures and expect the taxpayers to be grateful for the the drugs the came up with. So the cancer drug that was paid for with tax dollars and should be available royalty free to all americans is overpriced in America and sold cheaper elsewhere so that Americans are now paying twice, and liberal professors can use the money to research why obese lesbians are less happy than slim ones.

If you think the internet would have never happened without government subsidy then that speaks volumes about your understanding of basic supply and demand.

Many great ideas are thought of by liberal minds... no doubt...everybody dreams, but history has proven that it was conservative syle mindsets that brought them to market. The plane train and automobiles come to mind along with just about every other invention...
Even the now liberal Bill Gates used conservative thought processes to monetize windows into the fortune he can now give away.

JS- This is a true statement...
"Most liberals derive their sense of compassion from the government teat"

JS-- "Brought to you by laptop via internet, your thoroughly federally subsidized infrastructure for the global economy." Financed by the tax payer.

I was going to say "funded" by the taxpayer, but since we are now borrowing roughly 40 cents of every dollar..."financed" is partially correct.

JS- This is a true statement...
"Most liberals derive their sense of compassion from the government teat"

................ it is very easy to be compassionate with someone elses money...

If you have to do a hard days work to bring food home to your family and a tax man stops you and takes one of your bags of groceries to give to the person who grew up with the exact same opportunites as you but CHOSE to sit in the back of the class you just might feel a little different about how "compassionate" you want to be. ....

liberal mindsets are more interested in easing pain rather than solving problems which is why they extend unemployment instead of creating employment incentives....

@Bill, people at the public universities tend to be democrats because, well, democrats are just smarter than republicans/conservatives. (ha! I said that just to piss you off.) Seriously, democrats for the most part don't fear and demonize new ideas, and we certainly don't foster the anti-intellectualism that is so rampant among conservatives. (If you don't know what that is, read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism_in_American_Life)

Dawg, people get upset with a conservative because he gets tired of union rules and invents a production line and gets rid of the now obsolete workers... Instead of forming
together and buying their own production line the liberal thugs force the taxpayers to pay them to stay home and watch oprah. That is the extent of their ingenuity.

Republicans don't fear new ideas, they are just more realistic about the legacy effects of all those great proggessive ideas... like San Fancisco banning plastic bags but now come to find out they have more food poisoinings than ever because people don't wash the reusables after each use. (which wastes precious water) or the tree huggers who stopped fire roads in the forests because they "cause erosion" but now we cannot fight fires due to lack of acess. Or the mini flourecent bulbs that consume more energy to manufacture and more pollution to make in coal fired power plants in China than they will ever save here (not to mention the mercury contamination in landfills) or all of the rules about trying to do the right thing by disabled people only to have someone write in this very paper how the city should shovel wheelchair ramps and blind plates as a priority over plowing roads. (and that the city is in violation and in "outrageous defiance" of the federal law. ) The liberal entitlment mindset cannot be sustained because at some point you run out of other peoples money. It is not about stodgy stubborness it is about being knowlegeable about the past and what has gone on since recorded time.

I admit that many crooks are conservatives, but at least they are honest about being crooked (lawyers and used car dealers come to mind) but liberals want to steal your money through government confiscation and actually feel "entitled" to it.

"So what you are saying is that the welfare rolls, the public university rolls, the government workers rolls and even those sitting in jail are not heavily Democratic? "

Ummmmm...no. I made no statement about breakdowns of the electorate based on party affiliation. However, I can toss a similarly vague statement back at you - so what you're saying is that it isn't populations in "red states" that receive the highest levels of federal finding per tax dollar? So here's a reversal. "Blue states" pay more to federal taxes. "Red states" take more out. I'm just not sure why very vague and general statements such as yours and mine should be thought of as telling us anything insightful. For every moron on a city street proclaiming that "Obama gave them a phone" there's another rural red moron screaming to keep the government out of her Medicare. If it helps you to simplify the world into "liberals vote just to get things out of government" or something like that, then that's fine. Its just also baseless.

"Paying someone to sit at home and consume the fruits of anothers labor is not. "

Ok Bill. Give me the breakdown. Go to the welfare spending. Provide me the analysis of the population that fits the "welfare queen" (or prince or whatever) and report back on percentages and budget amounts. This is just another one of those Republican brain things. Once you go pull that population apart, I agree that you will find some people like this. But it will be a molehill in the Rockies. The irony is that, if anyone wanted to really "clean" that up and make sure that only the truly needy get assistance, conservatives would never agree to spend the money required to do the investigating and monitoring. Aside from that, if conservatives really want to attack "welfare," attack corporate welfare first - that is, if the concerns are really rational ones about monetary amounts. You'll save a lot more by whining about corporate welfare than you will about the molehill of the welfare queens.

On the subject of federally funded research and the "fruits" of that, you have a very odd and selective interpretation of that. First of all, I don't know why you would look at Universities as the big value hoarding/profit maximizing machines and ignore multinationals. This is especially odd when you mention drug development. If there are "perpetrators" there, then its mostly big pharma, not universities and their fabled "liberal" professors.

And on the tail end of that, it is completely odd to assume that taxpayers don't already benefit - in major ways every single day - by that research money. It is hard to keep the control away from large multinationals, and normally you can't. But the benefits can still trickle through. Anyone who is happy to see our current natural gas "boom" in the US should thank federally sponsored research - and all of the neoliberal conservatives will be thrilled to tell you how great this boom is for everyone even while they wouldn't want to discuss the pivotal role of publicly funded research.

"If you think the internet would have never happened without government subsidy then that speaks volumes about your understanding of basic supply and demand. "

Hmmmmm....? Who said the internet never would have happened without having been originally developed by the military? Certainly not I. But a "what if" story is not what actually happened. What actually happened is that it was developed with state money and often state personnel. Furthermore, it is the very open and public character of the net that most knowledgeable observers will put as one of the crucial roots for it to serve as an engine of money and wealth creation. Had it not been developed when and how it did, something would have eventually appeared, but it would not be - in any way - the same kind of thing that it is. Your impoverished thinking about this is pretty much as bad as your general notes about the history of invention and technological change. Intimate familiarity with technological development reveals it to be much more complicated than incentive-motivated "geniuses" driven by the law of supply and demand.

Speaking of which, I know all about supply and demand, but I'll bet I "know" it quite differently from you. Everything that say, Bill, is nothing but neoliberal logic. It is all empirically suspect and highly oversimplified. The same goes with supply and demand. Feel free to correct me on this, but I have to assume that you do hold the classic Liberal notion that supply just follows demand. And, of course, so long as everyone is left free to pursue their interests supplies will inevitably arise to meet demands. Furthermore, the supply will - over time - generally come to meet demand both in terms of quantity, quality, and prices. Its a nice theory. We all learned it in civics textbooks. Its also a mere fragment of how things actually go - something that is sometimes the case, and even then usually only partially true.

