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The Smart Set: Are “Liberals” Really Smarter Than “Conservatives”?

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So, Barack Obama’s approval rating is falling so quickly that it may soon be journeying to the center of the earth.

So, the economy is in such terrible shape that those supposedly untouchable middle class tax cuts may expire.

So, Florida happens to have three of the most corrupt politicians in the country running for one of its United States Senate seats.

So, what?

Instead of my usual weekly analysis of political happenings across the United States, I have decided to take a different approach with today’s article. A few nights ago, I stumbled across a very interesting study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute. Its purpose was to answer the age-old question of Who is Smarter; A Godless, Elitist Liberal or A Bible-Thumping, Good-Ole-Boy Conservative?

Okay, okay. The study did not include the theatrics, but you get the idea.

I must say that its results did not surprise me in the least. Lazar Stankov, a visiting professor at Singapore’s National Institute of Education, came to the conclusion that per individual, “conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, vocabulary, and analogy test scores” while, on a national level, “conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education”.

Now, before my leftist readers begin to break out the champagne, it should be noted that Stankov’s definition of conservatism does not apply to free market economics. Essentially, he is referring to extreme social conservatives — the Fine Folks who just love the idea of limited government except when People Who Are Not Just Like Them are added to the equation. At the instant that diversity comes into the picture, well, then all bets are off.

We see these social ultraconservatives jam packing Sarah Palin’s rallies on a daily basis. When interviewed by members of the press, they are more often than not unable to provide a coherent answer to questions regarding major political or cultural issues. They are, however, extremely proud of their “plain” or, more endearingly, “salt of the earth” attitude and outlook on life. Should one wish to waste his or her time and damage a few brain cells in the process, it would be advisable to browse through a few pages of the far right fringe discussion forum Free Republic. It will not be long before the person in question is able to attain a decent understanding of the socially ultraconservative thought process.

It is not a pretty thing, I can tell you that much.

The findings of the AEI’s study give reason as to why I do not describe my political ideology as uniformly “conservative”, but “Americanist” instead. One of the men I admire most in American politics is Nelson Rockefeller, who was Gerald Ford’s vice president and an unabashed capitalist. During his life, he was a strong proponent of Americanism — fiscal and domestic/national security conservatism merged with social centrism — which he recognized as a pragmatic and intelligent school of thought that was capable of bringing a vast majority of Americans together in order to fix the nation’s problems.

While many may decry my assessment of the study as “caving” or “capitulating” to the Left, I am doing nothing of the sort. You see, the study did not determine that leftists are intelligent — but that liberals, on average, were more so than social ultraconservatives.

As any student of American politics knows, there is all the difference in the world between a “liberal” and a “leftist”. Actually, I would say that, when all is said and done, leftists share far more in common with social ultraconservatives than liberals do with Americanists.

After all, both leftists and social ultraconservatives want to control your life — and we all know that the least intelligent of all personality types is a tyrant.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Baronius

    Cotto, I have two problems with this kind of analysis, splitting social and fiscal conservatives. First off, the social conservative Santorums are usually more fiscally conservative than the social moderate Specters. Secondly, social policy drives fiscal policy. The safety net keeps getting bigger because fractured, uneducated families need it, and our social programs are exacerbating the conditions that break these families.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Baronius, socially conservative positions concerning…
    …gays
    or teaching creationism in schools
    or worshiping the ownership of guns
    or bemoaning the deliberate sabotage of Christmas…

    …have little or nothing to do with fiscal conservatism.

    You yourself gladly swallow all the precepts of both social and fiscal conservatism and assume that this must mean they are inherently related.

    The appallingly widespread appeal of Sarah Palin’s contempt for education, books, and facts [as symbols of the ‘secular elite’] is a deeply disturbing, depressing phenomenon. There are people who like her precisely because she sounds so shrilly dumb.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    And I’m not sure whether to classify this all-too-common assumption/worldview: People are poor or unemployed because they are lazy.

    Whichever camp that fits into, I classify it as hateful bunk.

  • frank burns

    So this author admires globalists like Rockefeller. I suppose he admires the Goldman/Citibank flash crash – oops! there goes a few trillion – now where’s my 8 figure bonus?

  • Baronius

    Handy, there’s as much junk science on the left as on the right. The “hockey stick”, the anti-vaccine crowd, the hilariously wrong economic theories, the belief that fetuses have gills and don’t feel pain…you guys are not as smart (on average) as you think. The blind belief in Fox News may seem stupid to you, but what about the blind belief in the NYT? Dumb people may like Palin’s regular-guy image, but are the dumb people who think that President Obama is smart any better?

    You mention some socially-conservative positions that have nothing to do with fiscal policy. At least grant me this point: that IF our current education and welfare policies promote failure, then they would result in increased government costs.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    A big, unproven if, and it doesn’t mean that the problems couldn’t be fixed with new, but still ‘liberal’ policies.

    Your mind is wedged very tightly into its tunnel-vision tunnel. You allow for no correct opinions leftward of your own. You, in other words, are perfect, and those who disagree are ‘stupid.’

    Implying that Obama is not intelligent is simply ridiculous. You may disagree with all his policies, but you’re on your own claiming his intelligence is low. No evidence offered, just a snide assertion.

