Friday, July 22, 2011

Line In The Sand Time? To Save What's Left Of The New Deal From The Bandits And Predators?


Wednesday one of Raúl Grijalva's most important points in his press conference about the Republican threats to force the treasury into default was that "The people we represent cannot simply be collateral in this discussion... We owe our allegiance at this point to that group of people that is not here to speak for themselves." Of course, who hasn't known that's exactly what conservatives-- on both sides of the aisle-- intend and have always intended? What else are average American families, the kind who don't hire lobbyists and don't write big campaign checks, but collateral?

What Grijalva's speech above closely. Will he be able to withstand the pressure to vote for "the deal" if it comes down to forcing the country into default? Will he be able to withstand it if his is the deciding vote? Would any progressive? Would YOU? I don't know the answer to that-- not for Grijalva, not for you... and not even for me.

Yesterday I read a memo from the Blue Dog polling firm, Anzalone Liszt Research in which they summarized how the public is reacting to the debate over the debt ceiling. Since this is being widely read Inside-the-Beltway, I thought it might be worth sharing so readers of this blog can see what goes into the thought-process of the Serious People who make the decisions for us. Obviously-- apart from the drama among the political elites-- "Wall Street, Main Street, and real voters seem to be increasingly aware-- and concerned-- of the consequences of forcing the government into default.
It shouldn't be a surprise that "raising the debt ceiling" is not verbiage that tests well in opinion polls. Recent AP/GFK numbers show roughly twice as many voters want their member of Congress to oppose raising the debt ceiling as prefer their member support it (22% Support / 42% Oppose). Though it does bear noting that a majority either support the extension (22%) or aren't sure (35%).
However, a basic favor / oppose measure only tells part of the story. Even as pluralities generally oppose extension in a vacuum, there has been a consistent trend toward greater support for lifting the ceiling. Polling from Pew/Washington Post has found an uptick in voter concern toward NOT raising the debt ceiling, while concern over raising the ceiling has remained static. 

A thirteen point plurality in mid-May was more concerned about raising the ceiling (35% NOT raising the ceiling / 48% raising the ceiling) than letting it lapse, but the same question has since tightened to just a 5-point plurality (42% NOT raising the ceiling / 47% raising the ceiling). Similar polling from Gallup and the Wall Street Journal/NBC confirms the trend of more voters favoring lifting the debt limit as the national debate progresses.
Also, when voters are provided with more context, the issue becomes more competitive. Gallup finds support for raising the limit running at roughly 1:1 with opposition when pro and con arguments are provided (46% Should Raise the Ceiling / 49% Should Not). When AP/GFK asked voters if they support or oppose raising the debt limit to "avoid defaulting on U.S. Government debts", voters were again split virtually down the middle with 38% supporting raising the limit to 41% in opposition. Similarly, recent Quinnipiac numbers show a fuller picture of the situation leading to an evenly divided public. Roughly as many voters are concerned that "not raising the debt limit would force the government into default and hurt the economy" (43%) as are concerned that "raising the debt would lead to higher government spending and make the debt bigger" (45%).
AP/GFK also finds only minimal support for the extreme Bachmann-esque position that the debt ceiling shouldn't be raised under any circumstance. Their mid-June results found 34% of voters believe Congress should raise the debt limit then deal with spending cuts separately, 43% believe Congress should raise the limit only with significant spending cuts, and only 18% believe Congress should not raise the debt limit under any circumstance. Gallup also shows that Americans prefer a deficit reduction approach that includes both spending cuts and tax increases. More than seven in ten voters prefer a plan that either includes "equal spending cuts and tax increase" (32%), "mostly spending cuts" (30%), or "mostly / all tax increases" (11%). Only 20% of Americans insist on deficit reduction through spending cuts alone. Even 68% of Republicans prefer some element of tax increases to cut the deficit, compared to just 26% of Republicans who want tax increases completely off the table.
Fundamentally, the Republican position in the debt ceiling debate (spending cuts only) is not only out of step with the broader electorate, but also even among self-identified Republicans. 

Fresh CBS News polling reveals that Americans are eager for their leaders to compromise and focus on the real issues facing families. By more than 5:1, voters nationwide would prefer a compromise that they don't fully support (76%) to not reaching an agreement and having the U.S. default on its debts (14%). Support for a compromise spans party affiliation, as overwhelming majorities of Democrats (80%), Republicans (78%), and Independents (72%) prefer even an unsatisfying compromise to government default. Even 64% of self-identified Tea Party supporters would rather see a compromise they don't fully support, compared to only 28% who prefer no compromise and a government default.
Gallup polling out this week shows a similar phenomenon. A better than 2:1 margin would prefer their representatives "agree to a compromise plan, even if it's one they disagree with" (66%) than "hold out for the basic plan they want, even if the debt ceiling is not raised by the deadline" (27%). Clear majorities of Democrats (69%), Republicans (57%), and Independents (72%) are ready for a compromise, even if it is not their preferred plan.
As the details of a debt ceiling-compromise evolve, so do the politics behind it. Spin is rampant on both sides, but over the past couple of weeks the dynamic seems to have shifted against Republicans. John McCain's public critique of the GOP's House leadership that Republicans are "not winning the battle" is symptomatic of a growing sentiment that Republicans are poised to receive the brunt of voter anger if a deal is not reached. The most recent polling on the issue seems to confirm that public opinion is indeed gelling against Republicans. 