You can use the computer and internet cases if you like. But what you have to do is roll up your sleeves and really get into the actual historical development of these things. By this, I don't mean the celebratory histories written to exalt our own neoliberal values. I means good, in depth, empirical work. What you will find is that little to nothing about the development of computing and the internet had anything to do with unmet demand. Obviously that changes over time. For computing it started to change around the 1970s in terms of business demand, and then around the 80s and then 90s for general consumer demand. But its quite possible - once you're not talking in abstract through the lens of an economic theory - to say that computing & the internet represent a case of something producing its own demand.

Anyway, its never as simple as your theory driven interpretation of virtually everything. And I assure you that it is not I who doesn't understand supply and demand - especially with regards to the history of technology.

js
1) One very interesting note about the "blue" states and taxes... the wealthy rich minority of conservatives pay the majority of the taxes in those states with the exception of Maryland (all government workers) and California (hi tech liberals and hollywood) and while the statisics of who pays more in taxes Democrats or Republicans as a nation I would venture to say that the total government income from Republicans would come out on top.

2) Look at how many patents UVA holds and get back to me.

3) I do not believe that supply only follows demand. Innovation creates demand and the motivation for innovation is prosperity. When you take away the fruits of a persons labor you stifle innovation and will have less of it. ( even the threat of higher taxes obamacare etc has stifled it in the last 4 years)

4) The internet was created because we had military needs ("pent up demand" )that had to be met. So if the liberals had their way the pentagon would have been defunded in the 1960s. But even so.. it would have been invented and when it was the same tsunami of technology would have occurred.

5) This is a small town newspaper comment site not an Ivy league discussion. The simpler the better. Libreals want to ease pain and conservatives want to resolve the problems for the future. Borrowing money today that we will be paying interest on in perpetuity to give away cell phones and a million other crazy duplicitous programs is sheer nonsense. We will face severe austerity measures and it will be sooner rather than later.

6) The odds are that when that happens more conservatives will double down and survive while the crybaby liberals around this town go to therapy with their obamacare.

"This is a small town newspaper comment site not an Ivy league discussion. The simpler the better."

Right. You do the Republican brain. And its all you do. Every corner or your interpretation of the world is a grossly oversimplified neoliberal rule of thumb heuristic. That's basically what I've been saying all along.

"Libreals want to ease pain and conservatives want to resolve the problems for the future."

Bwhahahahah. ROFL.

Who needs some goofy study to prove this point? Just overlay a county map of the country showing red/blue for the last presidential election with a county map showing average education levels.

By the way, this entire article is basically a troll . . . kind of funny.

LostInSpace wrote, "Who needs some goofy study to prove this point? Just overlay a county map of the country showing red/blue for the last presidential election with a county map showing average education levels."

Yes. That.

The simple fact is that conservatives seem to better understand (or perhaps acknowledge) data and the facts they represent. Liberals? Well not so much as evidenced by this administrations ever increasing desire to raise taxes, increase the debt to be repaid by our grand children, all while never even trying to balance a single budget. Unreal.

Brad, the conservatives are the one who live in the bubble of supply-side economics mythology. The "debt problem" is manufactured by conservatives who have never supported the concept of Social Security or Medicare, and they are using it as an excuse to chip away at those problems. You just have no idea what you are talking about.

I'm supposing that I fall into the category of libertarians or independents who are especially good at justifying our beliefs to ourselves; then again, to whom else should I justify?

I actually worked out the answers, correctly, without peeking. But the WAY I worked them out varied from one question to another. The question about lily pads filling the lake came to me intuitively. If the doubling time is each day, then "obviously," the lake was half full the day before the 48th day, because one more day of doubling fills the lake.

As to the widgets, my instinctive, first answer was 100. But my instincts also said that could not possibly be right; I'm being fooled by all those 5's. Breaking the problem down, I could see that each machine makes 1 widget in 5 minutes. Thus 2 machines would make 2 widgets each 5 minutes, 3 machines make 3 in five minutes . . . and thus 100 machines would make 100 widgets, but still in 5 minutes.

The bat and ball question was the most cognitively difficult, for me. I jumped at the "obvious" (but wrong) answer of $1.00 as cost for the bat, and actually thought this was a kind of set up for the next 2 questions. But still, a little voice in my head was uncomfortable with that $1.00 answer. Then I realized that if the bat cost $1 more than the ball, and the ball cost 10 cents, then the bat HAD to cost $1.10 (which is $1 more than the ball). But that would make the total come out to $1.20, which I know is not true. I, confess, I actually had to do the math:

X + X+1.00 = 1.10
Take 1.00 away from both sides:
X+X = 1.10-1.00, so,
2X = .10, and,
X = .05

How embarrassing.

Now applying this to what appears to be the somewhat convoluted arguments of the essay, I also realize that the nature of the article itself, and presentation of a special test, strongly suggested the possibility of "trick" questions - so I was on the look-out for them from the get-go. I doubt that I would have been so careful in just the ordinary course of life and think I only would have hit question #3 correctly on "instinct" alone. I would have pondered the widget question, and probably said, "let me think about that one." And I positively would have fallen for the bat and ball question until after having gone to bed, at which point a bell would have rung in my head, and only THEN would I have realized my fault.

So, where does this leave me on the question of climate change? Same place I have always been. The climate is always changing, and the mere existence of more and more humans, glowing at about 100 degrees each, is likely either to make the place warmer, or make it cool less quickly, all other things being equal. If those humans are burning a lot of stuff and creating an atmosphere which tends to trap heat, then their impact is multiplied. No science required, here - just simple reasoning. So, does the science, do the data, tend to show warming? Depends on where you look, but on the whole, there is more evidence of warming then of cooling, so far. Are we in trouble, or will we shortly be in trouble? I don't know, but the odds, facially, appear to lean toward trouble.

Should we do anything about it? I don't know. But then again, that's not really the question I ask. I simply work from the premise that I should leave as small a footprint as I reasonably can, and take care of my little sphere of influence as much as I can, to maintain it in good order. Has little to do with my ideology or politics; falls more into the category of brushing your teeth, cleaning up after yourself and waiting your turn in line.

So, what's that make me?

I dunno.

I meant, "chip away at those programs." Posted before coffee . . .

Part 1

Several observations:

First, the Yale study described doesn’t likely yield much information. In fact, the “cognition reflection test” (CRT) it uses to assess political ideology doesn’t have much background. As the study author notes, “Only a modest amount of work exists on the relationship between CRT and political ideology.” And, the sample used n the study was self-selected and thus not very reliable. As the study author points out, “the sample (individuals who voluntarily accessed a web site for the purpose of getting evaluations of their moral personalities) could have been skewed...complicating inferences about the relationship between ideology and reflectiveness in the general population.”

Second, in the original testing on the cognition reflection test (CRT), the researchers found out that, invariably, “ high scorers -- those who get all the questions right -- prefer taking risks... Even when it actually hurts you on average to take the gamble, the smart people, the high-scoring people, actually like it more...Almost a third of high scorers preferred a 1 percent chance of $5,000 to a sure $60.” Statistically speaking, that’s not so bright.