    I agree we should treat all news [and opinion] sources with healthy skepticism. But to use a favorite phrase of some on the right, there is no moral equivalence between the actual journalism of the New York Times and the plastic posturing of Fox News. And you’re smart enough to know it. I think. Maybe.

  • Cannonshop

    Back to the point of the article, his last statement says it:

    “After all, both leftists and social ultraconservatives want to control your life – and we all know that the least intelligent of all personality types is a tyrant.”

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Cannon, I am by your standards a leftist, and I am as pro-democracy and anti-tyranny as you or anyone else. This is empty rhetoric. No one wants to turn the US into a dictatorship. And you know it. So talk sense, please, instead of regurgitating meaningless boilerplate all the time.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “. . .and we all know that the least intelligent of all personality types is a tyrant.”

    That’s debatable, Cannon? Where on earth did you come up with that notion.

    If memory serves, the first-ever tyrant (in recorded history) was Pisistratus, and he was far from unenlightened or unpopular.

    Neither was Hitler, the most radical case, “the least intelligent.” His program of rebuilding Germany from the ashes to this very day is monumental. Of course, he’d fallen victim to this own hubris, and the rest is history.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    The ancient Greek office of Tyrannos was, as Roger notes, not automatically associated with despotism. It was usually a prominent citizen appointed at a time of crisis and given sweeping, but temporary, powers in order to deal with said crisis effectively. Once things had settled down again, the tyrant was expected to step aside so that the normal mode of government could resume; and most did so without a fuss.

  • TJ

    Oh, I don’t know…I’m a social conservative and a doctoral student.
    Meanwhile, lefties like Tim Geithner can’t figure out how to pay their taxes and Obama can’t figure out what “8% unemployment” means.

  • John Wilson

    DD:

    Many ‘primitive’ tribes replicated this. In times of extremity someone deemed intelligent and skillful was appointed tyrant, usually over his/her own protestations. Being tyrant was not coveted because it was a lonely position and removed one temporarily from the comfort of the group/family.

  • Doug Hunter

    This seems a likely result based simply on the idea behind the words. Conservative means not breaking out of traditional, etc. while liberal involves a little thinking outside the box. On it’s face it seems smart people would be predisposed to the latter.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I’m a social conservative and a doctoral student.

    Which proves nothing at all, because there are different types of smarts. There are handymen who can solve complex mathematical problems. There are also college professors who have trouble tying their own shoelaces.

    All I know is that the intellectual left’s tendency to ‘reason’ themselves into barmy political and social theories with no foundation in reality whatsoever annoys me almost as much as the right’s tendency to patronise anyone to their left as though their opinions were those of children.

  • zingzing

    “we all know that the least intelligent of all personality types is a tyrant.”

    how you came to that conclusion is beyond me. seems to me that one would have to be fairly intelligent in order to completely control and entire nation of people. underestimating the would-be tyrant is rather foolish.

  • John Wilson

    My observation is that rightists and leftists alike flatter themselves by claiming better educations and knowledge than they are entitled to claim. Maybe the rightists appear more stentorian, but that just seems to be a consequence of their authoritarian predispositions.

  • Cannonshop

    I used to think it was clear-cut “Right” and “Left”, but it isn’t, I mean, my predisposition is toward a “Libertarian” (not the party) view on limiting concentration of power and getting the government out of people’s lives, bedrooms, churches etc.

    Which puts me (Ironically) to the right of most Liberals who draw government into EVERY aspect of life, as the “Solution” to EVERY problem. (don’t say you don’t do it, guys. Universal Health Care? Social Security? you’re as bad as Fred Phelps in some (different) ways…)

    “Tyrant” is “SO I Decree, so it shall be!” thinking-and that IS, shall we be kind? Less than the most intelligent approach.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    …most Liberals who draw government into EVERY aspect of life, as the “Solution” to EVERY problem. (don’t say you don’t do it, guys. Universal Health Care? Social Security?…)

    Cannon, I consider myself to be liberal and like to have as little to do with government as possible. However, I also happen to believe that government is in the perfect position to make itself useful by ensuring, through a variety of programs, the welfare and happiness of the citizenry.

    It would be nice if we could be sure that some private company or other would be willing to jump in and offer Hilda Boggins and family health and retirement insurance at an affordable rate, it really would. But you and I both know that if that company doesn’t regard Ma Boggins as an acceptable risk/investment, they’re not going to touch her with a ten-foot pole.

    I really don’t think it’s an unreasonable intrusion on someone’s privacy to offer a little security in life, and a leg-up to those who, perhaps through no fault of their own, are struggling.

    It’s certainly a better use of taxpayers’ money than waging unwinnable endless wars in unconquerable mountainous countries.

  • Zedd

    Again, this article makes no sense. Not sure what the point is.

    SAT is an intelligence test? Didn’t know that.

    I don’t know what a Conservative is any more. I think they don’t either. I believe the majority of people who don’t identify themselves as such do so simply not to be aligned with the dim wittedness that Conservativeness represents.

  • Zedd

    Being a student doesn’t mean you are smart (whatever that is). That fact that you said that proves the point. It means you’ve spent a lot of time in school and you have practiced patience and commitment to studying.

  • Zedd

    Cannonshop,

    How about you being predisposed to being you. You would hate it if the government pulled out of all of the things that you say you hate about it. You would be scared if we lived in a Libertarians dream. It would be a nightmare. Only weirdos and social misfits would actually like that world.

