Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Way It Is, Appears To Be, And Should Be

The theme of this Rush Limbaugh segment was

Seventy percent of people -- 70%, maybe 65% -- wake up waiting to be told what to do. It's just the way it is.

But along the way, Rush informed us of how ignorant the American people are:

I'm convinced at this point that most Americans don't have the sense to reason things out about the economy. I think they're angry at Obama because they're waiting for him to fix things, but a lot of them don't understand about Marxism and socialism.

Therefore, Rush argued,

....liberalism, socialism, Marxism has always failed wherever it's tried, and yet people continually are seduced by it.

If Limbaugh had left it at that, he would have been- wait for it- right! (That is, about the "seduction" part.) But of course he didn't, adding

And they are seduced by it not so much it, but by its practitioners, as in Obama. People like him personally.

As already argued in this space, "people" do not like Barack Obama personally- unless, of course, they like a guy they believe its masquerading as American-born, pretending to be Christian, and not even bothering to hide his elitism. Or, if you're Rush Limbaugh, a "jackass," "little black man-child," who "purposely want(s) to destroy" the economy, "a blithering idiot" whose mentors are "all the Marxists and all the communists and all the people that believe in black liberation theology, whatever, people that want to blow up the Pentagon, your closest friends, the people that hate this country and have convinced you to, too."

But Americans apparently like what Rush Limbaugh considers "socialism"; or, rather, they like something significantly more egalitarian than what Rush believes they do.

Psychologist Michael I. Norton and behavioral economist Dan Ariely have written a paper entitled "Building a Better America: One Wealth Quintile At a Time," for the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. They compared the current distribution of wealth in the U.S.A. with what survey respondents believe to be the prevailing distribution of wealth and with the distribution desired by those respondents.

The first chart, from the book by way of Slate's Timothy Noah, illustrates the actual distribution of wealth and compares it to the perception and the ideal, according to income, gender, and 2004 presidential preference. The second chart, from, is simpler (roughly a summary of the first), lacking those three factors. But still colorful.

While 84% of the wealth in the nation is controlled by the top 20%, Americans (on average) believe it is 58% and wish it were 32%. This ideal distribution of income, Noah states, approximates that of Sweden, which, according to the C.I.A. (yes, that C.I.A.) "has achieved an enviable standard of living under a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits."

The gap in the knowledge American citizens have of the economic structure of the nation is understandable given propaganda spewed by radical ideologues like Limbaugh. But if citizens have relatively little awareness of what is, they have a very good idea of what should be.

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