Third, dogmatism (“assertion of opinion, especially when unwarranted or arrogant) in politics is often tied to very strong party identity. And dogmatism can get in the way of problem-solving. In politics, supposedly “smart” people can deceive themselves and be manipulated into taking very big –– and potentially very costly –– public policy risks. Think, for example, of Vietnam or war in Iraq, or supply-side economic policies.

Fourth, there is an extensive body of psychological research that details the connections between dogmatism and conservatism and authoritarianism. The conclusions that emerge from that body of research offer a disturbing prospect for effective democratic governance when a political party is comprised of ideologues opposed to the core values of democracy. And that’s exactly what we have today.

Milton Rokeach described and explained the essence of dogmatism in his classic work, The Open and Closed Mind. Rokeach noted that all people have belief and disbelief systems, and those systems can be more “open” or more “closed.” An individual’s perception can be characterized as “open” or “closed” based on “the extent to which the person can receive, evaluate, and act on relevant information unencumbered by irrelevant factors...arising from within the person or from the outside.”

People with more open belief-disbelief systems have a more defined knowledge base and have a higher degree of consistency between what they say they believe and how they behave. Their core beliefs provide a framework for perceiving the world as a friendly place. They tend to be more trusting of others. Authority is not seen as absolute. Actions are governed more by inner, self-actualizing forces than by external pressures.

People with more closed belief-disbelief systems not only exhibit less consistency between what they say and do, but also there’s less differentiation within the disbelief system. That is, those who are more closed-minded tend NOT to know very much about what it is they disbelieve. Authority is viewed as more absolute (remember the Bush administration arguing that the president’s commander-in-chief- powers were virtually unlimited?), and the core beliefs provide a framework for perceiving the world as a more threatening place in which one cannot be very trusting of others. Rokeach points out that people can be encouraged “to accept or to form closed systems of thinking and believing in proportion to the degree in which they are made to feel alone, isolated, and helpless [threatened] in the world in which they live.” Think Fox news. Rokeach explains that such feelings often lead to the quest for “power and status,” identification with absolute authority and “a cause,” and “the moral condemnation” of those one deems inferior or different.

Part 2

More recently, four psychologists conducted a meta-analysis of more than 80 studies on political conservatism performed in a dozen countries. They found –– consistent with Rokeach’s work on dogmatism –– that “people embrace political conservatism (at least in part) because it serves to reduce fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.” It helps these people “to avoid change, disruption, and ambiguity; and to explain, order, and justify inequality among groups and individuals.” But in a democratic society based on values like equality, justice, and tolerance, it creates a dangerous paradox. The researchers noted that “conservatives share a tendency to rationalize existing institutions, especially those that maintain hierarchical authority,” and that “conservatism as an ideological belief system has embodied many things, including the desire for order and stability...adherence to preexisting social norms...punishment of deviants, and endorsement of social and economic inequality.” They note that dogmatism is “indicative of closed-mindedness,” and while those on the left can be dogmatic, “the highest dogmatism scores are still obtained for conservatives.”

See: http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/jost.glaser.political-conservatism-...

Those who score highly on scales designed to measure dogmatism also “score higher in prejudice, and wish they could pass laws limiting the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right of assembly, and other freedoms guaranteed in the Bill ofRights. They want to impose strict limitations on abortion, they favor capital punishment, and they oppose tougher gun control laws.” They are not prone to cognitive reflection and critical thinking. In a nutshell, conservative perception is summarized well by a comment George W. Bush made at a conference of world leaders: ““I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right.” Oh, but he was wrong about so many things, most of which we are still paying for, and will be for quite some time.

In an April, 2012 column in The Washington Post, long-time, respected Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein pointed the finger of blame for gridlock in government at conservative Republicans in Congress. They wrote:

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional...we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition...the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right.”

See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lets-just-say-it-the-republicans-...

Former Nebraskan Republican senator Chuck Hagel (now Defense Secretary) called his brethren “ideological,” “narrow” and “intolerant.” A long-serving Republican Capitol Hill staffer called them an “apocalyptic cult” and “intensely authoritarian.”

To simplify it a bit, conservatives –– which means most of the current crop of Republicans –– tend to be highly dogmatic. And that’s highly problematic in a democratic republic that was created on a platform of values that include popular sovereignty, freedoms for all citizens, equality, justice, tolerance, and promoting the general welfare of society. Conservatives are opposed to them all.

Indeed, it was conservative presidents operating under conservative supply-side economic policies that piled up debt and broke the economy (and refused to take any responsibility for it.). It is conservatives (Republicans) who’ve made every effort to suppress voting. It is conservatives who oppose gay marriage and abortion rights. Conservatives argued that George W. Bush had unlimited powers as commander-in-chief, launched a war on manufactured and manipulated “intelligence,” refused to pay for it, and bungled it badly. Conservatives deny the science of global warming (and evolution). Conservatives today represent corporations and plutocrats, and are obstructing policies and programs that represent a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

The link below illustrates what conservative policies have given us. It isn’t pretty, nor is it healthy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM&feature=youtu.be

But this startling inequality is not enough for them. They want even more. And that’s what makes them so very dangerous.

P.S. It isn’t very difficult to discern the comments on this thread that come from conservatives, is it?

@ Brad....the United States has a low tax burden compare to other developed nations....in fact we, are near the bottom.

See: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/background/numbers/internat...

Moreover, federal taxes now are at 60-year lows. And corporate profits are soaring.

And most of our current debt was piled up under conservative presidents (Reagam Bush, Bush), the last of whom left behind an economy in shambles, millions of job losses, two badly-managed and unfunded wars, and an unfunded Medicare prescription drug plan.

And by the way, Bill Clinton balanced multiple budgets, in part because he raised taxes in 1993, primarily on the wealthy. And he did so without a single Republican vote of support in Congress. Not one. They claimed it would "ruin" the economy and lead to millions of job losses, Instead, there were 23 million jobs created. Prosperity cut across all economic levels. Clinton even produced budget surpluses, meant to be used to pay down debt and sustain social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Bush squandered the surpluses. Pure and simple.

The facts are not your friend.

Democracy, You may want to give slick willy credit for the boom of the 90s but I think Bill GATES, his invention of windows platforms, and the subsequent pouring of international money into the american marketplace to capture on the boom is what led to massive reveunes, not increased tax rates. The facts in this case are not YOUR friend..

Also, your assertion that the US has the lowest tax rate in 60 years is false. The cost of virtually everything has gone up due to regulation, (good and bad) and the amount of GDP that the government gets (24% as opposed to previous 15-20%) aggravated by the cost of regulation puts that number near 30-35% total which is HIGHER than ever.

