Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 19, 2011

TEA PARTIERS: LEAVE MEDICARE ALONE.... About a month ago, Politico ran a much-discussed piece, insisting that the Republican Party and its base have become "fanatically anti-spending." Tea Partiers, the article added, are obsessed with "cut, cut, cut," and "taking a cleaver to government spending."

I've pushed back against this, but a new Marist poll out today makes this much easier. The poll asked respondents:

"Do you support or oppose doing each of the following to deal with the federal budget deficit: cut Medicare and Medicaid?"

Among all registered voters, 80% opposed these cuts. Among self-identified Tea Party supporters, 70% opposed these cuts. Among self-identified Republicans, 73% opposed these cuts.

We're talking about taxpayer-financed, socialized medicine, which Tea Partiers should oppose reflexively if they're desperate to "cut, cut, cut."

Except, they're not.

When pressed on the radical nature of their agenda, congressional Republicans consistently claim the "American people" are on their side, even suggesting they have a popular mandate to pursue drastic policy measures that voters didn't know about last year. But the data is hard to ignore -- not only does the American mainstream oppose GOP cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, but even the Republicans' own base isn't on board.

I often think of this piece from Matt Taibbi, who attended a Tea Party rally last summer.

After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives. I come upon an elderly couple, Janice and David Wheelock, who are fairly itching to share their views.

"I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."

"OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"

"Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."

I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"

Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

"Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"

"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."

"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"

"Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much."

The point is that congressional Republicans are desperate to make devastating cuts, and think they're on safe political ground. GOP officials might be surprised to learn just how many Americans rely on government spending, and want to keep the benefits that apply to them.

Steve Benen 3:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Comments

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

The GOP, they be screwed.

LOL

Posted by: sue on April 19, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

For Tea Partiers, "people on welfare who don't deserve it" = brown people. It all boils down to that, really.

Posted by: J+1 on April 19, 2011 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Tea party = identity politics for the very stupid.

Posted by: davidp on April 19, 2011 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, I don't dispute Taibbi's point, but I've seen this quote cited before and I have to point out that most property appraisers are not tax assessors. The quote does not make clear whether the the gentleman in question identifies himself as a tax assessor or if Taibbi merely assumes that he is a tax assessor. That seems problematic to me.

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 19, 2011 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

David has spent time thinking thing through, and has concluded it is somebody else, not me! What will he and Janice do when Congressman Ryan finishes with his and Janice's entitlements?

Posted by: Ted76 on April 19, 2011 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

"David has spent time thinking thing through, and has concluded it is somebody else, not me! What will he and Janice do when Congressman Ryan finishes with his and Janice's entitlements?"

Complain about the gubmint.
Because he's an idiot.

Posted by: Cazart on April 19, 2011 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Edited for clarity:

"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"

"Yeah," he says, "but I'M NOT BLACK!."

Posted by: DAY on April 19, 2011 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I would rather have the Postal Service run my health insurance than have EXXON, AT&T, or GE run it, wouldn't you? But that's what Republicans want with their new budget proposals to privatize Medicaid and Medicare.

It's all very fine if you are a member of the upper class who can afford health costs out of pocket, but for the rest of us who deal with health insurance companies we know they do not have the public interest in mind, only the short term profit of their shareholders.

Work against the public interest? Corporations? You say.

Well, my young Randian apprentice let's look at the record, which shows many companies cut corners which proved disastrous to the public interest.  Union Carbide in India, BP in the Gulf of Mexico, EXXON In Alaska. There is no reason to think that health companies do any different given they continually raised premiums IN A RECESSION.

Remember, we had pass laws to reign in corporations' greed 100 years ago. 

So to the idealogue Republicans, I say not only NO, but HELL NO!

 America and the world was never more prosperous than during those times when people paid their fair share, this means we must tax the rich and use the money to build infrastructure paying good wages for good work to good people while protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

My cartoon showing Mega Corporations, the uber rich, and the ultra hard right wing dancing on the middle class, poor and elderly expresses my feelings ( Celebrating Paul Ryan's Budget Gutting Medicaid and Medicare )  on the subject. Phaëthon makes an appearance with a story about scorpions and mice in which he explains that while squashing those who support your culture may be counter intuitive, like the scorpion stinging the mouse as they cross a stream causing both to drown, it is useless to blame the sxorpion as it is his nature to sting anything in his vicinity. In general I rather like it although the kooky consecrative caucus may not.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 19, 2011 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

The relating of this episode just re-inforces my perception of the Tea Party as something designed to appeal to everyone who wants to indulge in the uglier sides of human nature - racism, avarice, willful ignorance, hypocrisy, misanthropy -- you name it, the Tea Party will make you feel like a hero for the kind of nastiness that used to get one shunned.

Posted by: June on April 19, 2011 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

One point I have not seen mentioned concerns Social Security and the national debt. Social Security has a few trillion in bonds that add to the debt. Paying off those bonds will decrease the debt. Borrowing money (from let's say China) to pay off the bonds is debt neutral and may lower interest payments. The fiscally responsible position is to buy back the bonds, fund Social Security, and lower the debt.

Social Security will not increase the national debt until the bonds are all cashed, which is years away.

Posted by: Mudge on April 19, 2011 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Wait, you mean your mother will have to move in with us if they cut her Medicare?"
"Yep."
"KEEP YOUR GUBMINT HANDS OFFA MY MEDICARE!"

Posted by: Facebones on April 19, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I have to point out that most property appraisers are not tax assessors.

