Busted unions, privatized social security, deregulation of industry, and now…energy-swilling homes. Is there no stopping the self-destructive behavior of the American middle class conservative?

According to the N.Y. Times, a study published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that political ideology plays a significant role in determining whether a homeowner will respond favorably to voluntary home conservation programs.

The study found that those who vote Republican and donate money to conservative candidates and causes are considerably less likely to give it the old college try when it comes to conserving energy in their homes. Not surprisingly, the study showed that Democrats who donate to environmental groups and get their electricity from renewable sources showed the most improvement. When receiving individual usage feedback, they reduced their energy consumption by about 3%.

On the other hand, the study found Republican households that practice no specific eco-friendly behaviors increased their energy usage by 1% over previous quarters when receiving the same type of feedback.

Overall, households in the conservation program reduced consumption by 2%. The Republican subset, however, actually increased usage by .04%.

In addition to household energy-usage reports, half of the homes studied received tips on how to reduce usage and were rewarded for their efforts with smiley faces printed on the reports. Two smiley faces went to those who used less energy than their neighbors, one smiley face for average use. Instead of smiley faces, those who scored poorly got “ROOM TO IMPROVE” on their reports in bold, black letters. These underachievers also got specific tips on how they might reduce their usage.

Green is for Sissies

Granted, the smiley faces are a bit much, and nobody likes to be scolded. But, you’d think that the grown-up living inside most of us would rise above the condescension, and make an effort to help our ailing planet by reducing personal energy consumption—if not for our children and their children, at least for a substantial reduction in our monthly energy bills.

But, no. Like a naughty, petulant child, our conservative friends demonstrate their rugged individualism and distaste for political correctness by working against the planet and their own financial interests. “No tree-hugging egghead scientist is gonna tell me what to do in my own home,” would be the conservative refrain. “This is America, dammit. Shining cities on a hill shouldn’t have to sacrifice nothin’”

It’s the same mentality evident in a giant, gas-guzzling SUV careening down the street with two American flags on top flapping proudly in the smog. To these folks, the financial pain of 7 miles-per-gallon is well worth the political message they and their condominiums-on-wheels deliver: Green is for sissies!

Widespread Chump-dom

This curious, self-defeating behavior of middle class conservatives isn’t limited to environmental issues. While the middle class shrinks, wages remain stagnant and CEOs receive salaries and bonuses that would make King Midas blush, conservatives bash the only hope the middle class has of getting a fair shake from industry—trade and labor unions.

As the Gulf of Mexico becomes the Black Lagoon and middle class workers in the fishing and tourism businesses of the region stare down the barrel of insolvency, conservatives are calling for more off-shore drilling and less regulation of the oil industry. While middle class folks teeter on the brink of financial collapse due to Wall Street’s fun and games, conservatives insist on less regulation of the banking and insurance industries.

And as more members of the middle class lose their health insurance or are driven to bankruptcy by insurance and pharmaceutical industries run amok, conservatives resist legislation that would force those industries to play nicer, and make our health care system more Hippocratic than plutocratic.

Time after time, members of America’s middle class have been left to pay for unfettered corporate greed with their jobs, higher taxes (for bailouts and corporate under-paying) and their sanity while conservatives line up like rubes at a carnival game for more of the same treatment.

Obviously, they don’t see themselves as dupes. Rather, they believe they are fighting for the invisible hand of the free market. What middle class conservatives refuse to understand is that price and wage fixing, politician purchase and general corporate malfeasance makes a truly free market a pipe dream, leaving the invisible hand with nothing to do but rummage through their pockets.

I suppose this would all be kind of funny if it weren’t for the fact that conservatives aren’t the only ones who suffer the consequences of their self-destructive tendencies.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, indeed.

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