Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 17, 2011

THE SCRIPT SHOULD WRITE ITSELF.... A major Democratic pollster, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, published a report the other day, noting the results a new survey conducted for the Campaign for America's Future and Democracy Corps. The results should be of great interest to party officials.

Congressman Paul Ryan's budget proposal, to be embraced by the House Republican majority today, faces serious obstacles in winning public support.... The Republican plan provides Democrats with a strong argument that Republicans have the wrong priorities for America and will break the long-standing agreement the country has with its seniors. The budget opens up a fundamental debate about values that could end up defining Republicans in the public mind and allowing Democrats to draw sharp differences and regain their standing on the economy and spending priorities and advocacy for the middle class. The decision to end Medicare and shift costs to seniors in continuing tough times may be the Republicans' undoing. [...]

The Republican deficit reduction plan does not even win majority support, but when voters learn almost anything about it, they turn sharply and intensely against it. They have particularly grave concerns about the plan to end Medicare and slash Medicaid spending, pushing seniors into the private insurance market and costing them thousands of dollars more in out-of-pocket expenses. [emphasis added]

At first glance, the survey results aren't exactly encouraging. When respondents were asked whether or not they favored the Republicans' a 10-year plan to cut spending $6.2 trillion, it scored pretty well -- 48% supported the idea, which is pretty high, while 33% were against it.

But then respondents were given an accurate description of the same plan, noting, among other things, that the GOP proposal "makes small cuts in defense spending," repeals health care reform, cuts taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and makes "major cuts" to Medicaid and Medicare.

At that point, support dropped from 48% to 36%, and opposition rose from 33% to 56%.

What's more, the pollster explained the Republicans' plan for Medicare: "This plan would cut Medicare spending and replace Medicare with a voucher system, which will force seniors to negotiate with private insurance companies, which are free to raise rates and deny coverage. Medicare's guaranteed coverage of care would end, and seniors would have to pay more and more out of pocket." All of this is accurate, by the way.

After hearing this description, 66% of respondents said they have "serious doubts" about the GOP proposal.

Noting the results, Nate Silver said yesterday, "Clearly there is political upside for Dems in attacking Ryan budget, however, they also have a lot of work to do to inform voters about it."

Right. Most of the public doesn't know much about what House Republicans have proposed, and as of Friday afternoon, voted for. And given a general, generic description, they seemed to think the GOP plan is fine.

But it seems all Democrats have to do to win the debate is tell people the truth, and educate the American mainstream, at which point Americans not only oppose the Republican agenda, but even fear it.

It doesn't take a messaging genius to figure out what Dems should be saying right now.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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It doesn't take a messaging genius

No, all it takes is a forum. Anyone know where we can find one?

Posted by: Danp on April 17, 2011 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Damn - woke up this morning and had skid marks in my skivvies again!

Who keeps riding a bicycle into my bedroom and up my ass, slamming the brakes when they hit my crotch, and then skidding along my underwear!

And how do they manage to do it without waking me up?

Posted by: atrios on April 17, 2011 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, the Democrats have a total inability to come up with any kind of coherent message and they couldn't stay on message even if they COULD come up with one. Their big talent seems to be rolling over and playing dead.

I'd be thrilled to pieces to be proved wrong this time. I don't think I will, though.

Posted by: Krusher on April 17, 2011 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

"Most of the public doesn't know much about what House Republicans have proposed, and as of Friday afternoon, voted for."

Given the almost unanimous Republican vote for the Ryan budget, I really have to wonder how much each of these congressmen knows about it. This seems like more of a protest or tantrum vote than a seriously well thought out policy vote. Why are these guys such conformists and followers? Kind of goes against the independence image.

Posted by: lou on April 17, 2011 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

You can count on the so-called Blue Dog Dems to undermine their own party.

Posted by: Mac on April 17, 2011 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

..all Democrats have to do to win the debate is tell people the truth, and educate the American mainstream - which would be easy if they controlled the media of communication. Which they don't.

Posted by: Goldilocks on April 17, 2011 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican plan stinks. The people should know.

So, who's gowing to tell them?