  • Cannonshop

    #18 Doc, Federal employees are exempt from Social Security, regular unconnected citizens are NOT. In terms of returns, I can get a better return on my investment by putting that money in a standard (taxable) savings account than into the ponzi-scheme of Social Security. (forget IRAs or MSA’s, or privately managed retirement funds like 401(k) instruments.)

    It’s a tax, it’s compulsory, and Federal Employees don’t have to pay it. I lack your confidence in this system.

  • zingzing

    cannonshop: “most Liberals who draw government into EVERY aspect of life, as the “Solution” to EVERY problem. (don’t say you don’t do it, guys. Universal Health Care? Social Security?…)”

    that really doesn’t cover “EVERY”thing, now does it? conservatives invade private lives in certain other ways, and even if you don’t, i’ll still say you would, because i can make blanket statements that lack any sort of meaning as well as the next guy.

    i suppose it doesn’t bother you that i don’t particularly like social security, as i’ll probably see nothing of it. then again, i can look at some grandma who lives off it and say, well, shit, i can pay a little tax and millions of grandmas are eating alright, rather than just saying “fuck you grandma,” as it seems you would.

    whether you would or not doesn’t matter, because i’m just going to assume so anyway.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    How’s the for “the conscience of the conservative”?

  • Cannonshop

    #23 what I most object about it, Zing, is that it’s fraud, based on a lie, and enforced by the gun. Even for the most noble of means, theft is theft, and worse, it is the kind of theft that preys on both the person paying out, and on those recieving the de-valued proceeds (after a percentage is taxed out!)

    Finally, those (Federal Employees, non-Military) who don’t pay in, still get to draw off as if they had when they retire.

    It’s based on a fraud, it IS a ponzi-scheme in practice.

  • Baronius

    “Your mind is wedged very tightly into its tunnel-vision tunnel. You allow for no correct opinions leftward of your own. You, in other words, are perfect, and those who disagree are ‘stupid.'”

    Handy, how am I supposed to reply to that? “Nuh-uh”? “So are you”? Of course I think that the policies I disagree with are dumb. Of course I think that the people who believe them have blind spots. You do too. Look at your first sentence and compare it to the second half of your last sentence.

  • Baronius

    Doug – Wouldn’t you say that a conservative in academia thinks outside the box? A poor minority who rejects the welfare state? A high school kid who takes religion seriously? If rebelling against the societal standard is the criterion for measuring intelligence, then you need to identify a person’s upbringing to judge whether his current beliefs indicate braininess.

  • zingzing

    cannonshop #25, well, if that’s true, would you cut it off right now, knowing that little old ladies would lose their homes and starve to death within a few months? are you a heartless bastard or are you just blowing hot air because you know it’s not going anywhere?

  • zingzing

    baronius, #27 is looks like ir was written by alanis morrisette.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Cannon, are you sure about your facts? The law was changed in 1983. From 1984 onward, all federal employees do pay into the system. If you have other info, I’d be interested to know about it. Thanks.

    From the Social Security Administration web site:

    Is it true that members of Congress do not have to pay into Social Security?

    A: No, it is not true. All members of Congress, the President and Vice President, Federal judges, and most political appointees, were covered under the Social Security program starting in January 1984. They pay into the system just like everyone else. Thus all members of Congress, no matter how long they have been in office, have been paying into the Social Security system since January 1984.

    (Prior to this time, most Federal government workers and officials were participants in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) which came into being in 1920–15 years before the Social Security system was formed. For this reason, historically, Federal employees were not participants in the Social Security system.)

  • John Wilson

    Zing is wrong: “i suppose it doesn’t bother you that i don’t particularly like social security, as i’ll probably see nothing of it.”

    You’re just reacting to constant propaganda from the right. SS is well-funded and has a $2.5trillion surplus. SS has had a surplus every year but one since 1985.

    SS is better funded than your life insurance or auto insurance. If you don’t believe me ask your insurance company if they could survive having all clients file full claims at the same time. No, they can’t. It’s ridiculous to ask. But that means that they are actually unfunded in the same way that SS critics claim SS is.

    Stop accepting rightists propaganda. It is designed to predispose you to forfeiting SS support in the mistaken belief that it is ‘unfunded’.

    The only way SS won’t be there is if people allow Wall Street to pilfer SS as they have done every other financial vehicle in sight.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Baronius, it should be possible for two people to disagree and still respect each other. Two adults need not resort to “nyah nyah” attitudes impugning the intelligence of the holder of the other opinion. The attitude of nearly all of your comments in this thread falls into the ‘nyah nyah’ category, and I was/am reacting to that, not specifically to your opinions.

    The quality of the argument and the ability to support it with facts instead of hot air and innuendo, however, are different things. You love ‘gotchas’ based on minutiae, and you believe once you have found one or two of those, you’ve won. You don’t really make convincing arguments based on facts.

    I really try to react to specific issues and statements, and to make my reaction/argument specific also and to back it up to the extent space allows.

    I don’t consider myself an ideologue. No doubt you consider me one and are quite proud to be one yourself. But I’m nonconformist enough to reject lists of rules and rigid definitions imposed by others concerning what my opinions are or should be.

