Save Us From the Intellectuals
November 22, 2010
Super-genius political science professor Charles H. Franklin of the University of Wisconsin, Madison recently gave loud voice to a widely held liberal belief: Ordinary Americans, especially conservative ones, are stupid.
At a conference by the Society of Professional Journalists, alternative newspaper editor Bill Lueders asked Franklin why “the public seemed to vote against its own interests and stated desires, for instance by electing candidates who’ll drive up the deficit with fiscally reckless giveaways to the rich.”
Franklin responded: “I’m not endorsing the American voter. They’re pretty damn stupid.” (Excuse my impertinence, but is there a grammatical glitch in the genius’s formulation?)
First, we should note that Franklin implicitly accepted Lueders’ premise as fact: The voters who claim to be motivated by a passion to end reckless Washington spending had just elected candidates who will be fiscally irresponsible because they support “reckless giveaways to the rich.”
But how smart is it to mischaracterize a policy, misrepresent its likely consequences and ignore other relevant data to arrive at an ideologically preordained conclusion?
Extending Bush tax cuts for those making $250,000 or more would not be a giveaway. We’re not talking about the government’s money, but money earned by individuals. Only leftists believe that all income is the property of the state and that the amount remaining after income taxes is a gift from the government to the individual.
Moreover, the tax rates we’re discussing have been in place since 2003. To extend those rates would not be a cut. To fail to extend them would constitute a tax increase. I suppose “intelligence” doesn’t require the honest use of terminology.
In addition, the premise is overly simplistic because it suggests that extending the Bush rates for the highest income bracket would cost the government revenues dollar for dollar, as if we have a completely static economy. The mentally gifted simply refuse to acknowledge the empirical evidence showing that reductions in marginal income tax rates during the Kennedy years, the Reagan years and the George W. Bush years resulted in increases in revenue. They also fail to factor in the economic truism that tax increases during bad economic times retard growth and thus constitute a drag on tax revenues.
Finally, the premise ignores that voters were rejecting Obama’s big spending across the board and that the extension of the Bush rates would be only one small part of the equation. Those voting out the Democrats were overwhelmingly repudiating Obama’s reckless spending in virtually every other category — save defense. That is, they voted not against their interests, Mr. Lueders and Professor Franklin, but consistent with them.
You might be interested in some other pronouncements by Professor Erudition. One example: In an article in Politico about a year ago, Franklin wrote, “The issue that has dominated the summer and fall, health care reform, will most likely not remain high on voters’ list of the most important problems in 12 months regardless of the outcome of legislation.” Well, exit polls showed that 20 percent of voters believed health care was not only important but the most important issue. Doubtless, a full majority of voters believed it was among the most important problems, even if not the most important.
The liberal intelligentsia’s contempt for the American people is well-established. Franklin’s snarky outburst is little different from then-ABC anchorman Peter Jennings’ statement that American voters had a temper tantrum when they delivered a congressional majority to Republicans in 1994, Obama’s assessment that voters are irrational because they are scared, or the Bush haters bitterly decrying the 2000 and 2004 elections with their observation that red-state voters were “reality-challenged.” And it’s no different from liberals’ perpetual characterization of Republican political figures as stupid, from Reagan to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin.
I’ll tell you what is rather silly; I don’t want to say “stupid.” It’s this repeated assertion that one’s political viewpoint is based on intelligence, when it is far more related to one’s worldview and disposition. For every brilliant, average or unintelligent liberal, I’ll show you a brilliant, average or unintelligent conservative. Ideology is not a function of IQ, and political allegiances and policy preferences are often unrelated to facts.
If you want an example of “stupid” — or at least intellectual negligence — consider the childish willingness on the part of so many intellectuals, on the left and the right, to deify candidate Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Then again, hasn’t it always been axiomatic that “intellectuals” lack common sense? In their minds, Jimmy Carter was going to make the ideal president.
What’s worse, many of them think he did.
Please save us from the intellectuals.