For the same reason Americans irrationally voted en mass for a morally and intellectually deficient president, they have assented to crippling state budgets that drastically underfund education.
Such are the inevitable wages of ideological and emotional thinking, as opposed to evidence-based assessment. It’s the identical kind of thinking that has led directly to dangerous blind faith, religious and political.
Two New York Times op-eds today — by Pulitzer Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and political writer Niraj Chokshi — explain how these mindless impulses have worked in tandem to shape the United States’ current punishing cultural milieu.
Tax cuts don’t work
Krugman’s very educational article (“We Don’t Need No Education”) begins by reporting that Matt Bevin, the conservative Republican governor of red-state Kentucky, uttered a strange cause-and-effect accusation when thousands of the state’s teachers walked off the job a few days ago. The educators were protesting Bevin’s opposition to increased education funding, and their own already-pitiful salaries.
After the walkabout, Bevins fumed, “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them.”
This is a classic “straw man” defense, a transparent distraction from the real issue: lingering Tea Party effects have resulted in a drastically underfunded public education system. The driver was ideology-driven tax cuts that decimated Kentucky state revenues, the primary funders of education.
As Krugman points out, such radical tax cuts are generally sold to constituents with a promise that they will turbo- charge the state’s economy. He wrote:
“This promise is, however, never — and I mean never — fulfilled; the right’s continuing belief in the magical payoff from tax cuts represents the triumph of ideology over overwhelming negative evidence.”
The inevitable net result is larger class sizes, fewer current educational materials and technology, static and subpar teacher pay, reduced psychological counseling staff and many other deficits that inadequate funding assures. Emotionally satisfying sports, however, remain.
It is the same dynamic with emotion-laden religious belief, where seemingly self-perpetuating faith represents a triumph of magical thinking in the face of an overwhelming lack of substantiating evidence to support it.
Chokshi’s article, titled “Trump Voters Driven by Fear of Losing Status, Not Economic Anxiety, Study Finds,” concludes that Donald Trump’s 2016 election was fueled by conservative Christian white men who deeply feared their long cultural dominance in America was at risk. In other words, they didn’t think Trump was the best American for the job, they felt he would be.
The emotionality of the decision has proved out as President Trump from day one in office has flamboyantly shown himself uniquely unfit for public office as well as minimum human decency.
University of Pennsylvania political science and communications professor Diana C. Mutz, was the author of the study, published April 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Mutz, who is also and director of UP’s Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics, summarized the study’s conclusion:
“It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel. It’s not a threat to their own economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s dominance in our country over all.”
The Chokshi article also noted a similar finding last year in a Public Religion Research Institute survey of more than 3,000 people. That survey also found “that Mr. Trump’s appeal could better be explained by a fear of cultural displacement.”
Mutz’s study also showed that the individual tendency to believe social hierarchies are necessary and essential to societies — formally, “social dominance orientation” — disproportionately led those feeling unjustly disenfranchised to Trump’s candidacy. They hoped he would protect the traditional hierarchy’s status quo.
“It used to be a pretty good deal to be a white, Christian male in America, but things have changed and I think they do feel threatened,” Dr. Mutz said.
It is in these emotional flights of fancy that ideology trumps rationality and puts nations at risk. They give us poorly led and undereducated citizens. For starters.