The simple fact is that the federal government is getting more revenues than ever and squandering it away on crap instead of using it wisely. They are also collecting 60 cents but spending a dollar without remorse. So the 40 cents they are borrowing will need to be repaid by grandchildren who will see no benefit from that money that was spent. No Grand Coulee Dam, no Tennesee Valley Authority, no national highway system, just a lot of more generational welfare recipients who are multiplying because the food and shelter are.bountiful, while responsible people are doing the opposite and holding off on children until they can afford it.

That noose around the necks of the the future taxpayers was woven by liberals and their selfishness in the name of "social justice" that makes it so they sleep better because they think they are secular saviors. (with someone else money)

Ponce, as a presentation of counter-facts contrary to democracy's post, that was an epic fail. You just told a story of conservative myths that is quite far removed from reality.

(Even on Gates "invention" of the Windows platform - well, only sort of. He basically stole the whole idea from Apple, but making him out as the root of the 90s boom is completely laughable either way).

It doesn't matter whether Gates stole the technology or not, without windows there would have been no PC boom and the resultant pouring of money into the investment market.

Common sense says that removing money from the marketplace will never create a job unless that money is put to good use. The bulk of the increased tax revenues were from an exploding economy caused by the tech bubble. (just like the mortage bubble a few years later. Just like the current stock bubble that will explode soon enough.) Clinton rode a wave, and although I do give him credit it was not financial policy it was in his ability to create confidence in the marketplace. (something Obama lacks)

I suppose that all that money those investors spent on extavagant items creating jobs for limo drivers, poolboys, watchmakers, jewelers, porche mechanics etc is a conservative myth and not an actual factual example of trickle down economics.?

Are you denying that the government is receiving more money than ever before? Do you deny that federal tax revenue went down in 2002 (after the bush tax cut) and then immediately went up dramatically until the collapse caused by excessive borrowing? Or are those numbers a "myth" too?

http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/year_revenue_2012USbn_13bs1n#usgs302

Is it a myth that educated people are holding off on having children later in life and having few children because they want to get their carreers and finances in place? Are you denying that the population among lower income families (especially hispanc and black minorities ) are skyrocketing by comparison, or are you just denying the correlation between having kids and perceived financial security?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KUW2vCPX7w

("somebody gots to pay for all these kids")

Or are you denying that our grandchildren won't get the bill (with interest) for all of these free rides.

Liberals do not have brains! There is proof! Gabby Gifford was shot in the head and it wouldn't kill her, you have to bleed a democrat to death!

Yeah, Ponce, that was an epic fail. You have a few reasonable premises, but your conclusions are off base. Tax revenue has been in the toilet ever since the Bush tax cuts. This will shed some light on the situation: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/opinion/sunday/24sun4.html?_r=0

as will this: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/deficits-and-virtue/

Trickle down is a myth.This article should help you understand: http://www.neontommy.com/news/2012/11/congressional-research-service-dis...

Dawg, look at your own numbers... income tax revenue went down in 2002 due to the cuts themselves and then went up and climbed dramatically until the 2008 crash. The NY times is all about SPENDING which is what i am upset about. whether its the war or excessive food stamps to fat people its all waste and needs to be curtailed. Income tax revenue went UP. I stand by my link and its numbers.

krugman is an idiot ..his economic ideas only work when the government is not already tapped out and he doesn't believe in austerity under any circumstance. Countries that tried it disagree.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100558455

If "trickle down" is a myth then how do you explain all the unemployment that occurred when people got laid off from their jobs doing "optional" work like fancy landscaping, car detailing, limo driving, cosmetic surgery, and every other proffession supplemented by people having more disposable income until it all hit the fan? Those jobs did not exist until we had lower tax rates that provided capitol for people to open busineses to create jobs.

The flaw in all of those articles and editorials you cite is that they don't blame the real culprit.. excessive government spending and too few people contribiuting to the tax base and consuming from it instead. Ask the lifers at westhaven and garret square who have been there for multi generations how they can in good conscience live off the taxpayers for decades and still have a 50 inch screen and 150 dollar tennis shoes.

If people can make the argument that we are borrowing money for war than I can make the argument that every single obamaphone is made with borrowed money and will need to be repaid with compound interest by people who are being born as we speak. I don't blame Obama I blame them all, but at least the republicans are pretending to address the spending. Can you imagine how bad it would be if they didn't?

I can.

"It doesn't matter whether Gates stole the technology or not, without windows there would have been no PC boom and the resultant pouring of money into the investment market. "

Do you seriously believe that? Bwhahahahah. I'm almost tempted to stop here b/c the mere idea has simpleton written all over it, in which case I generally have a policy against banging my head against the wall.

"It doesn't matter whether Gates stole the technology or not, without windows there would have been no PC boom and the resultant pouring of money into the investment market. "

Do you seriously believe that? Bwhahahahah. I'm almost tempted to stop here b/c the mere idea has simpleton written all over it, in which case I generally have a policy against banging my head against the wall.

"Common sense says that removing money from the marketplace will never create a job unless that money is put to good use."

Common sense is a very poor guide for good interpretations of reality. Conservatives do love it tho. Common sense would also tell you that the money isn't "removed" from the marketplace. Where does it go if its "removed?" If you want to make a statement about trickle down, that's fine, but as Dawg pointed out, that is a tenet of faith among some but hardly "Truth." "Common sense" leads me to wonder how the Dow could be at a record high or the S&P & NASDAQ could both have been recovering since '08 if the current situation of so economy-killing. This notion that federal spending is out of control and is economy killing b/c it interferes with trickle-down is a matter of faith and nothing more. It has no empirical basis.

"Are you denying that the government is receiving more money than ever before? "

Ummmmm. Yes. http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/revenue_history
Furthermore, and furthermore, as a % of GDP expenditures fell between '08-12. The biggest uptick recently - between '08-09 as Bush was on his way out. This notion that the current admin is on some wild, out of control spending spree is only sustainable if you don't limit it to this admin. In other words, if you think the feds spend too much, that's fine. But it didn't happen in the last 4 years.

"Is it a myth that educated people are holding off on having children later in life and having few children because they want to get their carreers and finances in place? Are you denying that the population among lower income families (especially hispanc and black minorities ) are skyrocketing by comparison, or are you just denying the correlation between having kids and perceived financial security? "

I believe that you are feebly trying to refer to the "demographic transition." It generally accompanies industrialization when kids go from being an economic asset to being an economic liability. I don't deny it at all. Its quite well documented. I just don't know what your point is. Are you trying to say that current govt spending is out of control b/c of welfare payments to people too stupid or irresponsible to not have kids? I assure you that you will find some people like that out there. But it has almost squat to do with the federal budget.

If you're more generally worried that our deficit balloons because the welfare rolls are swelling from the generally undeserving, that's more Republican brain stuff. Go pull apart of population officially eligible for such things. Once you take out the very old, the very young, the obviously disable, and THOSE WHO DO WORK - you're not going to have a lot of people left. Now, if you want those couch cushion coins back in your pocket, that's fine. Just ring up the DHHS and tell them to about double their staffing to better police and monitor the dole so that the cheats are getting any.