The Democrats?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 17, 2011 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that the Ryan plan is absolutely insane, and I don't doubt that a huge majority of the country is against it, but isn't the way the poll question explains what would happen to Medicare under the Ryan plan a bit leading?

It will "force Seniors" to negotiate, and they would have to pay "more and more" out of pocket? Its true, certainly, but "forced" is a pretty strong word. People don't like being forced to do anything (consider the personal mandate that people are so opposed to).

It seems to me that saying it "would require" seniors to negotiate would be a more neutral statement.

We make fun of Fox polls because they start with some ridiculous phraseology. "Considering Obama is a socialist, do you think he loves America?" This poll isn't that egregious, but it'd be better to avoid any controversy from the jump.

Posted by: Kim on April 17, 2011 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I repeat a proposed strategy to turn this Kabuki theatre into a direct threat to the American Way of Life, and an engaging media sideshow.

I think that Pelosi's gambit in the House vote should be repeated by Harry Reid, but with a twist. He should have 49 dem senators vote "present" and let the Republican senators pass the House budget bill. If they do that, then let Obama start a public debate on whether the US public wants to end Medicare, waiting the full measure of time before he vetoes it. The drama would be played up by the media. Then Obama could truthfully tell the American people that he saved Medicare as we know it.

If the Repub senators fail to pass the House bill, their bluff will have been called in a big way.

The advantage is that the MSM would have a week or two to "educate" the public with high-ratings man-in-the-street interviews. It is what they do best, because it involves no research on their part.

Posted by: troglodyte on April 17, 2011 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yep. There's no hope. The Dems will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again. All is lost. Blue Dogs will undermine the Party once again. How do you guys get up in the morning with it all being so hopeless and all?

I have a couple of questions for the naysayers. First, who's side are you really on? Do you really want to see progress for the majority of American people or are you invested in a negative view of our potential. If it's the latter, your view is just as pessimistic and essentially un-American as the GOP's message.

Secondly, if you really are committed to making this country a better place, what the hell are you going to do to help get the message out? We all know the media environment favors the GOP. So are you going to just bitch about it in the comments section of liberal blogs?

How about this. Get your best, most persuasive arguments together and write a letter to the editor of your local dog-trainer/fish wrap. At least you'd be doing something helpful. Defeatism is definitely unhelpful.

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 17, 2011 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well, this is such a gimme, and I think they get it.

Posted by: rikyrah on April 17, 2011 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Add in it will not balance the budget, will not end the deficit,will not eliminate the debt and creates zero jobs, support should be down to the total dead enders. So how are the Dems going to blow it?

Posted by: martin on April 17, 2011 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Message? What message?

Posted by: pol on April 17, 2011 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

I believe we should take this gift horse with a grain of salt.As stupid as republicans are acting, I think there is a Trojan horse somewhere. They seem to be setting themselves up for a reason...rovian thinking always has something up their sleeze...hahah and their sleeve.

Posted by: Michael on April 17, 2011 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I watched the NBC Nightly News the night of the vote just to see how average Americans would hear the network news cover it.

After spending more time discussing what Obama said on that hot microphone, Savannah Guthrie reported the vote this way (directly quoting): "House Republicans passed Ryan's budget plan. It cuts 6 trillion from the deficit over the next decade, in part by raising the eligibility age of future Medicare recipients."

Not a word on turning Medicare into a privatized voucher program.

Posted by: Sam on April 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Any poll question with the word "force" in it will poll horribly. So while this poll clarifies the messaging opportunity, it doesn't really measure public opinion. Using non-loaded questions is a more honest way to make the argument that people want Medicare to continue.

Posted by: bruce k on April 17, 2011 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

"But it seems all Democrats have to do to win the debate is tell people the truth, and educate the American mainstream...."

Are you kidding? Is this some kind of horrible joke? The Democratic Party has already *lost* the debate! By continuing to maintain this misguided faith in "facts" and "truth," the party has completely surrendered the battlefield to the Republicans.

Americans don't want the "truth." They don't want "facts." They want a NARRATIVE. They want a story they can (a) understand, (b) repeat in easy-to-digest form, and (c) see repeated on the television.

