Saturday, June 5, 2021 | 2 a.m
If Republicans win Congress back in the 2022 midterm elections, they will face a huge dilemma. How will they interpret or pass on the benefits that the Democrats have granted middle and lower-class Americans?
Psychologists tell us that rewards – called enhancers when the reward changes behavior – add pleasure, attract attention, and increase the likelihood of attachment to the benefactor. The Democrats are building on that. Allegedly, the Biden government has other reasons besides buying votes. But apart from other motives, they also know that checks in the mail and other benefits will win over voters.
As Americans already know, President Joe Biden and the Democrats are planning multi-trillion dollar programs that they believe will change America. Here is a quick example from the nearly $ 2 trillion, 5,593 page COVID relief package that has already been passed.
The best-known pieces are the incentive payments: $ 1,400 cash payments to individuals with incomes up to $ 75,000 a year, heads of households up to $ 112,500, and couples with incomes up to $ 150,000. Eligible family members, including adult dependents, will also receive $ 1,400 each.
But the stimulus payments are only the tip of a huge financial iceberg. Legislation includes financial assistance for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as grocery stamps, rental assistance, financial assistance for the homeless, and mortgage assistance. There are also funds to support nursing homes and their staff, unemployment insurance, paid family leave, housing, health care and pension provision.
In many ways, the American employment plan that runs through Congress can be even more effective than the COVID relief legislation. Yes, the effects of rebuilding roads, bridges, and highways would be profoundly apparent, but potential new railroad lines are drooling cities and businesses. In addition, there is money that supports the electric car market and all related needs. There is money for pipes and structures for clean drinking water and billions for broadband expansion and the electricity infrastructure such as the power grid. As if that weren’t enough, billions are being made available for affordable and sustainable housing, and even more billions for the “care economy” and personnel development. The latter includes affordable financing for child and elderly care, services that are designed for the long term.
The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently highlighted Republicans’ problems with dealing with Democratic legislation. “Imagine trying to take affordable childcare, universal pre-K, and paid vacation to new parents once they are part of our society,” he wrote.
Of course, giving someone perks doesn’t guarantee that people will vote for you. People are complex, and those receiving an incentive payment or child benefit may perceive it as government generosity without labeling it as cheap. Voters have party loyalty, political distrust, family habits, racial prejudice, personal identity, hatred of opponents, fears and many other competing influences.
The last president to waste huge sums of money in federal spending on the broad middle and lower classes of America was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt won 61% of the vote and led all but two states in his first election as incumbent. Nobody predicts such support for the Democrats in the 2022 midterm election, but the power of massive rewards for the American public stands and could keep the Democrats under control.
So what should Republicans do to counter the effects of massive welfare payments? Should they rant about socialist trends? Should they claim that the federal government is invading Americans’ lives? Unfortunately, such campaign messages will face significant opposition to tangible benefits that improve lives, especially those in need.
Receiving rewards is powerful. Taking them away or even suggesting that they are bad is much stronger in the emotional resistance it creates. Just try stealing a teddy bear from an infant, ask a teen to move away from their friends, or get seniors to get a cut in their social security contributions.
Eliminating childcare allowances, early intervention grants and much more will not be easy. Republicans will have their hands full solving this problem.
Robert Pawlicki is a retired psychologist and is a regular contributor to the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.