Guess which "extreme" the public agrees with? (Hint: It's the one that's invisible.)

Guess which "extreme" the public agrees with?

by digby

If you want proof that the Villagers are out of touch, get a load of this:
Most Republicans don't actually support the House Republican plan to avert the spending cuts known as the sequester, according to a new poll conducted for Business Insider by our partner SurveyMonkey.

The poll asked participants to consider the core points of three sequester replacement proposals in Congress, without telling them the partisan affiliation of those plans. It found that in some cases, both Democrats and Republicans actually opposed their own party's plans and/or backed their adversaries' proposal.

Here are the three plans we tested:
Surveys have found that asking people about just titles of plans or telling people who proposed policy, changes the results, so the point of this poll was to see what people thought of the plans when they were fully explained, but also stripped of partisan labels.

SurveyMonkey's poll, which surveyed 550 people, focused on congressional proposals exclusively. Here are some interesting findings of the poll:
Surprisingly, the plan that polled the strongest was the House Progressive Caucus plan. More than half of respondents supported it compared to sequestration and just a fifth of respondents were opposed.
A plurality of people — 28 percent — believed the House Progressive Caucus Plan would have the least financial impact on them personally. This makes the most sense, as only 14 percent of respondents reported having income over $150,000.

Shockingly, 47 percent of Republicans preferred the House Progressive plan to the sequester. This means that Republicans supported the House Progressive plan just as much as they supported their own party's plan.

Support for the Senate Democrat plan was weak, with just fewer than half of respondents preferring that plan compared with the sequester.

Opposition to the House Republican plan was strong, with 57 percent preferring the sequester to that plan.

Twice as many Republicans supported sequestration as Democrats.

One-fifth of Democrats prefer the sequester when compared to the Senate Democrats' sequestration replacement plan. About one-quarter of Republicans prefer the Senate Democrat plan to the implementation of the sequester.
It shouldn't come as any surprise to you to know that the Progressive Caucus Plan is also the one that's considered so kooky and outside the mainstream that Andrea Mitchell and her pals can hardly keep from rolling their eyes when they mention them --- on the rare occasions they even bother. And yet, if what you care about is the deficit, the House Progressive caucus plan reduces the deficit just as much as the other plans and doesn't even put a dent in our status as a global military empire and world's policeman. And it's clearly something the people would prefer (although they undoubtedly wouldn't if they knew the Dirty Hippies were the one's proposing it.) Yet, it's literally not even being discussed in any of the non-stop sequester blather-fests on TV.

And I hate to say it, our allegedly progressive White House is equally dismissive. And that's because it isn't progressive. It's "centrist" which means that it's one of the architects, not victims, of,the deficit brinksmanship we're now using as an excuse to slash the hell out of government.

This excellent commentary by political scientist Joseph White explains why it's facile to simply blame the crazy Republicans for the mess we're in:
Who is to blame for this deficit brinksmanship? It may seem logical to finger Congressional “extremists.” In fact, Tea Party-oriented Republicans have recently shown the most enthusiasm for holding the nation’s credit and economic prospects hostage. Yet fiscal brinksmanship is nothing new, and it has been pursued at least as much by “centrist” budget hawks. Since the 1980s, a large segment of the Washington policy world has acted as if all other concerns are less important than shrinking the deficit, equating budgetary terrorism to “responsible government.”

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a prime example. Its board includes many former budget officials along with leaders of the House and Senate budget committees. As a leading cheerleader for hostage-taking and brinksmanship, the Committee viewed the 2011 debt ceiling hostage crisis as an “opportunity” not to be wasted. It endorsed the threatened sequester, worrying only that it might not be tough enough. In December 2012, the Committee argued that Congress and the President did not have time to work out a detailed package of big deficit cuts, and called for any deal to include “enforcement mechanisms” such as yet another sequester...

