Liberals, conservatives and empathy | Arkansas Blog

Monday, April 30, 2012

Liberals, conservatives and empathy

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 6:30 AM

A harmonic convergence in NY Times op-eds this morning.

There was Paul Krugman on Mitt Romney's call for young people to get an education, borrow money from their parents and start a business.

The first thing you notice here is, of course, the Romney touch — the distinctive lack of empathy for those who weren’t born into affluent families, who can’t rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad to finance their ambitions. But the rest of the remark is just as bad in its own way.

I mean, “get the education”? And pay for it how? Tuition at public colleges and universities has soared, in part thanks to sharp reductions in state aid. Mr. Romney isn’t proposing anything that would fix that; he is, however, a strong supporter of the Ryan budget plan, which would drastically cut federal student aid, causing roughly a million students to lose their Pell grants.

Then there was Thomas Edsall, talking about research into the empathy among liberals and conservatives. Liberals tend to be more empathetic, the research indicates, not necessarily a good thing politically. Where a liberal might see a needy person deserving of a break (favorable tax treatment, universal health care), a conservative might see a deadbeat free-rider. So you formulate a message to appeal to the swing voters. For example, you have Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, anti-tax in just about every iteration, who supports tax increases for the poorest working Americans. They are now exempt from federal income taxes, but not a full range of other taxes that disproportionately burden limited incomes. Depict them as undeserving deadbeats, however, and you might overcome the empathetic tendencies of swing voters.

Ryan also merits a profile today for his emergence as leader of Republican economic theory (trickle-down, still).

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