When it comes to polling-- and certainly focus groups-- I am always chaffing at the bit to know what is never offered: a demographic category based not on race or gender or income but on intelligence, specifically on IQ. I know... never gonna happen. The closest we come is educational attainment. It doesn't do it for me. For example, the latest Marist poll for NPR/PBS (yesterday) shows that, overall, 50% of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 43% disapprove. When Marist breaks it down by education level it looks like this:
college graduation- 61% approve, 34% disapprove
non college graduation- 43% approve, 50% disapprove
Educational attainment is not the same as intelligence, but it's as close as polling will give us. You know what I'm waiting for, right? Proof that the average IQ of a Trump voter is around 80-90 (my guess) and that the average IQ of a QAnon believer is around 70-80. A couple of days ago, Paul Krugman spent some time in two columns talking about how ignorance-- "ignorance about history, about science, about economics and more-- has become a core conservative value. This exaltation of ignorance naturally goes hand in hand with disdain for expertise: A vast majority of scientists may agree that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, but hey, it’s all just a gigantic hoax. But wait, there’s more. On the right, expertise isn’t just considered worthless, it’s viewed as disqualifying. People with actual knowledge of a policy area-- certainly those with any kind of professional reputation-- are often excluded from any role in shaping policy. Preference is given to the incompetent-- often the luridly incompetent."
It isn't just the right-wing voters who are morons; the right-wing government functionaries are as well, not that that should surprise anyone. Krugman recently discovered "the special destructive role played by Stephen Moore, an outside economic adviser." Moore, a very far right trickle down economist who founded the Club for Growth (and served as its president until he was unceremoniously booted out) is considered intelligent in right-wing world. He graduated from college and even earned a masters from George Mason University.
Krugman reported that "It was Moore... who walked into Donald Trump’s office just days after America went into lockdown to urge reopening by Easter. While an immediate lifting of pandemic restrictions didn’t happen, Trump’s growing insistence that the pandemic was no big deal helped inspire armed protests against social distancing and mask-wearing, and it contributed to a public health disaster that has so far claimed 600,000 American lives-- with 95 percent of the deaths happening after Easter 2020."
It goes without saying that Moore isn’t an expert on epidemiology. But he isn’t an expert on economics, either. In fact, he has a reputation among many economists for being wrong about almost everything. I don’t mean that he has made some bad forecasts-- that happens to everyone (although some of us admit it when we were wrong and try to learn from our mistakes). I mean it is unusual for him ever to get the facts right, or even manage to land in the remote vicinity of the truth.
For example, in 2014 Moore published an attack on yours truly over the effects of state tax cuts in which every key number was incorrect. And not slightly off: He made claims about job growth for certain years but offered numbers from different years, and got even those numbers wildly wrong.
Another example: In 2015 he wrote an attack on Obamacare in which every main factual assertion was wrong.
Yet in right-wing circles Moore has failed steadily upward, serving as a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, becoming chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, and more. Trump tried to appoint him to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors and might have succeeded if Moore hadn’t been found in contempt of court for failure to pay alimony and child support.
And there he was, at a crucial moment in the pandemic, urging Trump to downplay the medical emergency and endanger American lives.
What’s odd about the Moore story-- not to mention Trump’s decision to make Larry Kudlow, also famous for usually being wrong, his top economic official-- is that there are quite a few technically competent economists who would be eager to serve the G.O.P.
Like every academic subject, economics leans Democratic, but less so than many other fields-- there are proportionally more Republicans in economics than there are in biology or chemistry. Some of these economists are willing to abase themselves in an attempt to prove their loyalty, like Tomas Philipson, a University of Chicago professor who served on Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers and claimed that Trump has economic instincts “on par with many Nobel economists.”
Yet by Philipson’s own account, pretty much nobody took his advice. And in general, the U.S. right-- not just Trumpists but the movement as a whole-- distrusts anyone whose competence has resulted in an independent professional reputation. After all, you never know when someone like that might take a stand on principle.
I’ve written in the past that “the modern G.O.P. doesn’t want to hear from serious economists, whatever their politics. It prefers charlatans and cranks, who are its kind of people.” And it turns out that the same is true for epidemiologists.
...So how did we end up here? How did one of our two major political parties come not only to reject democracy, but to exalt ignorance and despise competence of any kind?
I don’t know, but if you aren’t terrified, you aren’t paying attention.
Low IQ voters?
COVID infections across Colorado are down significantly. The state is recovering-- or at least most of it is. Mesa County is Trump country. Trump beat Biden 62.8% to 34.8% there. It's also the county that provided high school drop-out and QAnon moron Lauren Boebert with her margin of victory. And the voters there? Too smart to be tricked into taking any vaccines, making their county one of the country's delta variant hotspots. The Hill reported that "As a whole, Colorado is actually seeing a slight drop in overall COVID-19 cases with a 24 percent decrease in its average daily case count within two weeks. But Mesa County, home to Grand Junction, has been struck by new COVID-19 cases in recent days with an average of 48 cases per day in a 34 percent increase from two weeks prior... The county, which hosted thousands last weekend for the County Jam music festival, has seen its hospitals fill up with 98.3 percent of beds and 90.9 percent of ICU beds in use. Mesa County officials issued a public health advisory on Wednesday, calling vaccination 'critically important as case counts continue to be at a sustained increase in Mesa County and community transmission of the Delta variant is widespread.'" Are the folks there just too damn dumb to live? Trump, Boebert, the delta variant...