That's not what Krugman provides. That's not what Washington Monthly provides. That's not what the CBO provides.

And it's not what repeating what Krugman or the CBO say provides.

It's only provided by reducing things to the absolute least-common denominator, by constructing slogans pithy enough to fit on bumper stickers, by transmitting them through chain e-mails and friendly websites, and by having them trumpeted by leading figures within the party coalition.

And setting aside the fact that we have no pithy slogans, we have no websites that are analogous to RedState or Breitbart or Malkin, who are our leading figures?

The president? No, he tries to stay above these things.

Reid? No, he's about as ineffectual as they come.

Pelosi? Dead in the water.

The Olberman-Maddow-Schultz viewers are a closed and comparatively small group. And, most importantly, the media doesn't pick up what they do, doesn't repeat their arguments, doesn't feature them on Sundays and weeknights over and over again.

It's over. We lost the information war. So enough with the Marquess of Queensberry, "we can beat them with facts" pre-school playdates. Go to the mattresses or don't. Fight them the way they fight us. Sink into the gutter.

Or let them have their way.

Posted by: Russell B on April 17, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

I fear Russell is right on Que. As much as fox news has lowered the IQ of the average electorate, their isn't much that can be done. It's a sad thing to behold...

Posted by: Michael on April 17, 2011 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

"...all Democrats have to do to win the debate is tell people the truth, and educate the American mainstream..."

That's the depressing part. The dems lack a lot these days, but one of the places they come up really short is on communicating.

Posted by: CDW on April 17, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

OH hush, I wrote quick :)

Posted by: Michael on April 17, 2011 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats don't have a chance. It's a foregone conclusion. I know, because I read it in the comments section of a liberal blog. Just like how I read that Obama would sell us down the river in his speech on Wednesday. Oh, wait...

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 17, 2011 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

The real problem is that the Dems can tell the electorate what the Ryan act does, and then the Rethugs can turn around and simply lie and say, "Oh no, it doesn't do that." The so-called new media will be ever so considerate to balance things that they won't challenge the lies, and the stupid electorate will buy the corporate paid-for misinformation that is designed to keep wealth in the hands of our oligarchs. That is pretty much how they handled the health care "debate."

Posted by: candideinnc on April 17, 2011 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, Democrats could tell the truth- but would they really mean it? Once Bill Clinton and the rest of the DLC decided that Democrats were going to become the other party of business, all of this populist stuff just became something for the "centrists" to triangulate against.

Certainly, Obama will try to blow some more smoke up peoples asses to get re-elected, and might even embrace some of this rhetoric, but what is important to him (and most of the bought and paid for shills in the Democratic party) is money. The way they get money is by selling themselves to the people that have it. And unfortunately for us, the people who have it generally aren't the ones that are upset with the coming age of austerity.

Posted by: spiny on April 17, 2011 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

The President must be laughing to himself. By kicking-off his campaign with a rallying cry to protect the safety net while judiciously cutting the long-term deficits, he also goaded the Republicans into doubling-down on their own ideology and voting, as a unified block, to empty granny’s purse then kick her out onto the street!

Give the country about 72 more hours to find out about it, and to let it sink in.

You will recall that the necessary game, since before the last election, has been to make the Republicans do just this. I have been writing it here since last June: Take the Republicans at their literal word! The strategy must be to force the Republicans to come up with the spending cuts to match their tax cuts, in the same Congressional bills. The stark nature of this outcome would force a wedge between the Tea Party and the Republican leadership, and also force a wedge between the Republican Party and the rest of the country. Force the country to see just what the Republicans want: tax cuts for the rich so they can gamble again on deregulated Wall Street, and balance the budget on the backs of granny and the teachers. The basic aim should be to make the electorate see this, and thus to put the Republicans out of business.

(That could be a good name for a music band: Granny and the Teachers. I Googled it; so far, there is no ontology.)

