If you’ve never read about Maslow’s heirarchy of needs theory, you should. There’s a certain aspect of undeniable truth to it, which is likely why it’s taught not only as a theory of human psychology, but as a valuable marketing tool. It’s also become intertwined with the “trickle-up” theory of economics, and rightly so. Maslow surmised that, unless an individual’s basic needs were secure, that a person could never achieve self-actualization. Self-actualization essentially means realizing your full potential and purpose. Likewise, if a person’s basic needs were not secure, that person would compensate by seeking to further fulfill other basic needs that are perhaps already being met.
This can be applied to the trickle-up effect by observing the spending habits of consumers whose psychological and safety needs, according to Maslow’s heirarchy, aren’t being met. These people are often from lower-class, low-income households which tend to spend a higher percentage of their income than higher-earning households, who tend to save more. If you give the low income earners a tax refund, they will be more likely to spend it in an attempt to satisfy their needs (thus stimulating the economy). Give the high earners a tax refund, and they are likely to save it because their needs are already being met.
One thing in the trickle up theory that I don’t agree with is that securing everyone’s basic needs would result in a weaker economy and less spending. Eventually there would be an equilibrium of sorts, because a person can only own so much stuff, but such a balance could be introduced gradually through fundamental restructuring of the various market systems that make up our economy. Consider that many people who have to make choices from month-to-month whether they’re going to pay for housing or groceries could conceivably be guaranteed affordable access to both at once. They could see a financial shortfall turned into a surplus, and imagine the things they would spend that newfound “pocket money” on! I’m talking about people who perhaps haven’t purchased new clothing or shoes for themselves in years, whose homes are in disrepair because they simply don’t have the money for maintenance or improvement, or those who don’t have a home at all (a setback that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to find employment in a good economy). These are the people who would spend money, were it put into their hands, not squirrel it away in offshore (tax haven) accounts where it does nothing but earn interest for someone who is probably already wealthy by any standards.
Anyway, I think everyone ought to be interested in politics because there isn’t a single issue being debated today that doesn’t have a profound effect on our future as a nation, and as individuals. There are several factors we should all be aware of that influence people’s political ideology. Two of the most important are income and education. Lower income people are more likely to call themselves democrats or identify with the ideology of a democratic candidate, as do some of the more educated members of our society. Yes, there is likely some overlap in those two demographics despite the fact that we are led to believe a college education always means you’ll earn more money than someone without a degree. We only need to look to our nation’s public school teachers to see this is not the case. When my own mother began teaching back in 1993, her starting salary was in the low $20,000 range. I earned more than that as a restaurant/bar manager and as a pizza delivery driver, with no college degree.
So why do minorities and the lower-income element of our society vote democratic? Some would say that it’s because they’re uneducated, but that isn’t true at all. These are educated people who, despite their motivation and hard work, are simply having a hard time climbing to the top of the career ladder (or even getting their foot on the first rung, in some cases). They vote based on their own experiences in life, which often give them firsthand insight into many of the social problems facing our nation that republicans just don’t offer realistic solutions to address.
I’ve been poor all my life and I consider myself something of an expert on living below the poverty line. I also tend to agree with the “liberal” analysis of those problems and the “progressive” methods of solving them. It really isn’t a matter of thinking “Oh, that sounds like a great humanitarian position for an elected representative to take”, but a matter of knowing, deep down what the issues are that face our nation’s poor – having lived those issues – and feeling that there are very specific ways that these issues could be addressed, realistically. One thing that strikes me as particularly disconcerting about republicans is their willingness to ignore this class of people, as if by ignoring them they, and all their problems, will just magically disappear. I also have a really hard time believing that giving money to the wealthy ever results in an improved disposition for the poor, especially in an economy like ours today – where everyone who has money seems to be hoarding it. Again, I think it’s important to consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how that translates into a “trickle up” effect, rather than the “trickle down” effect that hasn’t done much to put any wealth in the hands of the poor – and seems to have done more to widen the class divide than to narrow it.