Ponce, I said it all the way after your first post. You do the Republican brain thing and that is all. Your appeal to "common sense" pretty much says it all.

JS, saying that MicroSoft "Stole" Windows from Apple ignores the fact that the technology was invented by Xerox, by Apple.

NOT apple....

Ivan Sutherland deserves a lot of credit. He wasn't at PARC, he was the head of DARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office. HIs student Alan Kay then took what he learned from Sutherland at the University of Utah to Xerox. Now we come full circle. Windows would have never existed if not for federal funding of fundamental research. It took tax money to do that. Looks like tax money well spent if you buy Ponce's idea that Gates had such a huge positive influence on the US economy.

@ meanwhile. I didn't ignore anything. You and not buyin' it are just bringing in more of the back story & helping make my point better.

No matter how much we like to do it in our culture, individuals are not responsible for the production of science and technology. Networks are. And - yes, somewhere back there is normally a bunch of public money.

The Republican brain sees only heroic, atomized individuals operating as heroic, atomized individuals, and its because they tend to see history & economics through the lens of an ideal theoretical construction of the world.

JS, you are a voice of reason. Unfortunately, Ponce et al. can't or won't change their mind because doing so would shatter the dissonant ideas they hold and probably cause some sort of nervous breakdown. If they could see how their republican mindset has contributed to our currently dysfunctional government, they would be overcome with guilt and shame.

As is usual, Ponce de Leon just cannot accept the facts. As commenter JS notes, conservatives (Republicans) see the world through minds that intentionally distort history and economics to create a fantasy "theoretical construction of the world." It is a perceptual world that is "highly dogmatic."

I provided evidence above from the OECD to show that among the developed nations of the world, the U.S. has one of the lowest tax rates. Moreover, tax rates now are at a 60-year low. But of course, conservatives cannot accept this fact. They demand even MORE tax cuts, mostly for corporations and the rich.

As USA Today pointed out in May of 2010, "Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found..."

And a year later, former Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett noted that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found tax rates in the U.S. (as a percentage of gross domestic product) were at a 60-year low. And while conservative Republicans clamor for even more tax cuts for their favored constituencies, Bartlett says this:

"The truth of the matter is that federal taxes in the United States are very low. There is no reason to believe that reducing them further will do anything to raise growth or reduce unemployment."

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/are-taxes-in-the-u-s-high-o...

But conservatives are not much interested in the truth.

As I noted above (see comments Part 1 and Part 2) conservatives see the world through the distorted lens of dogmatism. Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center clarified this truism, explaining that "staunch conservatives" are overwhelming white (92 percent), and are mostly " male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.” Kohut's research finds that the core of the Republican base is "“a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives" who hold"“extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns. They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

The psychologist Milton Rokeach explained that people can can be encouraged “to accept or to form closed systems of thinking and believing in proportion to the degree in which they are made to feel alone, isolated, and helpless [threatened] in the world in which they live.” In my comments above, I said "Think Fox news." Andrew Kohut finds that the "staunch conservatives" of the Republican base are "is a bloc of voters who rely more on conservative media than on the general news media to comprehend the world." Not surprisingly, the majority of them tune into Fox regularly. And, Kohut says, "There is nothing like this on the left."

See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-numbers-prove-it-the-republic...

As I pointed out earlier, it isn't very difficult to discern the conservative comments on this thread. And those coming from Ponce de Leon are the prime example.

Explain to me this supposed "intellectual superiority" in which liberals love to cloak themselves. These self-styled intellectuals have brought you unions, the Great Society, unsuccessful public education, urban blight, grandiose (failed) experiments in socialism around the world, etc.

The reason conservatives are conservative is not because they eschew change. I can show you scores of businesses run by conservatives who have changed and succeeded by adapting. I can show you many supposed conservative politicians who have been agents for change.

What liberals--including the authors of this study--don't want to tell you is that the reason liberal panties get in an uproar is because conservatives don't want to make the changes the libs want to make. This is because conservatives believe most of the changes we have seen from libs have been detrimental to society: again, urban policy, the sexual revolution (is the "if it feels good" ideology really good for society?), excessive welfare that becomes a way of life for many, racial polarization, etc.

And liberals are just as conservative as Repubs when it comes to change: they did not want to change welfare (until Clinton was forced), they do not want to change Social Security (a failed program)...in short, they do not want to change anything they believe in.

So, do not buy for a minute the liberal poppycock about conservatives rejecting change. And please do not embrace the idea that conservatives are "less intellectual" than libs. That has been the mantra for decades, ever since uber libs took over college campuses. It just ain't true. But--to use a word loved by liberals--the delusion sure makes libs "feel" good.

R.I.P.: Ayn Rand

1) The current swelling of the stock market is caused by cheap money and people buying on margin funds and it will collapse as it has in the past.

http://www.tradingfloor.com/posts/massive-stock-market-rallies-1877566080

2) If there was not excessive amounts of money poured into the tech bubble how do you explain the subsequent collapse?

3) whether it was Bill gates, xerox apple or al gore inventing the whole shebang it was private money that went into the stock market and poured into innovation that is still here to this day (ebay, amazon, google etc) and all of that investment created net trillions in returns and job creation. A lot of that WAS due to favorable tax policies that allowed accelerated write offs.

4) The amount of money the government recieved from income tax returns (the people) went down for one year in 2002 and then increaed for 6 strait years until the collapse of 2008. It is now higher than ever even before the Bush tax cut expiration of the rich. What did you spend your 10-20 thousand bucks from the Bush tax cut on in the last decade? Do you think it had a positive or negative effect on job creation?

5) None of you progressive liberals has said a damn thing about the mathmatical FACT that there is no plan out there that will save our grandchildren from unsustainable tax burdens that will cause them unfair austerity because of todays spending. Do you think they will be happy that they are paying for bridges that are ready for an ovehaul because they were built with fancy designs instead of utilitarian priorities?

6) In America we have signs in the parks that says don't feed the bears or they will become dependent on the food, forget how to hunt, and become aggressive when you don't give them more. . In the public social programs we give free everything so people will be motivated to get a job and turn down the assistance out of personal responsibility. Hows that workin out for ya?

7) It is very easy to give away other peoples money when you are not the one having to pay it back. The reckoning will come and the can has been kicked too far down the road.
We are seeing the effects of Obamacare already as doctors are selling out their practices to hospitals and becoming employees with no reputational stake in the game. We already see Wal mart, CVS and Walgreens opening clinics to skim the gravy off the top leaving the expensive stuff for the tax subsidized exchanges. We see that insurance companies are allowed to add a 50% premium surcharge for smokers which is not elgible for any subsidy yet alcoholics and drug addicts are treated as victims of their addiction and have no such surcharge. You liberals call this progress but can only do so under the luxury of borrowed money. When the money runs out it all collapses. The math cannot be made to work under any current scenario and the liberal mindset is so hung up on "taking care" of people as if they would be left to starve if you did not bring other peoples money to the rescue. It is the conservatives that fared better in downtimes and helped the poor.It was all of those nasty religious church goers that ran the soup kitchens long before there was anything more than a widows and orphans pension. The reason that liberals want to tax and give it away is because you have a fundamental belief that personal reponsibility should be optional and its not your money. If you actually had to pay for what you give away I would imagine that accountability would enter the equation very quickly.