  • zingzing

    john: “You’re just reacting to constant propaganda from the right.”

    nope. the average life expectancy in my family is less than age i will start receiving benefits if that date continues to be pushed back like it is now.

    also, do you really think that the current surplus is going to survive when the baby boomers start collecting? and their 2.2 children are trying to pick up the tab? and as medical science extends lives? i hope something can be figured out, but the confluence of all these different things certainly doesn’t look good from here. maybe i’m looking at the wrong things, and they have nothing to do with social security funding, or the date upon which i could hope to receive any benefits. but i’m not all that certain i will receive any benefit from social security.

    but i still support it.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Apropos of nothing in particular, but a change of pace:

    Gallup recently posted their list of 2010 favorability ratings for various public figures. Michelle Obama came out on top, followed by Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.

    But the funniest/most appalling figures are in the “never heard of” column. So 12% of Americans polled had “never heard of” Dick Cheney. And 4% said they had never heard of Barack Obama — same figure as for George W. Bush.

    Now if we are assigning dumb-dumb ratings, that part of the survey group is/are in a class by themselves. Who the heck are they? The sample size was 1,020 adults, so at least 40 said they didn’t know who W is.

  • Baronius

    Au contraire, mon type maniable. (If babelfish is correct, that’s “on the contrary, handyguy”.) My comment #1 raised an interesting idea, probably the most thought-provoking one on the thread, that bad social policy creates the need for more government. You wrote it off by listing a couple of social policies that aren’t related to fiscal policy. My comment #5 spelled it out more clearly; your next comment again failed to take up the question. I don’t know how I can put the idea more plainly. It’d be great if you want to talk about policy. I can lead you to water, but I can’t make you drink.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I did answer you: the failure or success of education and welfare policy doesn’t have to be defined ideologically. Liberal and conservative policies could both fail or succeed not because of their ideological category or origin, but because of many other factors: funding, quality of execution, the economy.

    So if “liberal” policies fail, it doesn’t follow that they could not be replaced by better-executed, but still-liberal policies. This in fact is exactly what Obama and Arne Duncan are attempting in education policy.

    Sure, you can also try right-wing approaches. Allegedly, Reagan and Bush II did so. Some of those policies are still around, for better or worse. Federal policy is not all liberal or all conservative.

  • Doug Hunter

    Zing, I’m in the same boat. I suspect the age will rise to a point where I won’t reach it. Barring that, I figure they’ll determine that people who saved for their own retirement shouldn’t get anything from social security. Either way, I’ve never planned on receiving a dime yet feel it is a necessary program (and you know how far right I am). I say tie the age to the growth in life expectancy AND scale down or remove benefits for people who have adequate pensions/assets for retirement while keeping the taxes where they’re at. That should fund it indefinitely.

    #31 Your auto/life insurance analogy is horrible, I hope you didn’t put a lot of thought into it. The ponzi scheme analogy another commenter suggested is very accurate. A ponzi scheme can be run with a ‘surplus’ for quite awhile (ask Madoff) as long as you can find new marks, or in the case of social security as long as the population growth reamins at a given level. I will agree with you that the downfall of SS is overhyped, it will take only moderate actions, like the ones I outlined above, to make it solvent.

    You have sparked my interest though. If SS were a private annuity how much reserve would they be expected to have right now and how would that compare to the $2.5 trillion SS has. Has anyone ever seen such an analysis? That would make for an interesting piece. I assume annuities must keep much more reserve, enough to pay the majority of benefits even with a decline in or no new customers (if not, it should be a crime).

  • zingzing

    i wonder what all the anti-social security, anti-medicare right wingers would do if they had to completely pay (food, shelter, medicine, etc, etc) for the last 20-40 years of their parents’ lives. i wonder if they’ve even thought about that. and even if their own parents are well off, what about those that aren’t?

    these social programs aren’t going anywhere, so getting all high and mighty about them being “theft” betrays nothing but the lack of thought, sympathy and empathy found in the american right wing.

  • Doug Hunter

    The information should be there from when Bush tried to privatize SS. The only thing I can find is a Democratic calculator detailing how much less a private account would pay you. What should jump out at a reasonable person is that SS is paying an unsustainable amount if a market investment could not compete with it, but I suspect the creators are planning on a more simplistic response (i.e. Bush=Granny Catfood=bad).

  • Doug Hunter

    #38

    Well, let’s see. First, you’d be earning 18% more money your entire life. Secondly, you’d probably make wiser decisions regarding savings and consumption. Thirdly, the lower levels would be forced to, gasp, take in and live with their parents in their twilight years, giving them priceless time together and bringing families closer.

    Just throwing out a SWAG, I’d say 60-70% of the population would be better off right up front, society would likely benefit from a wiser consumers and a tighter knit family structure, and the economy would likely earn a boost as shifts away from government spending to private enterprise (with the cumulative effect being that over time more and more of the population are winners with the rising tide). The losers would be the usual suspects, the unemployable, those in poverty, etc.

    That’s why I support taking care of the neediest while scaling SS back (and hoping to gain fringe benefits like saving and smarter consumption) from those who have means.

  • Doug Hunter

    I know you think we’re heartless, but I believe you discount the compounding power of economic growth. It has got to be considered an important factor. People don’t die on boats trying to get from the US to Cuba because of their generous welfare plans, they do the opposite because of our economy.

  • Baronius

    Handy, you’re right that the success or failure of policies isn’t ideological, per se. But if you look at, for example, education policy, you’ll see that the failing ideas have been coming from the statist mentality, and the reforms have been coming from the right. Consider the two most talked-about reforms in recent years, charter schools and reducing class size. The class size issue is pushed by the unions, and results in bigger government. It’s inherently statist. It’s also never been demonstrated to be successful. Charter schools decentralize the system, and they’ve been promoted by conservatives. Conservatives have also been big on home schooling and vouchers, and while standardized testing is a big-government idea, many Republicans have accepted it as necessary in order to track the impact of reforms. Duncan has been (somewhat) supportive of these reforms, but they’ve definitely been coming from the right. If you talked to an average conservative about education reform, he wouldn’t list the teaching of creationism in his top 5 wish list. That’s caricaturing, whether you realize it or not. If you do realize it, you’re the one playing “gotcha”, and if you don’t, then you need to learn more about the issue of education reform.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Those school board members in Kansas and Texas are figments of my imagination, I suppose. Some of them just might consider themselves ‘average conservatives’ too.

    At any rate, why does it have to be “my team/your team”? If Obama and Duncan support charter schools, as they do, enthusiastically, then the idea itself may well be non-ideological.

    It’s this attitude that everything the teachers’ unions say is automatically wrong — they can’t possibly be right: they’re teachers’ unions! — that lowers the level of discussion.

    Support the ideas that are good — but with proof they work: charter schools have been the subject of some overpromises and resulting backlash lately — and stop keeping ideological score. [I’m agnostic on charter schools; worth a shot but not completely proven.]

    The socially conservative ideas I object to are mostly the product of religious taboos. Religious taboos and government policy are a dangerous mix.

  • zingzing

    doug,

    #1, 18%? more like 6%, unless you’re talking about something else. where’d you get that figure?

    #2, if you could live with your parents without going crazy, i commend you (or at least your parents), but for most of us, that’s not an option. not even close.

    #3, what a load of crap.

  • Baronius

    Those school board members in Kansas and Texas are figments of my imagination, I suppose. Some of them just might consider themselves ‘average conservatives’ too.

    Not figments; just “gotchas”.

    At any rate, why does it have to be “my team/your team”? If Obama and Duncan support charter schools, as they do, enthusiastically, then the idea itself may well be non-ideological.

    As I noted, the idea of decentralization is inherent to conservative thought. We’d be fools if we didn’t notice that one ideology produces better policies than another.

    It’s this attitude that everything the teachers’ unions say is automatically wrong — they can’t possibly be right: they’re teachers’ unions! — that lowers the level of discussion.

    Again, look at the track record. Look at NJ and tell me if they’re part of the solution or part of the problem.

    Support the ideas that are good — but with proof they work: charter schools have been the subject of some overpromises and resulting backlash lately — and stop keeping ideological score. [I’m agnostic on charter schools; worth a shot but not completely proven.]

    As I said, the notion of standardized tests is statist (I’m using that word instead of liberal, if that’s ok), but I realize that if we’re going to restore value to a high school diploma, we’ve got to have some higher authority that guarantees their value. I’m not blind to the ideas that come from the other side, but neither am I blind to the fact that most of them are lousy.

    The socially conservative ideas I object to are mostly the product of religious taboos. Religious taboos and government policy are a dangerous mix.

    Well, considering that I’m not pushing any religious ideas, that’s a straw man.

  • Baronius

    Doug and Zing – 6.25% paid by both employee and employer, for a total of 12.5%.

  • Doug Hunter

    Zing,

    -You mentioned retirement and medical so I included the full 15.3% tax that is paid by you and your employer. If you were being taxed 15.3% you would see your income jump by 18% from it’s previous levels if that tax was removed. (the numbers don’t match for the same reason that it takes a 100% increase to rebound from a 50% decrease)

    -I’m sorry you don’t get along with your parents, I love my family and largely enjoy every moment with them… it won’t last forever and I don’t want regrets. Perhaps they are special in making the transition from disciplinarian to being adult friends and mentors.

    -You’ve got to be more specific with you crapcalling. Do you dispute that perceived safety nets lead to riskier behaviors? Do you not believe that stronger families lead to better outcomes, less poverty, etc?

    Also, I stated that the needy should not have their benefits touched and am not really suggesting anything radical yet… perhaps the poor who take in their parents could collect the thousands that would otherwise go to the nursing home each month.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Snide, snide and more snide. I guess I’ve had my fill of snide for now.

    Texas school board decisions have national implications. The anti-science stance there and in Kansas is appalling. If I express my reaction to these quite real ideas and actions, this is somehow dismissable as a gotcha?

    It isn’t all about you, your particular agenda or ideas. This started as a comparison/contrast of fiscal and social conservatism, not of Baronius and Handy.

    Socially conservative ideas about homosexuality and abortion and creationism-vs-evolution have their origin in religious taboos. If Baronius doesn’t share all these views [although he certainly shares some of them], then my statement wasn’t aimed at him.

    It’s not about specific religious doctrine, but the spread of ideas evolved [excuse the expression] from religion into policies that will affect all Americans, of all faiths or no faith.

