Thursday, December 28, 2017

Taxpayers know that's not rain falling on their heads - any lessons for climate communications?

I've been interested in how poorly the Republicans have done in lying to the voters about the tax bill.

After all, most people will get a tax cut in the short term, with the tax increases and service cuts to come later. Why aren't they happy?

Politico thinks it's about relative deprivation - nobody likes being deprived relative to others, and the blatant skewing of this bill for the undeserving rich has lit a fire. Then DJW at LGM responds:

Of course for all this to work, the public needs to view the tax bill as primarily about upward redistribution. It is, of course, but getting that message through to the general public in a hyper-polarized information environment is itself quite remarkable; I’m a skeptic about the value of messaging, but the Democrats clearly did an impressive job here. But good, disciplined messaging alone shouldn’t be enough to break through the partisan divide....
One theory (I have little confidence I’m right about this; I’m just thinking out loud here): since 2009, we’ve moved further into what’s clearly an era of overwhelmingly negative polarization....In an election, you can mobilize your side effectively because it’s us vs. them; when pursuing a policy initiative, it’s us vs. nothing/status quo, which is harder to demonize, and draws greater attention to what you’re actually doing. If this is right, in a weird way high negative polarization makes the politics of elections worse–uglier and less substantive–but may make some features of politics outside of elections better–since voters are less in thrall of their preferred party, they take a closer look at what they’re trying to do. The fundamentally unpopular features of the Republicans’ plans was harder to hide behind the partisan veil.

Interesting theory. If right, then we'd expect more resistance to denialist policies as the public nominally on the Republican side becomes willing to evaluate climate denial more objectively when Republicans are in power. Doesn't provide a lot of guidance for climate communication in terms of what to do, however - losing elections in order to win public opinion isn't a way to get things done.

I'll just add that Democratic consistency over the years has helped - the Ds say for years, correctly, that Republican tax cuts are biased for the rich. So an especially bad tax cut by an exceptionally unpopular president and Congress gets slaughtered in public opinion (with the donor class crying their way to the bank).

Anyway, consistent messaging about denialist Republicans could also help blunt their lies.


Bernard J. said...

Reading the comments in the Policitco link I'm incredulous at how many GOP supporters are recalcitrantly blind to the underlying mechanisms of the Trump tax bill. Their cognitive scotomata are so entrenched that they refuse to see what the pigs are doing to them even as they're being carried away in the knacker's van.

The whole notion that the wealthiest 1% need the milk and apples for a trickle-down effect is long-refuted, but it seems that generations of entrenched lack of education and repetition of slogans is sufficient to keep the work horses straining at the bit... Meanwhile, Snowflake will be run off the farm, Napoleon will quietly take the reins, and nothing will change for the non-porcines.

Mixing metaphors, the GOP and its agents are like the Sheriff of Nothingham, Guy of Gisbourne, and Prince John. They're blaming Robin Hood for the increases in taxes, when it's Robon Hood whose trying to divert some of the ill-gotten gains from the rich back to the workers. If the rusted-on Republican base cannot be made to see during Trump's tenure that the robber barons are not in fact legislating for the benefit of the ordinary man in the street, then nothing ever will... and US politics will be locked in a political mythology that will forever see the rich taking ever more from the poorer classes, until the society simply collapses from the egregious unsustainability of it all - or it becomes a formal economic feudalist nation with a few very wealthy people and a large number of slaves poorer than they are now, and without even the pretense of personal freedom/liberty.

Mark said...

Wealth will indeed trickle down--all the way from Donald Trump to Donald Trump Jr.

William Connolley said...

> an especially bad tax cut

I notice you don't provide any argument for that. Presumably you and everyone you know believes it so firmly that you think no evidence is needed?

EliRabett said...

Oh let's see. First, a massive tax cut in the middle of a rising market and low unemployment when infrastructure is collapsing and requires funding to fix. Second the limitation on deducting state and local taxes hammers small businesses. Then there's the question about what the US gets for increasing the debt by a trillion and a half but don't get Eli started.

Phil Hays said...

There are parts to this tax redistribution that might even be good. Outweighed by the crazy parts.

There are parts that are just plain crazy. My personal small example, thanks to an accountant I worked with in the past who called me and explained it. A quick google search finds this:

Which also explains it.

If I work next year (I'm partly retired), my taxes will be half of what they were this year, for this and other reasons. Most people get a tax cut they will hardly notice, or a tiny tax increase.

My taxes would be halved.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

"Then there's the question about what the US gets for increasing the debt by a trillion and a half but don't get Eli started."

Please keep going- you have twenty terabucks to go to get back to zero.

But happy new fiscal year anyway the American School in Athens just dug up something glorious on the brow of a shining city on a hill .

EliRabett said...

There are investments like buying a house and there is pissing in the wind. Russell apparently likes the later, although that may be a bit cold tonight

Brian Schmidt said...

William - yes, I'm skipping over a lot of the argument. I think it's pretty safe, if a little lazy.

I probably could have restricted that statement to an "especially bad tax cut when it comes to upward redistributive effects" and it would work just as well for my argument regarding communication, and be even more supported by all the evidence out there, including some admissions by Republicans.