Understanding who is conservative and liberal, and their influence on politics, isn't easy. A slight majority of people in all states identify as Independent, with party affiliations in the mid to low 30s. This country is founded on the idea of individual liberty and of rewarding individual effort, with a heaping dose of free enterprise and individual initiative, and with standing on your own a bedrock philosophy. Both Democrats and Republicans embrace these ideas. The difference is in their approach to problem solving, and the end goals.
Everyone is different so it isn't easy to make fair stereotypes between liberals and conservatives.
A conservative is a person who holds to traditional attitudes and values and is cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion. There are many values to a conservative approach. During periods of major change, as in the 20th. and 21st. Centuries, stability is maintained so that change doesn't cause major disruptions. New things are proven first so that adopting them doesn't cause disruption if they fail, or if things change too quickly, leaving a path of destruction.
Permitting too much change too fast is what caused the financial instrument collapse that caused the Great Recession of 2008. Both Republicans and Democrats were responsible for permitting unregulated and rapid change, but they weren't as responsible as reckless financial institutions.
Conservatives are generally against more government regulation, which makes them a favorite of business... especially big business. So the mantra "Change," which attracted a lot of young people and those sick of government, which got Obama elected, is just something for conservatives to poke fun at. But an overly conservative approach can lead to preventing necessary change, such as necessary financial institution oversight.
In comparison, liberalism, which focuses on liberty and the autonomy of the individual, supports equality, and to achieve that supports political and social change. Where would we be without the big thinking liberals? It took a John F. Kennedy to think big and put us on the moon, and keep us on the track of superior technological innovation, which equates to making the US a world leader in technology and finances.
It took a Roosevelt to start the Social Security program, which gets people to save for retirement, which otherwise they can't or won't do. Without Social Security, millions of Americans would be on welfare and other forms of assistance, creating a huge drain on the economy.
Liberals generally are more supportive of labor and small business, trying to make sure that the economy doesn't destroy the people who have little voice and can be swamped by powerful big money interests. But taking on multitudinous and giant programs can lead to an ever-changing world in which there is no consistency and no anchors, and to risky programs that aren't supportable.
Moderates tend to stand between the conservative and liberal points of view. Ultraconservatives are very different, and will be compared later in this article.
Liberals and Conservatives tend to be found a bit more in certain areas of the country. Financial and population demographics have a lot to do with who is liberal or conservative. Over two-thirds of the population and industry are found on the East Coast, especially the northern half. A significant amount is on the West Coast. In these areas with higher wealth and denser populations, there is more ethnic population diversity and a higher diversity of attitudes. New ideas are in abundance, and people are more open to change. The Northeast and West tend to be liberals.
But which way a state leans isn't necessarily determined by income. You might think that poorer states, would tend to vote for more government handouts. But is this reflected in the "Red State, Blue State" nature of politics? Actually the standard of living is higher in red states because the cost of living is lower. Nine of the ten states with the lowest personal income are known as Red states. It's more a conservative attitude and religion thing.
For the Midwest and South, conservatives edge out Liberals for a more influential share of the populace. People are more independent in these areas, they see much less diversity and new ideas, and though they have less wealth, they have lower prices.
Many States, like Mississippi, are just dirt poor. So more liberal leanings are more isolated to cities in these areas, as in other red states, while the rest of the population is more conservative. It's also an ideological divide that existed as long ago as ancient Biblical times, where prophets from rural areas often objected loudly and strongly to behaviors and ideas they found in cites.
Conservatives also like smaller government that intervenes less in social and business affairs, and is less expensive to operate. Money paid in taxes, may be good for the overall economy, but it means less spendable income in your pocket. The very idea of people not working, and depending on the government for support or assistance, grates on conservatives nerves. Conservatives can usually accept as justified, an individual person on some form of government assistance, but the entire system just seems like a humongous waste. And it's another example of how government obligation runs a muck, creating ever growing entitlements and dependence on government that can't be reduced.
Between the liberals and conservatives, the pendulum in government swings back and forth, trying new things, and then weeding out what didn't work.