    You [you the generic social conservative, not you the individual Baronius] can hang on to your taboos but you can’t force them on me. Not without a fight.

  • zingzing

    doug, i get along fine with my parents. doesn’t mean i want to live with them. but thank you for taking that logical leap. where’d you land? also, your family life sounds like a dream. good for you. (you secretly want to chop them up and feed them to the neighbor’s dog, don’t you?)

    also, 15.3%? where are you getting these numbers? i’m just not finding anything like that anywhere… the internet, my pay stub, nowhere.

    “You’ve got to be more specific with you crapcalling. Do you dispute that perceived safety nets lead to riskier behaviors? Do you not believe that stronger families lead to better outcomes, less poverty, etc? ”

    my god. sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. like just about anything. my vagueness is only matched by yours.

  • Doug Hunter

    I link a chart below, the right hand column shows the total…

    Social Security-Trust Fund Data

  • zingzing

    the right hand column shows the total for self-employed people… then again, smart self-employed people can also itemize their taxes to hell.

    do you really count employer taxes against your own earnings? i’ve never had an employer take their taxes out of my earnings, but i guess if you’re trying to make a point, it’s a good thing to assume…

    that does explain where you got the 15.3%, but it doesn’t really explain why you chose to use it.

  • Doug Hunter

    My experience is as an employer, not an employee and from an employer perspective you have to figure in total cost. It’s completely irrelevant who gets credit for paying the tax, all you know is that your $15.50/hr employees might be costing you $16.42/hr and you have to figure off that total cost regardless of whether the check goes off to the employee, the treasury, or state unemployment agency.

    Just something to think about if you’re still not convinced that a tax on your employer is a tax on an employee. Could we not simply eliminate the ‘income’ tax and replace it with a ‘business payroll tax’ of an equivalent amount due and payable by the employer along with your social security thereby removing all worker taxes? Yippee!!! Nothing has functionally changed but now you’d live in a land where you could believe that we pay no income tax at all and where businesses fund the government in it’s entirety. In fact, not only would you pay no income taxes but you’d still get a fat check at the end of the year for all you good credits (and the rebate generators formerly known as deductions) Of course, the self employed wouldn’t pay income tax either they’d simply have to file as a business to pay their payroll tax.

  • zingzing

    so if you didn’t have to pay the ss/mc taxes, you’d be so good as to pay your employees the difference? if that’s the route you want to go…

    most people are employees. very few are actual employers. very, very few. your number was strikingly out of balance with the reality i, as a lowly employee, know about what taxes i pay as an employee. i can understand why you’d think you could use it, but really, i’m not paying anywhere near 15.3% of my income on social programs for the elderly, and if my employer suddenly didn’t have to pay their end of those taxes, i most certainly wouldn’t see a 7.65% pay raise.

    so… several comments ago, you suggested that without social security/medicare, you (meaning, i thought at the time, the average worker, but whatever,) would see an 18% increase (some funny math was involved) in money over your lifetime, money you could use to care for your dying parents (now the question becomes where can you buy time for doing such things).

    not only is that percentage inflated quite a bit, your trust in the altruism your fellow man is ludicrous. we’d have bunches of senile, catfood-eating geriatrics clogging our gutters within a month.

    as i said before, what a load of crap.

  • zingzing

    “altruism OF your fellow man…”

  • Doug Hunter

    “i’m not paying anywhere near 15.3% of my income”

    Yes, you are. That’s why they pretend that half of it is the ‘employers’ share, so that the ignorant masses won’t realize how much they’re actually being taxed. The self employed pay the full amount because there is no similiar accounting trick to hide it. The self employment tax is not a special punishment for the self employed, it’s simply a way to remain fair to regular employees who really are paying 15+%.

    I never knew how well it worked, I thought it was pretty transparent. Maybe my idea of removing income taxes and relabeling them employer payroll taxes really could work!! Maybe people would believe they really paid no taxes at all. I mean, your employer sends your check in anyway. As far as I can tell they’re the ones paying the tax.

  • zingzing

    explain to me just how i’m “paying” the employer’s tax burden. and if you’re saying that the employer would automatically pay me more if they didn’t have to pay their share (which, apparently, i’m paying anyway… this is all getting very confusing), that’s not going to cut it.

    show me how i’m paying 15.3% of my income (not my potential income, but the income i agreed to,) into social security and medicare. if you can, in fact, do so, i’ll concede the point. until then, i’ll just look at my paystub and do the math myself… and come up with half of what you do.

  • Doug Hunter

    I apologize. I’m simply not capable of explaining it any better. I thought the fact that self employed pay the true 15.3% would really help, but alas I failed. It’s neither the first nor the last time.

  • zingzing

    the self-employed pay the 15.3% because they act as both the employer and the employee. not because the non self-employed pay both the employer and employee taxes…

    so, no, that doesn’t explain it at all.

    if i’m really paying 15.3% of my income into social programs for the elderly, i’d think i’d be able to tell. but maybe i’m being tricked. but i don’t think so.

  • John Wilson

    You’re kidding yourself of you think that employers, freed of paying their share of SS, will do anything other than put that money in their pocket.

    If you are relieved of the 6% SS tax then your resistance to downward wage pressure is reduced by that amount and your salary will decrease.

