Just watch this. Seriously.

Jaguar dragging caiman out of a river.  Unreal.  Full money back guarantee if you are not impressed.

Why the tax bill really is a loser for Republicans

Great piece in Politico from Chris Federico that really works in some nice political science and psychology to make a strong case that this tax bill will be an electoral albatross for Republicans.  Basically, even if you get something, you will be resentful if somebody else got something more.  Pretty much anybody who has ever been a sibling or raised multiple children is very aware of the pervasive truth of this.

I especially love the experiments that show how deep in our evolutionary history goes.  Give one chimpanzee a cucumber (which they like) and all is good.  Give that chimp a cucumber while you give its neighbor m&m’s and you’ll get it thrown back at you.

As the vast majority of the American public seems to realize, we are getting cucumber slices while the richest are getting m&m’s.  Anyway, Federico:

But there may be another factor behind the lack of public support for the tax overhaul: the public’s perception that some people are more likely to cash in than others. Though the bill will offer most taxpayers some relief in the near term, analysts believe that the benefits to corporations and relatively wealthy taxpayers will be much greater—especially over the long haul. Importantly, the public seems to see this: Recent polling suggests that most people see the bill as a boon to the wealthy above all.

Still, even if the rich are likely to benefit the most from the new tax cuts, shouldn’t the promise of some tax relief generate at least some enthusiasm for the bill in the broader public? As it turns out, many years of research in both psychology and political science suggest not. For the most part, studies indicate that self-interest in the pocketbook sense matters a lot less than we assume: Citizens are not moved to political action by perceived shifts in how they are doing as isolated individuals. They can, however, be roused to political anger when they think others will end up doing better in comparison to people like them—that is, when they experience what social scientists refer to as “relative deprivation.” Thus, even the promise of a few more dollars in one’s wallet might be dissatisfying if other folks end up with thousands more.

Relative deprivation can produce an especially strong reaction when a policy seems to make one’s own group worse off compared with some other group of people. This group element seems to be present in people’s thinking about the GOP tax bill. Since most people tell pollsters that the wealthy and large corporations will benefit disproportionately from the tax rewrite, it’s quite likely that many citizens have concluded that this round of tax relief will benefit “them” (the wealthy and large corporations) more than “us” (average Americans).

Psychologists also find that relative deprivation can be especially powerful when it appears to violate some standard of fairness. So, if a citizen thinks that tax reform will benefit the wealthy more than the average person andthat the wealthy already fail to pay their fair share, her anger might be stronger.

Although citizens’ perceptions about what makes taxes “fair” are complex, polls suggest that most Americans do not believe that upper-income people and corporations pay enough in federal taxes.

So, it’s not just a matter of people seeing less withholding in their paychecks (as Paul Ryan unconvincingly argues will solve everything) it’s a matter of convincing average Americans that they are actually getting a fair shake from Republicans– and that’s a much heavier lift.  Of course, the biggest reason that’s so hard is because objective reality makes this pretty clear to everybody who is not hopelessly in a Fox News cocoon.

The war on Christmas has been won… in Sweden

So my friend and colleague, Mark Nance, is spending the year in Sweden– along with his Sociologist wife, Sarah Bowen, who made the whole thing happen.  And they are both sharing all kinds of fascinating cross-cultural observations via their blog.  Really, really liked this post from Mark on how basically everything in Sweden right now is “Jul” this and “Jul” that (“Jul” being Christmas) and what this really means.

Being in Sweden for this holiday season sheds new light on it for me. Swedes says “Merry Christmas” all the time! “God Jul” (rough pronunciation, Goode Yule) is everywhere. As Sarah says, they just slap Jul on everything: Jul ost (cheese), Jul skinka (ham), Jul chips (chips), Jul öl (beer), or my favorite, Jul potatis (potatoes). Want to make your own at home? 1) Take regular potatoes. 2) Put in bag with some Christmas related pictures. 3) Label accordingly. Voila! …

It’s true that church membership in Sweden is north of 60% right now. But that’s because until 2000, every person born in Sweden was automatically registered as a member of the official state church: The Church of Sweden, an evangelical Lutheran church. The number has been dropping since the practice of automatic registration has stopped. Some surveys estimate that roughly 8% of Swedes attend church regularly.  Swedes are, all told, rather secular.

So what to make of that? Well, we know that “allowing” people to say Merry Christmas won’t make them religious. In fact, I’d say what’s happened in Sweden is the opposite. There are lots of signs of religion in Sweden: St. Lucia, Christmas, and other holidays we’ll talk about here. But for the most part they have been secularized. And that’s why the separation of Church and State has always been strong in the US: it was about protecting the church from the state, not the other way around. Anecdotally, I’ve heard conservative Christians argue that we need to do away with it: that we somehow need to affirm that the US is a Christian nation. [emphases mine] It’s not true, to begin with. There are millions and millions of Americans who aren’t Christian. And that’s their right: one that was a founding principle (if not necessarily a practice) of the United States, no less.

But also, it won’t work. It won’t ensure that everyone who celebrates Christmas does it in the spirit that you want them to. Nor does it ensure that those demanding to say Merry Christmas to every single person will themselves celebrate “the true meaning of Christmas.” Put more bluntly, we go to church to be reminded of our religious beliefs. So if we expect Target and Wal-Mart employees to remind us of our religious beliefs, maybe that’s a sign we’ve made those shrines to consumption our true places of worship. In which case, we need to worry less about what others are saying and more about what we are doing.

Amen!  And God Jul :-).

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