For the record, where Nations Agenda differs from Democrats and Republicans is this: Redistributing income only makes everyone equally poor. Currently 40% of households don't pay income taxes (but they pay other taxes, and many in that percentage are elderly). Many are eligible for some kind of government assistance, and the number is steadily growing as spendable income continues downward. But that doesn't mean ignoring the needy. You recognize the obligation to help the needy - not turn your back on them - but you don't create enormous programs to permanently fund a financial underclass, to help them continue to live in poverty and on government support. You research the problem and look for good solutions. You help people in need find the tools to help themselves. You also recognize that helping them become middle class or prosperous, is a major help to the economy, as well as ending an economic drain and many social problems.
So what is an ultra-conservative? An ultraconservative is someone who is conservative to extremes, and very reactionary. To ultraconservatives, all change is unacceptable, and they react to the suggestion of change in a very strong way. Ultraconservatives tend to favor the very wealthy and the status-quo. Those who are drawn to ultraconservatism are typically very wealthy, with lines of income to protect from change, and some are those who have very strict religious views that tend to be exclusive, or have agendas. People with an ultraconservative point of view typically deny that change is necessary or even happening in our larger society, and should be resisted with every morsel of their being. With their passion, they are good at motivating grass roots support from people who aren't even affected by what motivates the ultraconservative.
The 20th. and 21st. Centuries have been, and will continue to be, times of rapid technological and social change, driving major advances in the fields of manufacturing, financial industries, knowledge, religion, medicine, communications, social and psychological understanding, and business. It isn't possible to bring to a standstill the instruments of change. While conservatives can test the water and choose wisely between which changes are beneficial, ultra-conservatives are hopelessly unable to stop change, and ignoring change simply puts them, and us, in an untenable position.
For example, while conservatives can sit back and say, "Let's figure this out, and plan carefully," the ultraconservative simply thinks, "This isn't an issue, and I can simply make it go away by ignoring and resisting it." For some, it appears to be a feeling of entitlement or privilege that says they are entitled to wealth and are isolated from the realm of others, and uncaring.
In politics, ultraconservatives simply don't acknowledge that many things are happening. For example, the transfer of wealth that is endlessly driving the middle class into poverty, while making huge gains in wealth for the wealthy 2%, is seen as a reflection of people who want to live off the government... while they live off the stock market. While it is a systemic problem, not a greed problem, the attitude is that we shouldn't do anything about it. The system will right itself. Actually it won't.
Another example, in the religious realm, ultraconservatives resist any kind of change. They raise any hint of change as a divisive issue that is loudly played out in public, tarnishing the image of the church. The end result is that every religious denomination is rapidly declining in membership, and has been for several decades. Most can barely stay afloat with funding. The young are rapidly leaving the church and never coming back, and potential new members are not coming. Churches are failing, not because their basic message isn't good, but because their public message has changed to simply something that is divisive and drives people away.
Ultraconservatives hate the idea of socialism. They tend to be wealthy, see most people as takers of government aid, or wannabe takers, and they like to keep wages as low as possible so that profit is high.
"...there are 47 percent... who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. ... [M]y job is not to worry about those people..." - Presidential candidate Mit Romney to potential donors
44% of these people are the elderly.
The steady downward pressure on wages has been pushing the middle class into poverty for over a decade. It isn't that the middle class won't work, or doesn't deserve better wages. For the past 15 or more years, companies have merged and removed employees and layers of management and people with redundant skills, with the idea of becoming more competitive and increasing profits. The stock market is setting records, only a short time after a recession that mirrored the Great Depression.
Many companies are having record profits, while the smaller businesses that support 80% of working America, are struggling, and retailers and even fast food chains are struggling because Americans have diminishing spendable income - they don't have money to spend on discretionary items. This problem is well noted.
Around only a third of people born to financial middle class households earns a middle class income. Two thirds of them go to lower income classes, burgeoning those classes.
Average household income levels, adjusted for inflation, peaked in 1999 at $55,000.00. They peaked near that level in 2007, and deteriorated to $52,000.00 by 2013, and appear stable. It now takes two adults earning an income for 42% of households, up from 17% of working wives with children in 1967.
