This book explains a long-standing puzzle in the study of American politics: why so many Americans support downwardly redistributive social welfare policies. Such support flies in the face of standard conceptions of the American public as anti-government, individualistic, and racially prejudiced.
To solve this puzzle, I identify two important attitudes toward class groups that have been long overlooked: sympathy for the poor and resentment of the rich. I find that these class group attitudes cause many Americans to support downwardly redistributive social welfare policies.
If sympathy for the poor and resentment of the rich are so widespread, why does government do so little to combat economic inequality? I show that in key instances, political elites downplay class considerations, deactivating sympathy for the poor and resentment of the rich. Politicians can thereby pacify the public, leaving themselves free to respond to the interests of their wealthy political donors.