(Liberals keep saying to themselves, “What do you mean, take the Republicans at their word! Oh they don’t really mean it—they don’t really care about deficits! You can’t possibly respond to them in kind! That will NEVER work!” etc. etc. ad nauseam because liberals and progressives apparently like to shoot themselves in the foot. Who cares what the Republicans actually believe? To turn that around: believe me, they don’t care about what YOU believe! Could you try to be a little more fatuous and self-defeating? [—this note on whining stupid liberals, maybe discard it?]—[nah, leave it in. The incredibly stupid pathetic leftwing whingeying liberals and progressives who show up in comments here, and at Baker, DeLong, Drum, Ezra’s, Quiggin at Crooked, and Thoma (to meander in lexicographic order) are so gobsmicken and offended and lovelornlike because Obama has to act like a politician. —All truly great bloggers, I don’t mean to gainsay the titulars. My hat is off to everyone of you. In fact I sort of love you, if only in a man-cavey way. The problem is that most of your commenters are fantasists and can’t see what is directly in front of them, to, like, grab an affordance and actuate an intention. Though you might want to explain why all you bloggers had the attitude to keep insisting that the TeaParty is not important—as if that should make ANY goddam difference at all. I tried to tell you.])}

But I did think the plan would be difficult! Little did I suspect that the Republicans would walk right into the trap!

Looking back on it, perhaps they were first goaded by the momentary failure of their normal rhetoric on the Sunday morning talk shows back in September. You may remember when McConnell, Kyl, Boehner, et alia were struck speechless on camera by the interviewers’ refusals to agree that tax cuts “pay for themselves.” It totally interrupted their blabber for, like, one second! This happened on at least three different shows! What a sight! Do you suppose they were so stunned when clobbered upside-the-head, that they figured they had to invent a budget?

Note however that there is a true and terrible history leading up to this sordid state of affairs. Long story short, teh Republicans are in their death-throes. Okay it may take a million years like the dinosaurs, but this looks like an evolutionary cul-de-sac. They have two long-term problems: (1) Their ideology, Reaganomics, has intellectually imploded on the shores of reality, indeed upon a profusion of mixed metaphors, and they are unable to formulate coherent explanations for things, and so they rely upon the Luntz-approved emotions of fear, uncertainty, and resentment. (2) Then, they have to sell this gibberish to the far right, who are their only reliable voters.

Driving a wedge into this horrible mess is therefore a good idea, if you really want Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

An obvious major misstep was the decision by McConnell and Boehner to go into a mode of total obstruction for political gain, just after Obama’s election. I suppose it seemed only fair, since the Democrats had previously decided to block Bush’s Social Security privatization efforts—though I like to refer to that as the Democrats “coming to their senses.” So it might have been tit-for-tat, but the Republican strategy of obstructionism was politically shortsighted. Instead, they should have taken credit for the 1/2 of the ideas in the ACA healthcare reform which are in fact Republican, and it would have taken the wind out of the sails of the liberals. As I wrote, at that time. Instead they chose a rhetorical path to certain self-destruction, however long it might take for reality to catch up with them. So next they decided to lie about the likely effects, both budgetary and medicinal, of the healthcare reform.

Well, it was enough to win the November election! After all, Americans are oftentimes dunces! But within a few months, Gov. Walker of Wisconsin, elected with Koch money and visibly receiving phony Koch calls, decided to balance the budget on the backs of the teachers and the cops they are married to, thereby setting a new world’s record in public-opinion turnaround! That was a good hoot! I was walking around, going Hoot! Hoot!

But who could have hoped for what came next? Ryan’s budget proposal is an astonishing political gift to the Democrats. Let’s everybody move to Skid Row! It must must have been irresistible to the President to appear on last Wednesday and go, like, “Nyah-Nyah, Nyah-Nyah-Nyah, we are SO not doing this!” (Let’s see if it will make them do it!) But actually it goes further: Obama’s speech is among other things evidence that he may see that a stable, dominant center-left coalition is almost within reach. To kick it off with his re-election campaign is almost too much fun.