In the mid-1970s, the majority of Americans were in the middle [economic class], with 52 percent earning the equivalent (in today’s dollars) of $35,000 to $100,000. Today, according to census figures, the share of households earning under $35,000 is virtually unchanged, 35 percent. The shift has occurred in the other two categories. Households with incomes over $100,000 have doubled, to 22 percent, while less than 44 percent are in the middle cluster.”
– Washington Post article.
When families and individuals reach progressively lower income levels, as the ultraconservatives note, they cease paying taxes, and as their income continues to fall, they draw progressively more government assistance. So as the middle class shrinks, those on the downward trend have to depend more and more on the government for support. The tax load increases on those with more income. That's basically income redistribution, which is an extreme form of socialism.
If this trend continues, the US will become like the people in the Soviet Union up to and through the 1980s. For decades they were all dependent on their government for all support. Many of them rarely saw a paycheck, and depended on bartering to get food and essentials.
Will this situation rectify itself? Probably not. There is no upward pressure on wages, of any significance, and no mechanisms for doing that. Companies haven't hired enough people to keep up with the need for jobs since around 2000. Since around 1980, the drive has been to eliminate layers of management and pass responsibilities to lower paid employees. The first 15 years of this Century have been dominated by "merger mania" in which companies merge with other companies and eliminate management and office positions, further exacerbating the employment problem. A more recent incentive has been to move corporate headquarters to other countries to avoid paying any taxes, despite the moderate US tax rate, which takes even more jobs away. The recession forced companies to keep wages and employment low.
The available labor pool, and corresponding unemployment, are difficult to gauge. People are leaving the labor pool at retirement, faster than they are entering in the 16 to 14 age range. Thankfully, "...the number of new jobs required to keep up with the labor force) are expected to decline." But: "The jobs created since the end of the recession (2009) have not been sufficient to show a significant improvement in employment for the 25-54 age range." and "The number of underemployed is at 11.8%." - Wikipedia
In this competitive atmosphere, where talent is plentiful, people have difficulty pressuring companies for higher wages. Companies routinely get rid of higher paid workers to hire lower paid workers who can do the job. Unless the job is in the sciences, most jobs only use the skills of a 7th. grade education or trade school training.
Unions are basically dead since most businesses have many of their employees classified by the government as "exempt" (management) and not subject to any kind of union or government oversight. Most people can be forced to work long hours, 7 days a week, at very low wages.
Increasing wages would mean lowering profits, but companies will not lower profits because increasing stock prices is what CEOs are evaluated on, and what their stock is evaluated on. The stock market demands ever-increasing stock prices. If you allow stock prices to fall, investors pull their money, further reducing a company's stock prices. What companies will do is trim the number of employees, or cut wages, to keep profitability high.
Companies are looking at these very things, in their never ending drive to increase profits. The idea of structural reform is popular in the financial and business world. But it's a backward idea, according to economists.
"'Structural reform,' which usually means making it easier to cut wages, is more likely to destroy jobs than create them.
"This may all sound wild and radical, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s what mainstream economic analysis says will happen once interest rates hit zero. And it’s also what history tells us."
- Paul Krugman, economist - Rock Bottom Economics article at New York Times
Unemployment and lower wages means less money is collected in taxes, while more people depend on the government for assistance. People save less money for retirement, so they are more dependent on government assistance when they retire. So the deteriorating situation puts additional strain on government assistance. This trend, and several other economically destructive trends, have continued from around 1980, and in this Century, have become much worse.
The ultraconservatives stand in the way of finding solutions to these systemic problems. With the stock market setting records, many corporations having record profits, and government officials locked in contentious battles driven by ultraconservatives, nothing can be resolved that will help citizens. Many in Congress have no idea what to do, since their economic philosophy of Supply Side Economics (Reagonomics), supported by both Republican and Democratic Presidents, hasn't worked at all since the late 1990s.
Economists no longer embrace Supply Side Economics as a panacea, although it can be a short term boost in some situations. Finding real answers and solutions is simply blocked by ultraconservatives, the bulk of whom are wealthy and seemingly unaffected by what is actually happening in the US (and the world). It's like they simply say, "Let them eat cake."
Editor - Dorian