I think it is only fair to say that rejecting the opinions of those with whom one disagrees is kind of what happens when people disagree; and that ideology has much to do with the filtration we apply to the data. It sort of depends on where you look for your facts, and how you interpret what you select. This seems true regardless of ideology, political preference, and intelligence.

It is true on the statistical evidence, of course, that US Federal tax rate is among the lowest in the world among developed countries. Anyone can "look it up." But maybe there is more to the story. The tax rate may be low by comparison to other nations - yet it may still be "too high" for the people of THIS country. (Likewise, the crime rate must be lowest somewhere - but is it still too high, wherever that is)?

By the same token, we might say that the cost of government in more socialist countries is more, because the governments there DO more, in comparison to the United States.

We might broaden the focus of the cost of government to include everything funded by government from every source: local and state taxes of all kinds, fees and licenses - the "whole 9 yards." We would note, for example, that contributions to Social Security are much higher now, on a percentage basis, then they have ever been in the past. Do lower income tax rates really mean very much, then, practically speaking, to the taxpayer who pays both income and Social Security tax?

Finally, the calculation of income tax rates, as Bruce Bartlett and others have indicated, is based not on personal income of the taxpayers, but rather on GDP. What comfort should one take from this measure, if the personal cost of supporting government operations tends to take more and more away from personal disposable income? Bottom line: the "numbers game" is various and vast and complex, and choosing the facts we happen to like does little to paint the broader picture. In fact, it may be impossible even to paint the "broad picture," except in such terms that are so general as to be nearly meaningless.

Which brings us right back to what we think we think, or what we think we believe. Whatever those thoughts and beliefs may be, much of the above commentary seems to address very sweeping conclusions based on a very thin veneer of factual material.

We're getting nowhere, fast.

The comments here are great at demonstrating how easy it is for people to talk right past each other.

Taxes are low and spending is high. I don't see how anyone could argue with either of these notions. The problem is that the public and our government has become used to borrowing money to pay for current government expenditures.

If the government should be doing something, I think it is reasonable to suggest then that the public should be taxed to pay for that activity. The corollary is also true: if the public doesn't believe that something is worth paying for, then the government shouldn't be paying for it.

I happen to believe the solution is higher taxes and lower spending, but what do I know? It's not like I learned how to add and subtract in 2nd grade and that federal revenue and expenditure is represented by numbers on a piece of paper.

Yes government spending and public taxation has an effect on the economy as a whole. But there is no magic formula that leads to prosperity. We've had booming economies with higher taxes and stagnant economies with lower taxes. The same can be said in regards to federal expenditures.

The debt problem is not fake and there is plenty of blame to go around. Fixing the problem should be of paramount importance to our government and the people. Unfortunately, there is too much political gain to be had in posturing.

"Taxes are low and spending is high. I don't see how anyone could argue with either of these notions."

If you COULD see how anyone might argue with your assertions about taxes and sending, would this change your mind? This seems to be where the problem lies.

To me the issue is too much government spending and too little government REVENUE and the need to meet in the middle. The problem that I have is that every politiician comes into office swearing they will find the waste fraud and abuse and they never even look for it unless a whistlebower comes forward on 60 minutes. There are reports everyday of massive waste and fraud and nothing changes but the weather. Once we have a grip on spending then we can look at how to enhance revenue and if that means increasing taxes then we increase taxes but I am against a raise in the governments allowance until they address spending. A good example locally is the Belmont Bridge. There have been numerous credible people who have said that the bridge is sound and just needs to be stripped of the skin and redone probably at less than three million dolars, instead the city wants to use available Federal money as if its "free" and replace the bridge with a fancy design. The peolpe in Belmont "demand" this as if they were slighted when the original bridge was built. If we took the cost of that bridge and surcharged everyone in the city for it they would sober up quick, but because the feds will borrow money and pay for it they don't care that the legacy cost will probably be 20 million bucks.

Get a grip on spending and the resulting confidence in the marketplace will increase jobs which takes makes people go from consuming tax dollars to adding revenue to the treasury. Thats a double income gain right there.

It is hard to stomach tax increases when so much of what the government spends our money on is complete nonsense.

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/16/top-10-examples-of-wasteful-federal-...

JSGeare, change my mind regarding what?

Fed Gov't expenditures in 2011 were 3.6 trillion.
Fed Gov't expenditures in 2001 were 1.8 trillion.

Fed Gov't receipts in 2011 were 2.3 trillion.
Fed Gov't receipts in 2001 were 1.9 trillion.

Basic math tells me that the problem is on both sides of the ledger. You can't increase outlays by %100 in 10 years while only increasing receipts by %22 and call that a sustainable model that doesn't require correction.

If there are vital government functions that require all this spending, it is only right that the people pay for it. You can either argue that the spending is unnecessary or you can argue that the people should pay more or you can argue for both of these positions. But to suggest that vital government functions should not be paid for by the people is irresponsible and borders on immoral, in my opinion.

whoanelly, these are drops in the bucket. There is a structural deficit problem. You could eliminate all of the examples of wasteful spending your article mentions and never come close to balancing the budget or even moving the needle on the deficit.

As for picking on food stamps as the only example of large-scale waste in the budget, you need to ask yourself why the pentagon is seemingly exempt from the heritage foundations' crosshairs.

No government program should be exempt from the fiscal microscope and no segment of society should be exempt from the burden that our debt places on us. Shared sacrifice is the only way we'll get out of this mess.

here is where some of the money went...

http://www.nysun.com/editorials/sequester-joe-biden/88238/

and here is where they will go next to get more of YOUR money...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/in-symbolic-vote-senat...

and due to lobbying we have people buying candy and soda on food stamps and then giving the taxpayers the medical bills with obamacare....

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/food-stamps-making-food-companies-fat/sto...

This train WILL run out of track....

Federal Government receipts as a percentage of GDP have been below %15.5 for the last 3 years that this data is available.

Federal Government outlays as a percentage of GDP have been above %24 for the last 3 years that this data is available.

BOTH of these figures are historically extreme. Receipts have not been this low as a % of GDP since 1943. Expenditures have not been this high as a % of GDP since 1946.

To suggest that there isn't a problem on both sides of the ledger is not reasonable.

