November 27, 2012

The fantasy of the fiscal debate

Paul Rosenberg, Al Jazeera - There is a political party in the United States whose presidential candidate got over 60 million votes, and whose members - according to the General Social Survey - overwhelmingly think we're spending too little on Social Security, rather than spending too much, by a lopsided margin of 52-12. The party, of course, is the Republican Party.

There is as an ideological label claimed by over 100 million Americans, who collectively think we're spending too little on "improving and protecting the nation's health", rather than spending too much, by a 2-1 margin: 48-24. The labelled ideology, of course, is conservative.

Combine the two categories and the two spending questions, and you find that a 51.4 percent of conservative Republicans think we're spending too little on either Social Security, health care or both. Only 28.7 percent think we're spending too much, and just 7.3 percent think we're spending too much on both.

That's 7.3 percent of conservative Republicans in support of the position taken by leaders of both political parties - Republicans, who want to slash the welfare state drastically while making permanent tax cuts for the rich, and Democrats, led by President Obama, who wants a more "balanced" approach, with $2.50 cut from spending for every $1 added in taxes. Other Democrats, particularly in Congress, are trying to push back against Obama, without letting their slips show, and Obama is doing his best to hide what he's up to, but there is simply no way to get $4 trillion in cuts - almost $1 trillion already agreed to and another $3 trillion in his current proposal - without deep spending cuts that even a majority of conservative Republicans oppose.

Yet, as the Guardian reports, Obama's grassroots campaign organisation is being kept alive after the campaign, and pushing this far right agenda is their first emailed call to action. "It's now clear that ordinary citizens will also be subjected to a full bore messaging campaign to persuade them that they should regard this counterproductive sacrifice as good for them," notes leading econoblogger Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism. She also notes, correctly, that "most Americans have a simple response to the notion of 'reforming' these popular programmes: Cut military budgets and raise taxes on upper income groups".

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