The way forward? Let it be known to all people that we don’t have to destroy Medicare or the safey-net to fix the deficits. That is all bull. Shoot it down with facts and figures whenever it arises. And be sure to explain it to the Independents, who are unaware. The CBO’s most recent Long-Term Budget Outlook showed that the Democrats have ALREADY reduced the long-term deficits by 2/3rds, IF Congress sticks to the current plans and lets the Bush Tax Cuts expire. And those savings may be more, nobody knows. Or are we going to reassure the “bond market” by throwing the U.S. into a social cataclysm? How does that work, exactly? In every case, piecemeal reduction of the long-term deficits is the best way into the future. And meanwhile, what will be Ryan’s CBO score? And why would future Congresses stick to it, when the Republicans won’t stick to Obamacare? As soon as you try to follow the logic, the Republican plan not only destroys the future, it destroys thinking itself. According to all the polls, we have 70% of the people in favor of keeping Social Security and Medicare, taxing the rich, a public option available in healthcare, saving the environment, etc. etc. etc. Use this, now. The mainstream media may be pillars of sophistry and lazy blabber, but if they see a scientific proof, like the Sunday talkshow hosts refusing any longer to accept that tax cuts pay for themselves, then they will in fact come forward and say so, without fear of losing invites to cocktail parties. Use this, now. Once you get all the ducks lined up, then it is high time to push it all in front of the Republican Party, and make them fall over it. Also, always remember to ask the Republicans if they support universal health coverage. They don’t like to answer that question, ever. And wear your galoshes, it is going to get deep.

Destroy the Republican Party! The world will be grateful.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on April 17, 2011 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Do the study - If the Americans usually get it right when they know what's going on; are the Republicans better at keeping the lid on policy information than the Democrats are in broadcasting policy substance?

Are Americans more prone to Republican lies than they are to democratic truths? Notice, I'm not speaking of the actual party on this last question. -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 17, 2011 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans lie.

They are aided and abetted by all mainstream media. The headlines in the NYT and the local paper noted only that the plan would 'alter' Medicare.

MSNBC during the next day didn't have a word about it. Huff Post, which I boycott except to check on this, had headlines about severe storms, and virtually nothing on the budget the House passed.

The news media's motto appears to be : "DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL"

So what is to be done? Ads I guess, but they are pretty expensive.

Will anyone in the media have the courage to discuss this? Hiring more and better pollsters to make a few headlines?

Posted by: jjm on April 17, 2011 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

"it seems all Democrats have to do to win the debate is tell people the truth, and educate the American mainstream"

No. It's a much more daunting challenge than that.

Those who are skeptical that Americans can be educated -- that is, will even bother to listen to "the debate" -- have a point. For all but a sliver of the population getting to work on time tomorrow, worrying over the kids' homework, scheduling that interview with the juvenile probation officer, planning which box of "-- helper" to serve for dinner tonight, or figuring out when they can squeeze in the obligatory trip to the nursing home to see if Grandma is dead yet -- all such things have higher priority. Politics is way, way down the list... Economics and budgeting is off the chart entirely. Deep down they feel they have to be content with their preconceptions -- i.e., "the government wastes too much money" or "the government is doing a good job with the money." On any specific issue they probably don't even know enough to be sure who "the government" is. Federal? State? Local? Probably a majority hasn't a clue.

When it comes to substantive issues the media is not much better, frankly. Newspaper readership is down near the level of union membership in this country. TV evening news viewing and even drive radio isn't doing much better.

With the obvious exception of Fox, the "media" isn't engaged in a conspiracy against factual truth. Most of them simply don't know what it is. The overwhelmingly vast, vast majority of news reporters, editors, TV news producers, and anchor hair-dos are either intellectually lazy, stupid, or have good intentions which often collide with family demands and busy personal lives. These last don't have the time it takes to stay well-informed. They have to "report" too many stories in too short a time.

So all but a handful for various reasons now have to be spoon-fed. The PR people who work with the Democratic Party, Democratic candidates, and advocacy organizations -- like ActBlue, Moveon.org, their local equivalents, etc. -- need to invent a new way either to "educate" the denizens of the media; or, alternatively, they have to find an effective way for directly reaching the American public as if (soon it will be the case) there aren't enough newspaper readers left to worry over.

I don't know what such a new way looks like. But I very much doubt the traditional tools -- pamphlets, press releases, press conferences, cozy sit-down editorial board interviews, etc. -- work any more except to reinforce whatever preconceptions reporters and commentators who attend them may have (when they aren't entirely ignored).