@Meanwhile...I agree. On the other hand if you were to raise taxes on the wealthy to 100%, you would still have a deficit. Foreign aid comes to mind as a good place to start cutting back, or the missile to nowhere (have you heard of that, keep a 360 million dollar project alive to save jobs when all branches of the armed services say they don’t need or want it)...Kerry hands a 350 million dollar check to the Egyptian government as a door prize on his trip. We just GAVE them f-16s, and 1.5 billion in aid. Meanwhile, they are burning our flags in the streets. That's just one instance...there are many.

OMG- Almost 600k for a hotel room for the night? But then Biden is the kings favorite jester.

@meanwhile...granted, drops in the bucket. But 200 million here and 200 million there and before long you start getting into some real money. Need to start somewhere. The problem is that the government we have right now doesn't want to start anywhere. Thqat's why the democrats have not passed a budget in six years, they would have to stand by it.

@meanwhile: Your assertion was that taxes are low. But low, compared to what? Likewise you assert that spending is high. Again, compared to what? Expenditures and revenues are, indeed, out of balance. But is the imbalance unsustainable? We could certainly have them balanced by raising the revenue or cutting expenditures, or some combination. But the achievement of a mathematical balance does not, in and of itself, mean that taxes or revenues are too low or too high, if other measures are applied to the issue. Some say divorce is "too" expensive; others say it is expensive because it is worth it. I can afford my taxes, meaning that my nest egg still grows, a little, after taxes. But if the taxes were less, I would have more money to pump into the economy, could grow my business, maybe hire some people. Is the economic value of that greater than the value of a reduction in government debt, and what calculus would apply to answering that question? On the other hand, because interest rates are lower now than in the past, money is less expensive to borrow, so I could pay more taxes and trade the government's indebtedness with my own; if I could find a lender. What's the calculus for assessing the impact of that alternative? The thrust of the article seems to be that people jump to incorrect conclusions when presented with the data which allows of just one correct answer, and rely on personal preference and identity to fashion a position, and select facts supporting the position, rather than consideration of all the data necessary to form a reasonable approach which is fundamentally agnostic as to politics or ideology. The conversation thus far appears to bear this out.

When one thinks of taxes as the trade-off of one's time (an irreplaceable asset) for--I suppose--a well run country, one will be abhorred to think that, at a 20 percent tax rate, one is working their entire Monday (or 1/5 of their work week) for a "well run" country.
Taxes, contrary to what liberals like to trumpet, are not a price we pay for freedom. I have heard that stated by (gasp!) U.S. Senators and Representatives. This is a disgrace. Taxes should be the small amount we relinquish for basic services.

If more people thought of all aspects of financial sacrifice as the taking away of our time, perhaps we really would have a tax revolt, people would not tolerate lousy service in restaurants, etc.. I trade my time for money. When someone takes my money and gives me no value back for it, they have robbed me of my time.

Now, the Bidens, Kennedys, Prince Charleses, Kim Jong Un, etc. of the world could never comprehend that because they never sacrificed time for money (a paycheck).

R.I.P.: Mary Jo Kopechne

JSGeare, see subsequent comment regarding the historical levels of federal outlays and receipts as a percentage of GDP. Taxes are low and spending is high compared to their historical levels. I'm comparing apples to apples.

True, there is no magic level of taxes or spending above or below which they are "too" (your word) high or low. Indeed, there is no limit to the amount of time we could spend philosophizing the relative levels of taxes and spending in this country. So kudos to you for saying absolutely nothing of value for only a few sentences, instead of writing books of meaninglessness, as some have done.

Liberalace makes a good point about working one day a week to pay your tax bill.. or to look at it another way.. if you had to pay your taxes for the year upfront you would have to work for free until March 15th or so to pay your share of just the Federal bill. Add in another 6 weeks for state, property and local taxes and we are up to May 1st before you see a dime from your hard work.

So some of you can be upset about that because Paris Hilton gets to party from day one... BUT, somebody paid taxes on the money she gets ... what about the person on welfare that sits at home every monday and does nothing but watch TV? Why not put them to work for the their share of the bill? Why not mandate assistance at schools. librairies, public parks, museums, and public works projects? Why not mandate they get an education through online classes ? Why not set up a portable classroom outside of Garret square or Westhaven and mandate anyone on public assistance take classes in nutrtiition child rearing, basic math, or good old fashioned Home Economics?

Why do we allow people to not work and receive food shelter and starting next January healthcare, without chipping in, but if you choose to work and not contribute taxes YOU go to jail?

The system is broken and needs to be fixed

Part 1

The issue concerning conservatives is that they have a fundamentally flawed belief-disbelief system. As I noted (above, in Part 1), there is an extensive body of psychological research that details the connections between dogmatism, conservatism, and authoritarianism. The conclusions that emerge from that body of research offer a disturbing prospect for effective democratic governance in a republic when major political party is comprised of ideologues OPPOSED to the core values of democracy. And that’s exactly what we have today. In the U.S., the problem is not government, as conservatives like to say. The problem is conservatives in the Republican party.

Respected Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein pointed the finger of blame for gridlock in government directly at conservative Republicans in Congress. They wrote:

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional...we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition...the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right.”

Conservative right-wingers are dogmatic. They are close-minded. Research finds that some people (including commenters on this thread) embrace conservatism “because it serves to reduce fear, anxiety, and uncertainty” and it helps them “to avoid change, disruption, and ambiguity; and to explain, order, and justify inequality among groups and individuals.” And make no mistake, conservatives are experts in creating, endorsing, and defending “social and economic inequality.” Conservatives do not much care for facts. That truism extends from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who claims there is an “original intent” to the Constitution, despite historical proof to the contrary (Madison’s Notes on the Constitution), to inane and inaccurate comment posted here.

One commenter, for example, whines about “unions, the Great Society, [and] unsuccessful public education.” These are all favorite whipping boys for conservatives, but conservative complaints are based more on myth than reality.

Part 2

Workers unions, for example, helped to create the 40-hour work week. They helped to end child labor and build the middle class in America. They helped many middle-class citizens gain access to affordable health care. The Founders of the republic understood John Locke’s views on property well, and Locke wrote this on property:

.”...every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”

According to Locke, the primary purpose that people create government is to protect their property: their persons, their labor, and their other possessions.
Locke argued that people are “free and equal,” and they consent to “unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of it.” Indeed, the Preamble to the Constitution reflects Locke’s – and Rousseau’s – vision of the social contract:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Journalist David Rosenbaum noted in 1985 that When Lyndon Johnson became president “More than 90 percent of the black adults in many Southern counties were not registered to vote. Only a third of the children in the country 3 to 5 years old attended nursery school or kindergarten. Today most Americans would find those situations unacceptable.” Except for conservatives, that is. Rosenbaum noted in 1985 that “Medicare and Medicaid, Federal aid to education, the right of blacks to vote and use commercial facilities - have become, in the almost unanimous view of politicians and scholars, permanent parts of the American system.” But conservatives want to unravel them all, witness Paul Ryan’s “budget” that outlines the gutting of Medicare, Medicaid and other parts of the social contract.