    Employees won’t see one cent of the money freed from SS premiums.

  • Baronius

    Zing, by law your employer currently pays 6.2% SS tax, and you pay 6.2% SS tax. If he were required to pay 6.4% and you to pay 6%, would your take-home pay be any different? No. Would the total amount that he pays for you to work be any different? No. Would the amount that the government receives be any different? No.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    By the way, Rick Santorum and Marco Rubio both have creationist skeletons in their closets [Santorum in a failed amendment he tried to add to No Child Left Behind, and Rubio in statements he made as a state legislator, comparing the teaching of evolution to the tactics of Castro].

    And the truly icky Ricky Santorum is now threatening to run for President.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    And the truly icky Ricky Santorum is now threatening to run for President.

    Wonder what his line of reasoning is? If Pennsylvania hated him enough to vote him out of office, then he must be doing something right?

  • Doug Hunter

    Ok, I was fishing for carp with my grandad and kids when it hit me (caught one turtle and one channel cat). I went about arguing this the entire wrong way as we can go round and round forever about who really pays the tax.

    The fact is your employer writes a single check on your/his/take-your-pick’s behalf to the US treasury for 15.3% of your income to pay SS/Medicare. My hypothetical is that instead of writing ‘United States Treasury’ on the check we write ‘Zing Z. Zing’. Absolutely nothing has changed except the name on the check for 15.3%. You get an extra 15.3% of your gross income and the employer does not pay one red cent more or less than they did before.

    Does that make more sense?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    What does the Z. stand for?

    :-)

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    It makes sense, Doug, but it doesn’t incline me even slightly toward changing the current setup.

  • Baronius

    Dread – In GOP presidential politics, there are usually two candidates who rise to the top, the top moderate and the top conservative. It’s like a pre-primary. Then those two fight it out for the nomination. In 2008, no one could figure out if Huckabee or Romney was a legitimate conservative, and McCain snuck onto the ticket. If this upcoming election features Huckabee and Romney again, a conservative alternative could get some attention.

    Personally, I’d bet against Santorum. But every Republican lost in 2006.

  • Doug Hunter

    #65 Me neither (except the scaling back for wealthy I mentioned earlier). It was a 20 comment pointless detour on a silly hypothetical for a position I don’t even advocate… but that’s what the comment section is for I suppose.

  • zingzing

    baronius: “Zing, by law your employer currently pays 6.2% SS tax, and you pay 6.2% SS tax. If he were required to pay 6.4% and you to pay 6%, would your take-home pay be any different? No.”

    yes… .2% more, i suppose… what?

    “Would the total amount that he pays for you to work be any different? No.”

    what? of course not. salary is salary. i am paid what i am told i would be paid.

    “Would the amount that the government receives be any different? No.”

    no. what are you getting at? i cannot see the point of this. seriously.

    doug: “The fact is your employer writes a single check on your/his/take-your-pick’s behalf to the US treasury for 15.3% of your income to pay SS/Medicare. My hypothetical is that instead of writing ‘United States Treasury’ on the check we write ‘Zing Z. Zing’. Absolutely nothing has changed except the name on the check for 15.3%. You get an extra 15.3% of your gross income and the employer does not pay one red cent more or less than they did before. ”

    except i wouldn’t. why would you think i would? do you think the company is going to pay me for taxes they don’t have to pay? why would you think that? if so, where’s my corporate tax break? why don’t i get a piece of that? if they’re getting tax credits, why aren’t they passing them on to me? oh… because they keep their money, that’s right…

    “Does that make more sense?”

    no! i pay my 7.65% on the wage i agreed to. it’s not 15.3%. any non self-employed person doesn’t pay 15.3% into social security and medicare. you just chose the trumped-up number because you wanted to. i don’t give a shit what my company pays. they aren’t going to pay me more if you cut those programs. they’ll pocket it. you know, i know it.

    “It was a 20 comment pointless detour on a silly hypothetical for a position I don’t even advocate…”

    well, good, but you’re predicating the whole idea on false numbers. the average american simply doesn’t pay 15.3% of their earnings into social programs for the elderly. it’s just not true. they pay half that.

    if you hadn’t played numbers you obviously knew to be ridiculously overstated, we never would have gotten into this. i’ve seen a paystub. i’ve read them. i know what social security and medicare and not killing the grandparents costs.

  • Baronius

    Zing, your take home pay wouldn’t be any different. That’s the key.

  • Doug Hunter

    “i know what social security and medicare and not killing the grandparents costs.”

    Then you know that it is 15.3% of all wages, or else you’re flat out wrong (and quite dense to boot). It’s a very simple concept and a very simple hypothetical that the 15.3% of your gross wages being paid to SS/medicare would instead goes to you.

    Your very childlike question series is: Why would you think i would? do you think the company is going to pay me for taxes they don’t have to pay? why would you think that? if so, where’s my corporate tax break? why don’t i get a piece of that?

    Because… that’s the very premise of the hypothetical. It’s akin to me starting out saying ‘let’s imagine you have $100 bill to spend at the mall..’ and you replying. ‘Why? Why would I have $100 bill? Why would I spend it at the mall? I get all my money from ATM’s so I’d have 5 twenties instead.’. My reply would be, ‘It’s a fucking hypothetical you goddam moron’ and to proceed to drop whatever point I was trying to make (which incidentally is what I will do now).