But most property tax assessing entities employ appraisers to value property for tax purposes. If the guy was not working for a governmental agency, he would have said so, wouldn't he?

Posted by: sue on April 19, 2011 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

New rule for polls. Have to ask a qualifying question, "Do you own a medicare scooter?"

Posted by: ComradeAnon on April 19, 2011 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

They will pry my Medicare-paid scooter from my cold, dead fingers...

Posted by: danimal on April 19, 2011 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

When we've lived in a racially divided nation our whole lives, after inheriting it from our parents, who in turn, inherited it from their parents, and so on and so forth, we can't expect the lens of bigotry and prejudice to be no more!

Image making is what economic vested interests are skilled in. Just take a look at any commerce catalogue like A&F or Victoria Secrets - the prettier or more positive the image, the more likelihood the potential consumer will be ripe for image transfer, and buy a product being offered within the pages of the particular catalogue!

This image making can work in the inverse!

Take our society where in real terms wealth is distributed every day and usually for acceptable reasons.

But take the wealth and give it to someone who is too different from the middle color of our red, white and blue identity, and you have the makings of ignorant folly benefiting no one save the wealthy who know, as we commoners fight for the redistribution to flow our way, such redistribution can flow easily upward through that clarion siren know as tax cut when such a proposal initially sounds like a win-win for all, but upon further study, only benefits those who already don't need the help!

How do these interests do it? By creating the imagery of suspicion against "those people!"

In reality, "those people" (whomever they may be) are American citizens too, and deserve redistribution their way especially since most of the time that redistribution makes the difference between eating or not eating, having or not having a roof over one's head, and whether or not one may rise the next day not to have to face a reality any harsher than the one from the day before! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 19, 2011 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

But most property tax assessing entities employ appraisers to value property for tax purposes. If the guy was not working for a governmental agency, he would have said so, wouldn't he?

One might think so, but the quote would be a lot more effective if David Wheelock had identified himself as an assessor. Perhaps he did and Taibbi or his editor left that out. We don't know and must take Taibbi's word for it that this is an accurate description of his profession. It just strikes me as weak when someone like myself, that is sympathetic to Taibbi's view is left wondering if he got it right or is not acting in good faith.

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 19, 2011 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Fantasies always require an 'opponent' who is stopping YOU from getting what YOU deserve. The 'too many who are living off the government' is just such a fantasy figure.

They are enjoying at YOUR expense.

Of course, they are simply a displaced representation of yourself.

What a nation of utter loonies.

But hey, the Republican politicians can use the loonies to excuse every manner of evil in 'their name'.

Posted by: jjm on April 19, 2011 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

How many of these polls is it going to take before the Dems grow some cajones and aggressively counter the deficit propaganda?

It's going to be tough as most party leaders have been parroting the meme for months now.

Posted by: bdop4 on April 19, 2011 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

The Tibi piece is insightful. There is also scholarly research on this matter with more extensive evidence. Polls have shown Tea Partiers in strong support of BOTH Social Security and Medicare for months, and my co-author and I, finishing a book called THE TEA PARTY AND THE REMAKING OF REPUBLICAN CONSERVATISM have detailed evidence on the mismatches bewteen Tea Party grass roots and self-appointed
Tea Party elites on key issues. We also have an already published article of the same name in the March 2011 issue of PERSPECTIVES ON POLITCS. We explain how Tea Partiers think based on interviews and we analyze how the whole thing works organizationally. Check out real scholarship here! Written in vivid English.

Posted by: Theda Skocpol on April 19, 2011 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Smart minds link alike. Matthew Yglesias also linked to that poll. He noted the very strong support for raising taxes on families with income over $250,000/yr. A very significant minority of self declared Republicans (43%) tea party supporters (45%) and conservatives (45%) supported higher taxes on the rich.

It looks like all but 6 Republican representatives have voted for a proposal which is firmly rejected by their base.

Can the Democrats find a way to blow this one ?

I've never doubted them before, but I just don't see how it can be done.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on April 19, 2011 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

GOP officials might be surprised to learn just how many Americans rely on government spending, and want to keep the benefits that apply to them. --Steve Benen

*Only*, if they are told -- in no uncertain terms and many, many times -- that, sooner rather than later, those cuts are coming for them, too. Otherwise, they'll cheer Ryan's every cut. They'll all use David Wheelock's much quoted (at least on "the lefty blogs"):
"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."
Wheelock doesn't, *for a moment*, think that he could be either of those two things -- undeserving, or one too many feeding off the gubmint tit. So, none of the cuts would ever apply to him.

And you have to give some credit to Ryan for how he's crafted his evil plan: few (if any) of those cuts *would* apply to Wheeler or his wife, both of whom are safely latched onto the govt tit already. It's the younger ones -- who still think they're all powerful and will be eternally young and independent -- who are likely to really get it in the neck. But how many of *them* are likely to be worried about problems which will surface 10-15-20yrs down the road? The only thing that's likely to scare them off right now is having to change *Grandma's* bedpan themselves, not the idea that they would ever need the same service.

Posted by: exlibra on April 19, 2011 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

A property appraiser is not necessarily or even very likley to be a tax assessor.

Posted by: Rob on April 19, 2011 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's likely to be the same pattern as always. One side asks for 100, the other side says that's just unacceptable, we'll settle for no more than 92. So they compromise on 94 and the Republicans act like they achieved something transformative.

Posted by: FGS on April 20, 2011 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK
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