Thank God For Republicans

Thank God For Republicans

by digby

Dave Weigel doesn't usually allow himself to be bound by phony beltway paradigms, but I'm afraid he falls down on the job in this one. Discussing the NBC News/WSJ poll he notes that when asked how much the budget deficit concerns voters, 80 percent say "a great deal" or "a little bit" and says it should be added to "the annals of Voter Stupidity" because of this:
But they think we can do it all with spending.

Do you think it will be necessary to cut spending on Medicare, the federal government health care program for seniors, in order to significantly reduce the budget deficit?

Yes - 18%
No - 54%

Do you think it will be necessary to cut spending on Social Security in order to significantly reduce the federal budget deficit?

Yes - 22%
No - 49%

When Republicans talk about the country being ready, finally, for real talk on entitlement reform, stuff like this should concern them. But it must concern Democrats, too. There are several of them who want to keep entitlement reform in the discussion when the 2012 budget comes up, because it's not possible to get to a balanced budget in 10 years without that or without massive discretionary spending cuts.
Are"entitlement reform" (whatever that is) or massive discretionary spending cuts really the only way to deal with the deficit? According to basic economic theory --- and those stupid voters --- there is another part of the formula:

[The survey] listed 26 different ways to reduce the federal budget deficit. The most popular: placing a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per year (81 percent said that was acceptable), eliminating spending on earmarks (78 percent), eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says aren’t necessary (76 percent) and eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries (74 percent).
Raising taxes on millionaires is right up there. And it accounts for a whole lot of money. Defense is in there too --- and it accounts for a whole lot of money too.

Now, it's true that most people believe that future deficits will likely be problematic if health care costs overall are not brought under control and singling out Medicare isn't going to solve the problem. Certainly the people who are so concerned about Medicare costs had a funny way of showing it when they demagogued their way into office in last falls elections by scaring the pants off of the elderly about "Obamacare." (And social security simply isn't a real contributor to the deficit and shouldn't be considered in the mix at all.)

I don't blame Weigel for not seeing this. After all, neither NBC or the Wall Street Journal bothered to point this out in their stories about the poll. And get a load of the response yesterday on Chris Matthews' show when the subject came up:
MATTHEWS: OK. When people asked what to do about the deficit, 37 percent say cut big programs, 29 percent say raised taxes. These are like the final things they‘re willing to go for if it really gets tough. Obviously, you want to cut the fat and waste, everybody does that first.

TODD: Sure.

MATTHEWS: But then you asked them, what do you want to do once you‘ve already done that, if you‘ve done that that? And they say, basically, if I had to choose between going after Social Security and taxes, they sort of suggest go after Social Security. But then when you asked particularly about Medicare and Social Security, hands off, 80 percent.

People really don‘t want to make these decisions, do they?


MATTHEWS: They want the politicians to have to make them.

TODD: Well, that was another. There‘s another way to read that poll. That‘s right. Look, there are no popular solutions.


TODD: I‘ll give you one that actually wasn‘t. The most acceptable idea of—we tested 26 different budget proposals. The most acceptable what us was a surtax on millionaires at 81 percent. There‘s no chance that any member of the Republican Party elected in Congress right now would vote for a proposal that did that, even though it has an 81 percent acceptable rating. That‘s sort of the Chuck Schumer idea.

MATTHEWS: That‘s why we have a republican form of government, not an actual democratic form of government. You got to get somebody else to make these decisions. In the end, who wants to cut their own Social Security? Who wants to raise their own taxes? Nobody wants to do that.

TODD: Nobody does.

MATTHEWS: That‘s why we have politicians to fight with.

I don't know if Matthews was inadvertently revealing his class bias or just misspoke, but I think that was a beautiful example of Village millionaire thinking. "Thank God for our Republican form of government. (Thank God for Republicans!)"

Even if one accepts that the budget deficit must be dealt with right this minute (something else the people aren't behind --- they would prefer job creation) the idea that the only viable approach is "entitlement reform", including social security is just flat-out wrong. Most of the people aren't dumb about this at all. In fact, their instincts are quite right --- they know a scam when they see one.