    If you want you can have the last word as I don’t intend on responding again on this subject. I look forward to future lively exchanges, it’ll just have to be on another topic.

  • Mark

    Fuck the g’ment and its carrots to keep ‘the masses’ in line. Social Security and social programs, generally, should be taken care of through the workplace. Of course, this will not happen as long as Capital controls the board rooms and its minions squander the wealth that workers provide.

  • Baronius

    Doug, at least we both can enjoy the feeling that we accomplished something here. :)

  • jeannie danna

    Mark,

    This must be your satire, no?

    Social Security and social programs, generally, should be taken care of through the workplace.

    You don’t really believe that corporate America will do with less profit, do you? and you certainly can’t believe that we should privatize our futures to the stock-holders and top 1% !!!!

  • John Wilson

    If the SS tax were removed very little if any money would descend to the employee. All the forces in the 2000-2010 economy are toward reducing pay. There simply is no reason for an employer to pass any of the saved SS premium on to the employee.

    Employers control the wages market because they have effective monopolies and employees have no leverage absent worker shortages or unions.

    And that is verified by the steady declines of real inflation adjusted wages in this era of easy outsourcing and easy importation of trained talent.

    We’re cutting our own throats.

  • zingzing

    baronius: “Zing, your take home pay wouldn’t be any different. That’s the key.”

    what the hell are you talking about? i think you must have skipped a sentence somewhere.

    doug: “Then you know that it is 15.3% of all wages, or else you’re flat out wrong (and quite dense to boot). It’s a very simple concept and a very simple hypothetical that the 15.3% of your gross wages being paid to SS/medicare would instead goes to you.”

    but it wouldn’t, and you know it. if you’re going to say this was all just a hypothetical, then you have to be ignoring all reality. it’s gone beyond hypothetical to the fantasy land where social security never existed. if THAT is your (fantasy) point, i guess i can see the 15.3%. but i was talking about REALITY, where you would never, ever see a 15.3% raise if social security and medicare ceased to be. because 1, the vast majority never paid 15.3%, and 2, your company just isn’t that generous.

    (and i don’t see why you had to go an get all insulting at this point in the game. and then pretending to leave on the higher moral ground… “very childlike,” indeed…)

  • Baronius

    Zing, I was responding to your #68. Let’s go back to my example:

    “Zing, by law your employer currently pays 6.2% SS tax, and you pay 6.2% SS tax. If he were required to pay 6.4% and you to pay 6%, would your take-home pay be any different? No.”

    Your employer has $106,200 in his account. He pays $6,200 to the government, and gives you a check for $100,000. The government takes $6,200 out of your check, and you receive $93,800.

    Second scenario, he has $106,200 in his account. He pays the government $6,400, and writes a check to you for $99,800. The government takes $6,000 out of the check, and you receive $93,800.

    The results are identical.

  • zingzing

    except that’s not how things work.

    my employer doesn’t ever intend on giving me the amount of money he/she has before the gov’t takes out the ss/mc tax, he/she plans on giving me the wage i agreed to (minus MY tax burden).

    my employer may plan accordingly, and offer me a wage that takes that into account, but if ss/mc ceased to be, i wouldn’t see a 15.3% raise, i would get a 7.65% raise (even if it isn’t really a raise but just less taxes).

    using your numbers, if i agreed to a $100,000 salary (and it was all getting paid at one time…), my employer would pay its tax burden of 6.2%, and i would pay my tax burden and i would get a check for $93,800.

    if they had to pay more, and i had to pay less, i would get more.

    if ss/mc ceased to exist, i’d keep the $100,000 i agreed to. (minus, of course, other taxes.) but my salary wouldn’t immediately jump to $106,200 because my employer was paying less taxes.

  • Baronius

    Zing, this isn’t a matter of opinion. This is a matter of accounting and compliance with the law. An employer has to take into account how much it costs him for you to work there. Even the other commenters who are talking about the injustices of the corporate world aren’t denying that your employer’s tax contribution and your tax contribution both stand between his budget and your checking account.

  • zingzing

    when’s the last time you got a raise because your employer’s taxes went down? when’s the last time you were forced to take a pay cut because they went up?

    these things are certainly related, but they do not relate to each other in the 100% way you seem to think they do. they do not hinge upon each other. once you have a wage set, what your employer pays or does not pay is really none of your concern.

  • Oliver Douglas, Esq.

    If Zingzing is a liberal and Baronius a conservative, the answer to the article’s question is yes.

  • Daycare Grants

    @Doug Hunter-
    “….conservative means not breaking out of traditional, etc. while liberal involves a little thinking outside the box. On it’s face it seems smart people would be predisposed to the latter.”
    -Or probably a lot of those so-called ‘liberals’ are merely conservatives who have ‘a lot more dose of “lunacy” in them’!!
    Nowadays, it is really hard to distinguish black from white. There are more grey areas on the landscape of politics. Acceptance is the key.

  • Mark

    I better never see a conservative drawing social security. Ever!

    Funny thing is that the right will need it the most. You think truck driving, construction working and home painting will allow you to retire without any assitance? Please.

    Conservatives are all talk until life catches up with them. Then they suckle on the teet that they once chastised others for suckling.

  • Mark

    *assistance*