In 2011, the Financial Times editorialized that, “sane governments do not cast doubt on the pledge to honor their debts – which is why, if reason prevailed, the debt ceiling would simply be scrapped.” Yet instead of endorsing this common sense, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has called the debt-ceiling “an effective lever… to require law makers to enact debt reduction legislation.” This promotion of budgetary extremism, however, is nothing new:
 In 1985, two centrists – Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina andRepublican Senator Warren Rudman of New Hampshire – joined with ultra-conservativeRepublican Phil Gramm of Texas to block a debt ceiling increase until Congress passedthe Gramm/Rudman/Hollings law requiring crude automatic cuts to domestic and defense programs – with no deliberation about which cuts made sense given national needs. 
 In 2009-2010, the centrist Senate Budget Committee Chair, North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad, first blocked sensible budget process reforms and then objected to a debt ceiling increase in order to force appointment of a special Fiscal Responsibility Commission. 
 In November of 2010 former Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of the deficit commission,boasted that the co-chairs’ recommendations could succeed even though not supported by the required number of commission members. “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April,” declared Simpson, pointing to the next Congressional decision on the debt ceiling. Simpson is a Republican long viewed as very conservative, but he now is considered a centrist by Washington DC reporters (and apparently also by President Obama, who appointed him).
Centrist hawks have systematically exaggerated the economic risks of deficits, predicting high interest rates for the past five years and continually being disproven. They also have promoted a biased and inaccurate view of the causes of budget imbalances. Forecasts show that spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will increase, while taxes at current levels are not projected to cover the costs. Although most American voters are willing to pay for health and retirement programs, budget hawks proclaim the deficit “crisis” is due to excess “entitlements.”  It would be just as logical to say that valuable health care and pension programs need more  funding. The report of the chairs of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission called for an artificial  ceiling on federal spending to be set at 21% of Gross Domestic Product forever. This is an  arbitrary political move – and one that simply encourages right-wing extremists trying to force unpopular cuts in social spending that could not be enacted in normal proceedings. 

That it is an arbitrary political move is proven by the fact that the House progressives have come up with a deficit reduction plan that does not cut the so-called entitlements and reduces the deficit by the same arbitrary number the president and the Republicans agreed upon. And if said deficit must be cut, the public prefers that it be done in this way! And yet, it is dismissed out of hand.  At this point we know that deficit reduction per se is a secondary concern. It's about cutting government.

This is largely a result of centrist deficit hawks (and the presidents of both parties who bought into their hackery.) Don't forget that the first item of business the new Democratic president initiated, once he passed the stimulus plan at the beginning of his first term, was to convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" that was to include Pete Peterson as a featured speaker (until the shocked outcry of Democratic allies made them rescind the invitation.) And they have never really wavered from that goal.

Here's Joan Walsh today:
[I]t’s worth remembering that according to Noam Scheiber and others, Obama himself opened the door to hostage-taking Republicans by agreeing to negotiate over a debt-ceiling hike, which had until that point been a pro-forma ritual: partisans from the out of power party, like Sen. Barack Obama, might cast a symbolic vote against it, but it always went up. In his excellent book “The Escape Artist,” Scheiber reveals that some administration officials knew that would change under the new Tea Party-led House GOP elected in 2010, and they pushed to include a debt-ceiling hike in the December, 2010 deal Obama made to extend the Bush tax cuts. But when Republicans (predictably) balked, it was dropped.

The White House was already looking for a way to craft a big deficit-reduction plan, thanks to the warnings of deficit hawk Peter Orszag, with political advisors like David Plouffe insisting it would make good politics in 2012 after the “shellacking” of 2010. As one administration official told Scheiber, about a crucial deficit-cutting meeting: “Plouffe specifically said, ‘We’re going to need a period of ugliness’—he meant with the left—‘so that people in the center understand that we’re not wasting their tax dollars.” (Funny, Plouffe said the same thing publicly right after Obama’s 2012 victory.)
"Deficit reduction" is becoming to centrist Democrats what "tax cuts" are to Republicans -- and all-purpose cure for what ails us.

This powerful centrist faction in the nation's capitol has been creating a sense of ongoing crisis for decades and its effects on our politics cannot be overstated.  It's strangled the social safety net and empowered the most extremist members of our government to use it for their own ends. Combined with the nonsensical insistence that adding "revenue" is akin to signing on with Al Qaeda and you have a recipe for the dysfunction we see today. Don't blame the Tea Party.  They're just playing their designated role in this.

After all, as everyone in Democratic circles keeps shouting to anyone who will listen:
[T]he federal deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II.

In fact, outside of that post-WWII era, the only time the deficit has fallen faster was when the economy relapsed in 1937, turning the Great Depression into a decade-long affair.
If U.S. history offers any guide, we are already testing the speed limits of a fiscal consolidation that doesn't risk backfiring. That's why the best way to address the fiscal cliff likely is to postpone it. 
While long-term deficit reduction is important and deficits remain very large by historical standards, the reality is that the government already has its foot on the brakes.

It certainly looks to me as if the deficit hawks are doing very, very well. And they obviously aren't done yet.