When LBJ announced his legislative priorities, he said this: ''We have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.'' His aid, Joseph Califano said this in reference to LBJ’s Great Society: “Above all else, Lyndon Johnson saw the Great Society as an instrument to create racial justice and eliminate poverty.” Johnson wanted “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice...promote the general welfare.” To bring the Constitution’s vision to reality, Johnson got the Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1968 Fair Housing Act, and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, among other pieces of legislation. In American history these are considered to be landmarks – milestones – in achieving equal rights and a fairer, better society. Conservatives revile all of them, which is why they try to suppress voting and unravel civil and voting rights enforcement, and why they hate the Environmental Protection Agency.

Part 3

In education, as Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond pointed out several years ago, “the Great Society's War on Poverty increased investments in poor communities, substantial gains were made in equalizing educational inputs and outcomes. Childhood poverty was reduced to levels almost half of what they are today.” Darling-Hammond wrote this stunner:

“For a brief period in the mid-'70s, black and Hispanic students were attending college at rates comparable with whites, the only time this has happened before or since. By the mid-1970s, urban schools were spending as much as suburban schools, and paying their teachers as well; perennial teacher shortages had nearly ended; and gaps in educational attainment had closed substantially. Federally funded curriculum investments transformed teaching in many schools. Innovative schools flourished, especially in the cities. Large gains in black students' performance throughout the 1970s and early '80s cut the literacy achievement gap by nearly half in just fifteen years. Had this rate of progress continued, the achievement gap would have been closed by the beginning of the twenty-first century.”

But that didn’t happen. Instead, Darling-Hammond wrote, “the United States backpedaled in the Reagan years, cutting the education budget in half, ending most aid to cities and most supports for teacher recruitment and training while also slashing health and human services budgets and shifting costs to the states.” Meanwhile Reagan cut taxes for corporations and the rich, raised them on middle-class Americans, and piled up debt.

Conservatives and their allies continue with the myth about “unsuccessful public education.” What conservatives really want is twofold: (1) they try to avoid responsibility for what they’ve done economically and pin blame on public schools (and teachers, and unions) for the problems they caused, and (2) they want to privatize the money that goes to public education. The big lie they tell is that public education is “broken” and “in crisis.” But it’s not true.

The Sandia Report (Journal of Educational Research, May/June, 1993) was published in the wake of A Nation at Risk – the Reagan-era screed that warned of a “rising tide of mediocrity” that threatened U.S. national security. The researchers concluded that:

* "..on nearly every measure we found steady or slightly improving trends."

* "youth today [the 1980s] are choosing natural science and engineering degrees at a higher rate than their peers of the 1960s."

* "business leaders surveyed are generally satisfied with the skill levels of their employees, and the problems that do exist do not appear to point to the k-12 education system as a root cause."

* "The student performance data clearly indicate that today's youth are achieving levels of education at least as high as any previous generation."

Part 4

Reading is considered to be a key to learning and school achievement. Below are PISA reading scores, disaggregated for the U.S.:

Average score, reading literacy, PISA, 2009: 
[United States, Asian students 541] 
Korea 539 
Finland 536 
[United States, white students 525] 
Canada 524 
New Zealand 521 
Japan 520 
Australia 515 
Netherlands 508 
Belgium 506 
Norway 503 
Estonia 501 
Switzerland 501 
Poland 500 
Iceland 500 
United States (overall) 500 
Sweden 497 
Germany 497 
Ireland 496 
France 496 
Denmark 495 
United Kingdom 494 
Hungary 494 
OECD average 493 
Portugal 489 
Italy 486 
Slovenia 483 
Greece 483 
Spain 481 
Czech Republic 478 
Slovak Republic 477 
Israel 474 
Luxembourg 472 
Austria 470 
[United States, Hispanic students 466] 
Turkey 464 
Chile 449 
[United States, black students 441] 
Mexico 425 

Blogger and journalist Bob Somerby (at The Daily Howler) pointed out the recent Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) test results found that “In eighth-grade science...Massachusetts outscored every major nation which took the test, including the Asian tigers Taiwan, Korea and Japan.” Somerby noted that “Our schools face tremendous demographic challenges due to our brutal racial history and due to our immigration practices...But good lord! As the percentage of low-income and minority kids keeps growing, American test scores keep getting better. We think that’s a striking good-news story—but the plutocrats and their tribunes don’t want you to hear or enjoy it. “ Indeed.

Overall, the U.S. scores stack up...the problem is in schools with high concentrations of poverty. Indeed, PISA scores (the scores usually cited by public education critics) are quite sensitive to income level. If one disaggregates U.S. scores the problems becomes clearer: the more poverty a school has, the lower its scores. The presumed “reformers” seem to think that more “competition” and ambitiousness will cause the schools to fix the effects of poverty. Those effects are pernicious.

A technical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics on the damaging effects of toxic stress in children – the kind of stress found in high-poverty urban areas – finds that such stress involves "activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis and the sympathetic-adrenomedullary system, which results in increased levels of stress hormones, such as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline. These changes co-occur with a network of other mediators that include elevated inflammatory cytokines and the response of the parasympathetic nervous system, which counterbalances both sympathetic activation and inflammatory responses.”

The result is that “toxic stress in young children can lead to less outwardly visible yet permanent changes in brain structure and function....chronic stress is associated with hypertrophy and overactivity in the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, whereas comparable levels of adversity can lead to loss of neurons and neural connections in the hippocampus and medial PFC. The functional consequences of these structural changes include more anxiety related to both hyperactivation of the amygdala and less top-down control as a result of PFC atrophy as well as impaired memory and mood control as a consequence of hippocampal reduction.”

In plain speak, alleviating poverty and its pernicious effects, and providing children with high quality environments before they get to school, and following up with health and academic and social policy programs ("free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance") while they are in school, results not only in high-quality education but also in a high-quality citizenry....and in promoting the general welfare of the nation.

But conservatives don’t want any part of that. The so-called “base” of the Republican party is “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives" who hold “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns. They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.” The conservative base is “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition...”

The problem today is that conservatives –– which means most of the current crop of Republicans –– are extremely dogmatic. And that’s highly problematic in a democratic republic that was created on a platform of values that include popular sovereignty, freedoms for all citizens, equality, justice, tolerance, and promoting the general welfare of society. Conservatives are opposed to them all.
And that’s what makes them so dangerous.

Evidently, what we may take from the above is that conservatives (and Republicans) are "extremely dogmatic."

Should we say, then, that anyone who is NOT conservative, or NOT Republican, is therefore NOT dogmatic? If that is true, or mostly true, than it would mean that most people who are not conservative, and not Republican, are therefore not dogmatic.

And what would that mean? Would it mean that lack of dogma is a good thing? I suppose that depends on what we mean by "dogma." Evidently, those who are neither conservative nor Republican, have no dogma. Is that true? Do Democrats and liberals have no dogma? Or, if tjhey DO, pray tell, what is it?