We are often told by our friends on the left that the poorer among Republican supporters are voting against their own interests, and that conservative politicians induce them to do so by appeals to their racism or to their unreasonable attachment to their weapons.
I won’t comment here on their alleged racism or the wisdom (or lack thereof) of gun control. But I will declare them not guilty of voting against their own economic interests and Republicans, by implication, not guilty of “tricking” them into it.
How can that be, you say? Lots of areas where conservative economic policy holds sway, the people tend to be poorer than average. Surely, you say, I should admit that the idea that lower taxes and less regulation leads to more wealth for anyone but the elites has been soundly refuted by the evidence?
Not so fast. While it is true that the average income of such areas is unusually low, that doesn’t mean that conservative economic policies have made those particular people poor. The question we should ask ourselves is not “why are those people poorer on average?” but “why do so many poor people tend to live where relatively non-leftist economic policy holds sway?”.
I submit to you that the answer is simple: Because they can.
If your labor isn’t worth a whole lot, and you’re too proud to go on welfare, your ideal environment is one in which (a) housing is cheap, (b) everything else is cheap, and (c) lots of employers in the area are offering low-wage jobs that you qualify for.
Now housing is going to be cheaper where land use restrictions and building codes are less stringent. Everything else is going to be cheaper where commercial land is cheap (which goes back to the land use restrictions and building codes) and taxes and business regulations are light (thus minimizing costs that end up getting passed to you) and where the local powers-that-be aren’t harassing successful discount retailers and chasing them out of the area.
And low-wage jobs are going to be plentiful where the cost imposed on businesses that offer them in taxes and regulation is relatively low, and where the local powers-that-be aren’t harassing them for offering jobs at wages that you can actually earn.
In short, the policies that our friends on the left characterize as “screwing the poor” are more hospitable to them than the “compassionate” policies of jacking up the price of everything in sight and chasing out their jobs. For many Americans, generous welfare benefits aren’t a consolation. Thus, it really shouldn’t surprise us to see such people congregate in areas that have policies more aligned with their true economic interests, and the fact that such people drag down the local statistical averages isn’t an indictment of the policies that allow them to stand on their own two feet and actually get by without resorting to charity. And it shouldn’t surprise us to see such people voting for a contiuation of the policies that allow this state of affairs to continue, and to vote against saddling themselves with high taxes and heavy regulation that they really can’t afford.
Wealthier people can afford that nonsense. And areas with more wealthy people tend to show less resistance to such nonsense, since their own standard of living isn’t so drastically affected. Not that they wouldn’t be better off still without it, unless they make their money through regulations that keep competitors from bothering them. Or they vote against their own economic interests precisely so they can make the “riff raff” bugger off (two can play that accusatory mind-reading game!).