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Striking a Balance

Like many people, I identify as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. Which is why this article in The Onion “Fiscally I’m A Right-Wing Nutjob, But On Social Issues I’m Fucking Insanely Liberal” made me laugh out loud. Then it made me think. A lot.



  1. Max wrote:

    “Like many people, I identify as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal.”

    Yeah, the world is full of selfish assholes.

    Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  2. I used to say that, but over the last 3-5 years, I’ve been moving fiscally to the left as well.

    Yes, we need to pay our bills. But what services / goods we contract for needs to be seriously reconsidered, to my mind. I honestly think that an excellent social safety net is more in keeping with the Constitution than a massive military is (there’s a difference, in my mind between providing “for the public defense” and a military that has massive offensive capability).

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 4:12 am | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    I think there are a fundamental complexities that the fiscal conservative/social liberal perspective has that many with that perspective haven’t really wrestled with. Socially liberal views and policies have fiscal impacts (in terms of both expenditures and revenue). But the fiscally conservative viewpoint, at least in the contemporary era, actually creates barriers for true or effective implementation.

    On a separate, but slightly related note, I though you might be interested in the following graphs.

    The first one shows the changing federal tax contribution comparing individuals versus corporations over 4 different time periods. In 2008, individuals collectively contribute almost 4 times more to federal revenue than corporations, compared to 1948 when individuals contributed only twice as much. In short, the contribution to federal revenue has become more inequitable over time. (for the graphic) (for the source of data)

    The second comes from my favorite behavioral economist, Dan Ariely. He and a colleague conducted a study that found that the majority of people vastly mid-estimate the wealth distribution in the USA. Also, estimated and preferred wealth distribution did very by income, political affiliation, and gender. At the same time, the preferred wealth distribution across these different groups were much closer together than you might expect and were nowhere near the current wealth distribution.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  4. starluna wrote:

    Sorry, I did not complete my thought. I meant to say:

    But the fiscally conservative viewpoint, at least in the contemporary era, actually creates barriers for true or effective implementation of socially liberal policies.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    Wow typos up the wazoo. Apologies to all. Clearly, I need to finish my coffee and then take a shower. I think I make fewer typographical errors after I’ve washed my hair. 🙂

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  6. Starluna, you aren’t the only one. “provide for the common defense”.

    Sigh. 🙂

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    If you make a mistake in a comment, just repost the comment with corrections and I’ll delete the original comment.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    I guess I have a slightly different definition of “fiscal conservative”. Most people seem to be defining a fiscal conservative as someone who wants to give as little money to the government as possible. I believe in not wasting money and it doesn’t matter whether that money goes to the government or to a corporation. For example, I am strongly in favor of single-payer health care, because it has better results for less money.

    Also, I think a (well thought out) social safety net saves money in the long run.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink
  9. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Starluna – did the data in your “individuals collectively contribute almost 4 times more to federal revenue than corporations, compared to 1948” set take into account pass- through corporate entities? They would show as individual contributions to the tax collected instead of corporate and there are many more companies operating under that system today with some of them being quite large.

    I’m also for spending taxpayer money wisely. I don’t think we need alot of our current government and we can definately reduce the size of military. On the social safety net we should take care to not grow people into that system, but rather to help them grow out of it. There will always be cases (ie. special needs people) who require a long term commitment and we should provide for that as a civil society. But, I firmly believe that those who can work and contribute, must do so. I saw an article the other day about a guy who had won something like a 2 million prize and was still legally collecting food stamps and not apologizing for it. People should be given a helping hand up when either by bad luck or circumstance beyond their control they find themselves in need. Family should help first, then community, then the government. Thats the difference between fiscal conservatism vs social liberalism in my mind.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  10. Mad Hatter wrote:

    Starluna – the wealth inequality study was amazing. It really opened my eyes….thanks for sharing that. With the loss of many of our higher paying, semi-skilled jobs to automation and foreign countries we simply HAVE to find another way to redistribute our wealth and re-establish our middle class.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  11. starluna wrote:

    IK – It is unfortunate, but I do think that paying as little in taxes and having as few government expenditures as possible has come to define fiscal conservatism today. I would argue that even fiscal liberals are in favor of efficiency, but they have different goals than those who have come to define fiscal conservatism post-Reagan.

    In terms of the data about the relative difference in individual versus corporate contributions to federal tax revenue, it appears that these are gross numbers. The original data comes from the OMB. In the second link, they reference and link to the OMB webpage with the data tables that were used to calculate these numbers.

    With that said, I suspect that the definition and structure of corporations, at least for tax purposes, was much simpler in 1948 than in 2008. Although, I would also argue that the contemporary complexity is partly responsible for creating the massive inequity we see in these numbers. The disparity is particularly egregious when you think about how wages and income have stagnated for the middle and lower economic class taxpayers over the past 30 years or so while corporate revenue and profit have soared. I don’t know what the relative difference in profits are between pass through corporations and other corporations, but I would be surprised if it was so large that would change ratio of individual versus corporate tax contribution in any meaningful way.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink
  12. starluna wrote:

    IK – after having slept on it, I think the perspective you hold might be more accurately called “fiscal responsibility”.

    Monday, May 23, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink
  13. DanJ wrote:

    That is how most people feel, but so few politicians represent the majority of people.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink