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The Public Can Agree on How to Cut the Deficit. Why Can't Congress?

November 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Here’s an idea for how Congress and the supercommittee can overcome gridlock and reduce deficits: stop paying so much attention to pundits and corporate lobbyisyts, and, instead, start listening to the people they were elected to serve. Unlike the hardened and polarized Washington establishemnt, the public-at-large has broad agreement on several proposals for handling budget deficits.

The latest reminder of this comes from a Politico poll conducted last week. The poll was conducted among 1,000 registered “likely” voters, split 41% Republicans/43% Democrats/14% Independents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.

When questioned on which budget-balancing proposals they support, respondents had strong agreemnt on a couple of items. 89% said they support “closing tax loopholes and reforming the tax code to make the tax code fairer.” And 66% said they support “increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.”

A couple ideas had similarly strong levels of opposition: cuts to Medicare and Medicaid through increasing beneficiary cost (76% opposed) and Cutting spending on defense programs (82% opposed).

Those are strong, clearly bipartisan majorities. If Congress was even close to representing the will of the people, these positions would be slam dunks. They’d even be filibuster-proof in the Senate.

Now obviously the details are important and would likely cause more dissent once they’re filled in — which tax loopholes should be closed, how should taxes on corporations be raised, and by how much? But what’s clear from the polling information is that the public is generally behind raising revenues and generally against cutting programs. Of course, to the extent that there is any deficit concept that bridges the two parties in Congress it’s that taxes should not be increased and programs need to be cut back. 

The problem is that there are incentives in the system for Congress to make sure the public loses. The pubilc-supported positions are in direct opposition to what’s supported by the people who fund their campaigns and can provide them with high-paying jobs when they retire from public service. Corporations don’t want to lose their loopholes and wealthy individuals don’t want to lose their ability to position income as long-term capital gains. This, of course, is why the supercommittee is giving special access and exclusive readouts to corporations and individuals that can afford access lobbyists at the same time that they’re keeping the public-at-large locked out.

(h/t Plum Line)

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  • jlohman 11/15/2011 8:31am

    Because the public does not fund the elections! The Fat Cats that caused the deficit give campaign bribes.

    Jack Lohman

  • fizzlesquirt 11/15/2011 3:09pm

    How about cutting the reps outrageous salaries, cut spending on redundant policies, and stop all the small business red tape. This ‘poll’ is clearly slated to make it look like everyone wants to increase taxes ‘on the rich’. Everyone knows that crap flows down (crap being taxes)- to the middle class.
    It isn’t a revenue problem, it’s a spending problem.

  • Comm_reply
    nancym 11/16/2011 8:59am

    Right. “Everyone knows” is obviously a more scientific approach than an an actual poll. Good grief.

  • Comm_reply
    nashornikov 11/17/2011 12:45am

    I certainly don’t think it’s everyone. In fact, a lot of people would have you believe that the good crap like tax cuts flows that way.

  • Comm_reply
    snoggish 11/18/2011 4:05am

    Wow. Yes, this poll could have been messed with. It’s incredibly easy to ask biased questions and then use wonky statistics to make your point even clearer. I don’t know why you’re acting so incredulous about that or why you seem so certain they were doctored, though.
    There’s pretty much no way we are getting out of this national debt, but if we wanna try we need to cut both drastically.

    My issue is with your second to last sentence. Crap that nobody wants (like crap and taxes) flows down to the middle class, yes. Crap like money doesn’t. Trickle down economics has been tried over the last half century and it’s never worked. Getting rid of tax loopholes for corporations would probably do more good than harm; even if they shove most of the taxes down the line.

    Also, like others have said, ‘everyone’ doesn’t know that.

  • Comm_reply
    frankzat 11/18/2011 8:30am

    This is the reason we should have “term limits” on the politicians. remember, our founding fathers felt that “politics” was a duty to be served, and then return to private life and continue on in your chosen profession. Was never intended to be a “way of Life”, with these long tenured people just filling their pockets and becoming wealthy peddling their influence.

  • NateO 11/17/2011 1:43pm

    Um are we all forgetting something.. what taxes? How about those private jets for the corporate CEO’s and the tax holes. Clearly we would be seeing some of that money if it was actually being taxed. The reality of the situation is that the low-middle class citizens pay far more in taxes by percent than anyone else. Mind you half of these taxes go to welfare and people who are too ‘depressed’ to work.

  • Comm_reply
    frankzat 11/18/2011 8:28am

    The real crux of the problem is that we have too many people “not Paying” any taxes, and in fact being subsidized. There is no “free lunch”, contrary to what politicians feel. Democracy is in jeopardy when politicians realize they can purchase people, with their own money. They “give money” to people to get votes, and this is not sustainable.

  • frankzat 11/18/2011 8:24am

    Well, part of the problem is that the Congressional representatives seem to be immune to the public opinion. after all they were “elected”, but their only goal seems to be that they want to increase their financial position while in office. It seems to be all about “lobbists”? TERM LIMITS is the only answer.

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