Friday, October 07, 2005

An Uphill Battle

I had heard (along with a few of you readers, probably) that there was a poll that showed that 19% of Americans thought that they were in the top 1% of earners, and that 20% more thought that they would one day be in the top 20%. In looking up some information about it, I found that this was the specific question asked:

As you may know, Al Gore has claimed that George W. Bush’s proposed tax cut will largely benefit those with high incomes, who he claims are the top 1%. Thinking about your own situation, do you think that you are in the top group that would benefit from Bush’s proposed tax cut now, do you think you will be in this group that will benefit in the future, or do you think you will not benefit from Bush’s tax cut?
The question is sloppy at best, but that's not what I'm here to argue. The 19% and 20% figures probably aren't correct, at least in the interpretation given above the quote. Some of that 19% could be folks that didn't agree with Al Gore's interpretation that only the top 1% will benefit. Stanch conservatives would have voted that they would benefit, whether they considered themselves in the top 1% or not.

It seems more likely that the 20% figure is accurate as commonly interpreted. For folks who don't think they'll benefit now but will benefit later, they've got to be either firm believers in trickle-down economics or very optimistic about their future income prospects.

Regardless, though, it seems obvious to me that people are misinformed about the nature of wealth in the United States, and how they personally fall in the grand scheme of things. More people think that they're "rich" than actually are, and more people embrace the increasingly ludicrous notion of the "American dream," that hard work can get you anywhere you want to go. But conservatives have capitalized on this idea, and it's convinced at least a few people to vote against their best economic interests, because they truly believe that those won't be their economic interests forever.

So what are reality-based liberals to do? Tell it like it is? That would be nice, but I don't think that running a successful campaign would be possible based on the "Vote for us because your ideals are unrealistic and you'll more than likely never achieve them" slogan. Conservatives have oversimplified the issue to the point where bringing folks back down to reality isn't a successful vote-getting strategy.

And that makes me sad.