Not to be flippant, but maybe pop-up ads like the one from The Donald on this blog is pointing the way. Maybe digital technology has taken the "mass" out of mass media. The people broadly suffer from anomie. Those who would urge them to share their own values and learn the facts need to figure out how to teach them.

Don't count on the media. Reform the way you educate. Don't work with the media. Work outside of it. It's useless to fight against the priorities of busy people. Find a way to use it.

Posted by: John B. on April 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

"The Republican deficit reduction plan does not even win majority support, but when voters learn almost anything about it, they turn sharply and intensely against it."

This could turn into a mission impossible assignment for Fox News.

Posted by: max on April 17, 2011 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Clearly there is political upside for Dems in attacking Ryan budget, however, they also have a lot of work to do to inform voters about it."

Uh-oh. Here we go again. The Republicans will begin their 24/7 Lie-apalooza, and the Dems will respond with quiet indignation and a couple of pie charts.

Posted by: ameshall on April 17, 2011 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

I am sure AARP will be very vocal and outspoken in explaining the Ryan plan to all their "senior" members and with the Rethugs recently targeting the AARP for their anti-Rethug positions, trust me the message will get out, with or without the help of MSM.

Posted by: just guessing on April 17, 2011 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Fix the deficit. Let the Bush Tax Cuts Expire.

There. You have your bumpersticker.

Go forth, and testify. Amen!!

Posted by: jcricket on April 17, 2011 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

@John B.: I'm pretty sure that some of my extended family spends more time on Facebook than engaging the news media. I think that I will "friend" Obama and the DNC.

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 17, 2011 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm nearly 50 years-old, and this is the first time in my life that I was ever felt actually hateful towards the other side of the aisle. This Republican Party -- these are the worst people in the world.

Instead of Oppo Research, we need more Factoid Research. Do what the Republicans do -- find some little thing and turn it into the Poster Child du Jour for the this or that agenda.

Here's an example:

A Congressional Service Report in 2005 projected Fiscal Year 2006 costs for military retirees at $41 billion. I was in the military for 18 years (resigned rather than retire).

That means I was a public service employee.

Which means military retirees are public service pensioners.

So someone needs to call out the Walkers, et al., -- who's a public service employee? Will you state today that you, Mr/Ms. Republican, will eliminate the $41 billion that taxpayers transfer to these coddled public service employees who happened to be in the armed forces?

"Oh, but they're different, they volunteered."

No, they didn't. I got PAID for being a Soldier. You don't get paid for volunteering.

The media is not going to do this. They've been bitch-slapped so often with phony "liberal bias" propaganda that they're like whipped dogs -- they slink around with their tails between their legs and call it "objective."

Which is why they'll report, "objectively," that "some" people are very concerned with:

"Spread the wealth around." "Where's the birth certificate?" "Death panels." And the like.

And they ARE -- that's the kicker.

Politics proceeds via synecdoche. It's high time we got with it.

Posted by: RussellB on April 17, 2011 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

It is true that the MSM is in the pocket of the GOP, so creativity and innovation are required in order for the Dems to go over their heads and communicate to the voters.

Ha. Hold your breath.

Anyway, the Democrats only real advantage over the Republicans, as far as I can see, is that they're not as batshit crazy and vitriolic as their GOP brethren. They ARE every bit as bought and paid for, though. No matter who controls the Congress, the banksters et al will continue to destroy the economy and then skate away from the damage with their loot intact.

Posted by: Krusher on April 17, 2011 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's nice to note that the Republican plan is unpopular. Rightly so, in my opinion. To push that is good politics.

But the problem is that any responsible budget plan is going to be unpopular. People don't want to raise their own taxes; they want to raise everyone else's taxes. Unless Democrats can convince more people that their own taxes will have to go up to preserve the society they say they want, any Democratic proposal won't poll very well either.

It's easy to be irresponsible and popular. It's a lot harder to be responsible and still popular enough to win elections. I don't know if either party can accomplish the latter these days.

Democrats may be able to win back majorities by touting the destructive Republican plan, if enough people are paying attention. Whether they can come up with a responsible yet popular alternative, I have my doubts.

