I saw a post on facebook the other day from a left leaning friend, it stated that they could understand why rich people were republican, but why on earth were there all these low income republicans. After all policies that help the poor are Democratic. Republicans support tax breaks for big businesses and wealthy individuals and the theory is that with them having more money and less regulations the poor will have more jobs. Their thought process is that people should be required to work for what they have, end handouts, end programs that help people afford higher education. I have heard over and over that if the government would just get out of everything free enterprise would take care of all the needs of the people.
So it makes sense why most left leaning individuals are shocked when poor, religious people are die hard republicans. The obvious answer is that rich or poor if you don't believe in Abortion and do believe in traditional family the Republican platform is the only choice that meshes with conservative values. For years I've believed this is the only reason so many people in my religious sphere are Republican. But the other night my father came home from a fundraiser for the governor of Utah. Set aside the fact that it was a $500 a plate dinner and that grown adults were dressed like they were attending the prom?!? He summarized a speech made by supporters of the governor that touted how superior our state was, all because it is run in a republican fashion.
According to CNN money our state has the 9th lowest unemployment in the country. Sitting at 5.8% that is far below the national average at 8.1% (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Just looking at unemployment our state is doing much better than the rest of the country. And just like the economic success of the Clinton era current government could make the case that economic policies are responsible for job growth. I'm not saying they are not but I think this is one reason poor republicans believe that leaving the private sector private will benefit them. Business's like to move to states (or countries) that benefit their bottom line. This is a strong argument for right wing economic policies.
State average income levels for 2011 were at $39,811 (Utah.gov), while the National average income levels sat at $59,606. So it is clear that while unemployment is down, salaries for those employed are not at the national average. So there are employed poor in this state. But we are also a highly educated state. We sit 11th in the country in bachelor's degrees among populace, almost 30%. While we are ranked 11th in High school graduation, sitting at 90%. State officials could make the case that we employ people and educate them better than most of the country.
I live in an area of lower income, as evidenced by housing prices in the area and that our elementary school is a Title 1 school (which is determined by the number of student's eligible for free or reduced school lunch). Since our state seems to employ many people at low to middle incomes in this state it makes one wonder why those people would not elect people who believe in helps for the middle to lower class. After all I know a number of gainfully employed people who while going to school were on food stamps, and medicaid. Many had their children for free and a large number of my acquaintance used the program WIC. And yet those same individuals believe that food stamps and government handouts should be done away with at the federal level (which really means at any government level). After all a less government approach at the Federal level translates to a less government approach at the state level, it is ideological and translates across Federal and State lines.
Lets look for a moment at the reasons why a state may be successful at employing and educating it's populace. Yes, it may be due in part to economic polices of less taxation of the rich and large companies. It may be due to policies that discourage government involvment in social programs and more responsibility on the community. But wait, if the responsibility for the poor, elderly and mentally ill is placed on the community, then the community has to be fiscally able and charity minded enough to handle that responsibilty. Which brings me to the real reason poor, religious people are Republican. In this state we have a large segment of the population that self taxes themselves at 10% by paying tithing that goes towards a massive welfare program run by a religous organization. Not only that but within neighborhoods you have a large segment of populace who donates monthly to an immediate relief fund that helps neighbors that cannot afford food, shelter, healthcare and other necessities.
Essentially the Republican viewpoint only works if you have communities that are willing and able to care for their own. They do take care of their own, but they also assume that everyone else in the country live in communities that are able and willing to take care of those who cannot (or will not) care for themselves. That is why in my opinion poor, religious individuals are essentially permanent optimists in their frame of mind. After all it takes an incredibly secure belief in the goodness of human nature and the voluntary distribution of wealth to really believe that there does not need to be a basic standard of decency enforced by the government.
I believe the Republican way of governing works in our state, not because the theory is sound, but because the populace is hardworking and voluntarily charitable. Also there are many people who are abnormally rich and their income (that they volluntarily tax for the poor) helps supplement the large number of poor.
The question then comes naturally, what if there are communities where people are not able to take care of their own? Or a scarier question. What if they aren't willing to take care of their own? That is a new point of view and honestly it makes those "bleeding heart" liberals pessimists who don't believe in the inherent goodness and philanthropic natures of the rest of the world. Yes they suggest everyone, whether they want to or not should pay for those who cannot care for themselves. Liberals believe that people and corporations are greedy and heartless, and need to be regulated so that people don't die on the streets due to a lack of sympathy. They require children be fed healthy food in schools because they believe (with good cause) that most parents raise obese, unhealthy children and when left without regulations will run wild.
I am flabbergasted when good, Christian people oppose good things on the principle that they would do that anyway and they shouldn't be required. While that may be true, it isn't a cure all because not every community, not every individual thinks that way.
Now I am not a Liberal, nor am I a Conservative. I believe that we have to take things from both schools of thoughts and make good decisions. I think things will be better if we stopped emphasizing why the other side is wrong and start trying to understand why the other side thinks the way they do. Believe it or not people have good reasons why they support those political stances. Not everybody who disagrees is ignorant and uniformed. It is not that everybody has to fence sit or change their side of the fence, just open their eyes to those on the other side and recognize their humanity. After all both sides reflect people who care about other people.
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