The liberal-conservative consensus against massive cuts in infrastructure & the welfare state

by: Paul Rosenberg

Tue Aug 10, 2010 at 15:00

Yesterday, in "Turning out the lights on civilization", I piggy-backed on Glenn Greenwald's observation about recent cut-backs in local spending on basic infrastructure--schools, roads, police, streelights.  

Among other things, I wrote:

At the same time that the GOP is up in arms all across the land over non-exist immigrant crime waves in Arizona and the existential threat of houses of worship in Manhattan, this is what it's doing in Colorado Springs: turning off the lights on civilization.

That's hardly surprising, of course.  It's what conservatives have been doing for hundreds of years now.  The "Tea Party's" roots aren't in Boston Harbor, they're with the Southern slaveowners, who saw no need for them to be taxed to pay for other people's roads and schools.

At the same time, however, it's important to keep in mind that it's not individual conservative voters who want to do these things.  The organized conservative political movement is highly unrepresentative of the views of the broader range of conservative citizens--as well aptly demonstrated by the large numbers of Tea Partiers fiercely clinging to their Medicare benefits last year, even as they denounced 1990s-style Heritage Foundation "Health Care Reform" as "socialist".

But don't just take my word for it.  Look at some 30 or so years of data from the General Social Survey (a few of the data series the points below are based on are much shorter, but most either started in 1984 or 1972).  I'm presenting two views of the underlying data in this diary--with a close-up on the most concentrated area of data for each of the two views.

The first view maps the overall level of support on the Y-axis against the liberal-conservative consensus on the X-axis.  To explain: These questions are asked in the form of whether we're spending "too little," "about right" or "too much" on any number of different national spending items."  For the purposes here, I count the "too little" or "about right" answers as expressing spending support, and I measure that for all respondents.  "Consensus" is measured by taking sub-totals for self-identified liberals and conservatives, and seeing how much overlap there is for all three questions.  Thus, for unpopular items, the consensus is predominantly that we're spending "too much", while it's the opposite for the popular items.

What we see is that most spending items are quite strongly supported--close to 66% (two-thirds) or more--and that the level of liberal/conservative consensus for most items is 80% (four out of five) or more:

Taking a closer look at the more concentrated area of the chart, we see relatively high levels of consensus for roads, and one of two measures each for crime-fighting and combating drugs.  These are typical indicators of so-called "night watchman state" spending, which even ideological libertarians support.  But note that Social Security and spending on national parks also enjoy more than a 90% consensus, and support levels of over 93%.  While we can certainly see differences here, the fact is that all these items are pretty damn popular, and the level of consensus is pretty damn high.  If you're looking for evidence that the vast majority of conservatives are up in arms against such spending, you won't find a trace of that in this multi-decade polling record:

Another way of slicing the data is to map liberal support on one axis against conservative support on the other:

Paul Rosenberg :: The liberal-conservative consensus against massive cuts in infrastructure & the welfare state

Equal levels of support by liberals and conservatives would show up along a diagonal line from lower right to upper left.  Although not exact, the distribution we see here is surprisingly close to showing that.  Most spending items are only modestly lower than that diagonal line--ranging from about 5% in the lower right corner, growing to about 20% a bit higher up, and then converging to 10% or less in the upper left corener, altogether showing a modest propensity for liberals to support spending more than conservatives do.  The two spending items on military spending clearly go in the opposite direction by quite a bit, and the two spending items on space spending do so to a very slight degree.  This graph shows nothing like to the total diverage of spending attitudes you might believe in, if all you knew was what you hear from the Versailles media.

Looking more closely at the upper cluster, it's obvious that liberals support most spending items by more than conservatives, but not by a whole lot:

Thus, what's enabled movement conservatives to bring us to the point of near collapse of our civilization is not the average conservative's hostility to public spending.

In fact, the average conservative voter is strongly opposed to this outcome.  Instead, movement conservatism is an expression of elite power deployed against perceived enemies whom it successfully demonizes--particularly those who advocate for the general welfare, which is, according to the Constitution's preamble, the entire purpose of creating our constitutional order in the first place.

You just can't get much more anti-American than that.  

Projection and hatred of America: These are the two pillars of movement conservatism.  And they are perilously close to destroying our nation, as we have painstakingly created it over generations of struggle.

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This is great stuff, Paul. (4.00 / 1)
And, outside of some academic department somewhere, I haven't found this kind of analysis anywhere but here.  Thanks for all your hard work on this issue.  It's been clear to me for awhile now, that political labels might be serving someone, but that someone isn't me.

I live in one of those cities (0.00 / 0)
Colorado Springs..
Our medians at one time filled with flowers and cut grass were beautiful.  As much as I decry the right wing mentality here, I would never deny the beauty of this city.  Now our medians are weeds, mostly uncut.  Our once beautiful parks are brown, and many uncut.  In some of the more economically sound neighborhoods, people on their own go and cut the medians and the park.

Our lights are off all over the place.

The citizens of this city for the most part are selfish, self serving or counting on God to fix everything.  We are the home to nut case Doug Bruce a slum landlord who got TABOR passed.

I would love to sell and move away. I fear it is too late.


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