Posted by: dsimon on April 17, 2011 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

dsimon, I don't really know IF taxes will need to go up for everyone. Letting GWB's tax cuts expire, if only for the rich, cuts the deficit by 50%. An improving economy would add to that, but I don't know by how much. There are all sorts of actions the Federal government can take that would decrease also the deficit; ie, negotiate prescription drug costs, higher fees for oil and gas leases, further reductions in Defense expenditure, etc.
As for a "responsible yet popular alternative", I rather like "Do Nothing" since it's both easy and true. And let's face it, it's a nice counter-point to the Republican/Teabaggers' "Know Nothing"...

Posted by: Doug on April 17, 2011 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Doug: "dsimon, I don't really know IF taxes will need to go up for everyone. Letting GWB's tax cuts expire, if only for the rich, cuts the deficit by 50%."

It's a start, but it's not enough. According to David Leonhardt in the NY Times last week (and former Obama budget director Peter Orszag say something similar), allowing all of the Bush tax cuts to expire--including the middle class ones--takes care of 75% of the budget problem in the next 5 years. But it covers only 40% of the deficit over 20 years, due in large part to increasing health care expenditures. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/business/economy/13leonhardt.html Now, 40% is a good chunk, but more will need to be done on the revenue side, expenditure side, or both.

Further reductions in defense? Yes--but will they be wildly popular, given the "soft on defense" accusation and the interests involved? It will take courage. Higher fees for oil and gas? Those charges may be passed along to consumers, who seem unwilling to tolerate even a modest increase in the gas tax (which even principled conservatives would have a host of good policy outcomes if enacted).

I'm not saying such things are impossible. But I think they will be difficult. It's very risky for politicians to ask their constituents if they're ready to be responsible for the government they say they want, to back up their representatives when they make the "hard choices" that constituents may be reluctant to make themselves. But I don't see how we get lasting change without it. The free lunch may win elections, but it's not sustainable.

Posted by: dsimon on April 18, 2011 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats have a golden opportunity, but as one commenter wrote so many people are far to busy to give a shit..
When i turn on the local news I get a lot of garbage not even related to news like the little kid who's little kitty got stuck in a tree so the Easter bunny rescued it or some dumbass unemployed kids spend the night camped out in front of McChicken Windings to get free chicken wings for a year! OH GOLLY! Now THAT'S news we ALL NEED TO KNOW!
HOLY CRAP! How did I miss THAT? Free chicken wings for a year?
And let us not forget the never ending tragedy of charliesdick and which porn star he's banging while in a drunken stupor now.. Man.. How anyone can live without that news I'll never know!
To bad none of it is news.. It's a whole lot of normally unemployable alleged reporters to lazy to actually gather news much less report it and TV stations who don't give a rats ass anyway as long as they get their market share..
So what are we left with? Faux news pretending Ryan is the next savior of planet money bags and Obama the devil within who wants to make it legal to sacrifice babies to devil worshipers and thinking of devil worshipers and sacrificing babies Newt Gingrich is now aligned with some nut case preacher who is claiming cops are in league with us satan worshiping baby killers so whatever you do when you drive to work tomorrow morning make sure you have the baby burner 5000 firmly strapped to the front seat because you sure don't want to get pulled over by cops for NOT sacrificing a newborn to SATAN!

Posted by: marty59 on April 18, 2011 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Where is the Democratic Frank Luntz?

Posted by: bob h on April 18, 2011 at 6:26 AM | PERMALINK

As for a "responsible yet popular alternative", I rather like "Do Nothing" since it's both easy and true. And let's face it, it's a nice counter-point to the Republican/Teabaggers' "Know Nothing" http://www.thechanelonline.com index.php?main_page=index&cPath=70

Posted by: nono on April 18, 2011 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK

GOP 2011: Seniors...you can't live forever !

GOP 2011: Vote for us and meet Jesus sooner!

Posted by: mr. irony on April 18, 2011 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Death Vouchers!!!

Posted by: Rich Beckman on April 18, 2011 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

Posted by: daigoume on April 22, 2011 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK
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