As the President has repeatedly said, the debt ceiling debate represents what many Americans believe is wrong with Washington: profligate spending, political gamesmanship, and a failure of political leaders to come together in good faith to solve real problems. Given that, it shouldn't be a surprise that voters don't give any of the actors high marks for their role in the debt ceiling debate. However, a CBS News poll out this week shows President Obama's rating for his handling of the debt ceiling negotiations (43% Approve / 48% Disapprove)-- while not stellar-- is dramatically higher than those of Congressional Republicans (21% Approve / 71% Disapprove). Congressional Democrats are also in the red (31% Approve / 58% Disapprove), but receive a net-disapproval rating roughly half the 50-point disapproval rating of Congressional Republicans.
No matter what Americans may think of the details of the different plans, President Obama is seen as operating in good faith while Republicans are not. Gallup shows that 60% of Americans feel the President is trying to find a solution, while a similar 62% believe Congressional Republicans are NOT. The perception that President Obama is working to find common ground, while Republicans play politics certainly contributes to the critical 19-point edge the President receives on who respondents believe is more concerned about doing what is best for their families in the debt ceiling debate (51% Obama / 32% Congressional GOP).
Gallup finds a 20-point margin of Americans blame Republicans for the current crisis (29% Obama / 49% Congressional Republicans), and July Quinnipiac numbers show voters more likely to blame Congressional Republicans (48%) than President Obama (34%) if the government defaults on its debt obligations. In June, Pew found similar results, with 42% blaming Republicans and 33% blaming the President. 

The politics of the debt ceiling are certainly volatile, and while it may be difficult for any side of the debate to come out better than they entered, the Republicans' current trajectory could inflict real political damage on a party struggling to prove it can govern and to find its political identity heading into a crucial election year.

One Democratic congressman who is unlikely to buckle under pressure from the Establishment is Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). And he made that pretty clear in a letter he sent out to his constituents yesterday denigrating Obama's "Big Deal" framing. Like most progressives, he's fuming over Obama's seeming willingness to compromise away Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid guarantees.
President Obama applauded the gang of six "compromise" based on, as he explains, "shared sacrifice and everybody... giving up something."

The only thing being compromised is the Administration's values. This deal cuts Social Security and threatens Medicare and Medicaid, selling out those who need help the most, America's children, poor and elderly-- all while taxes are being cut.

Our message is simple: cutting Social Security which has nothing to do with the debt ceiling is not a "big deal" we can accept, it is a bad deal we must reject.

Do not let them disingenuously fold the issue of Social Security-- which is solvent through 2036-- into raising the debt limit. Do not let them move the ball so far down the field that a "compromise" has become a politically friendly term for caving in on the very cornerstone of our Party and-- more importantly-- on well established principles of economic and social justice in America.

The more details that emerge, the worse the picture gets. While our unemployment remains perilously high and families are suffering, instead of a roadmap for recovery we are receiving directions towards another depression. Any "deal" that ignores the massive economic challenges of this country and balances the budget on the backs of children, seniors and the poor is not moral. In a lifetime, will our party have journeyed from the New Deal to the Raw Deal?

With the signatures of Dale Kildee (D-MI) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) last night, there are now 80 Members of Congress who have signed the Grijalva-Ellison letter to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. People are wondering how many will buckle and vote for the execrable deal when Obama's Wall Street economic team begins threatening doom the way Bush's did to get the TARP bankster bailout passed. Remember what happened with all the pledges to not vote for the corporate-oriented health care reform bill if Obama killed the public option?

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At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Lee said...

I remember an exhibit at the Holocaust Museum where you physically feel through the eyes of a Jewish child how their world kept shrinking.

Can't help but feeling that same feeling as I watch our country totally bought off and us middle class folks become serfs.

short term..all progressive groups stop fighting over bullshit and stop being distracted by the few crumbs they throw our way. Forget the emails and calls the house is on fire and we need strikes and sit ins.

long term
We need another party

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

We need a party to celebrate our good fortune. Science has turned on the cosmic reservoir and wealth is without practical limit.

We've gone to our ghostly friend the Moon by careful design and execution. The same thing can be done with all humanities problems.

Our ongoing design science revolution can harness the abundent energy coming from our Star Sun (humanities only safe nuclear reactor it being just the right distance from earth) which is more than we can ever spend. Combined with wind and hydro energy makes the burning of oil, gas and coal totally unnecessary preventing gulf oil spills, strip mining and mountain top removal. This will also stop most of humanities contribution to climate change.

Out with the old in with the new will put us on Sunset Boulavard. Tweaking our broken political, economic and social system will not be enough. Moving a few numbers around on a piece of paper is too little too late. It is time for us to wake up and have enlightenment to the above stated facts just as the renasaunce followed the dark ages. So much change to appear to be no change at all.

Nature is intent on making us a one world humanity and a success.


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