Political Animal


July 13, 2011 4:25 PM American mainstream rejects GOP debt line

By Steve Benen

Congressional Republicans sincerely believed that if they simply cried “no tax increases,” over and over again, the public would rally behind them and Democrats would back down in the debt-ceiling fight.

A new Gallup poll reinforces what has been true for a long while: the GOP made the wrong assumption. (thanks to B.A.)

Americans’ preferences for deficit reduction clearly favor spending cuts to tax increases, but most Americans favor a mix of the two approaches.

It’s not even close. Only a fifth (20%) support the Republican position of crafting a debt-reduction agreement based solely on spending cuts, while 30% want to see a deal made up “mostly” of spending cuts, but including some new revenue.

The most popular option? A plurality of 32% support a 50-50 split, with equal amounts of spending cuts and tax increases. This is what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recommended two weeks ago, and it was largely ignored. It’s wild-eyed radicalism supported only by extreme socialists — which just happens to the most popular approach to debt reduction with the American mainstream.

Also note, the approach demanded by congressional Republicans isn’t even especially popular with their own voters. Only 26% of self-identified Republicans support a spending-cuts-only approach.

GOP officials on Capitol Hill simply take it as a given that the country supports their hard line. Indeed, Republicans are so convinced of this, they’re ready to crash the economy on purpose, assuming the electorate stands behind them.

The American mainstream just doesn’t look at tax increases, especially on the wealthy, as some scandalous move. Republicans have gambled and lost.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • mcc on July 13, 2011 4:36 PM:

    Maybe since the GOP has had such luck adopting solutions that exactly 30% of the country supports, they're thinking they'll have even better luck if they adopt solutions that exactly 20% of the country supports

  • zandru on July 13, 2011 4:40 PM:

    "Republicans have gambled and lost."

    It may be out of line for me to write this, but this week has been the first time in awhile that I've seen what looks suspiciously like optimism among the lib-progressive commenters.

    No doubt about it. The tide is finally turning.

  • DAY on July 13, 2011 4:42 PM:

    I signed Bernie Sanders' letter to obama.
    Did you?

  • walt on July 13, 2011 4:53 PM:

    It's a wonder that the public is even more liberal than Obama, mainstream pundits, conventional wisdom, and NPR. Where did they get this wisdom? I suspect it's just a sense of fairness that somehow survived all the GOP's pro-plutocracy framing of economic issues. Okay, Dems. You got your polls numbers. No need to quake before Gwen Ifill, John Dickerson, and Joe Klein. You got a majority behind you. Feel the power!

  • T2 on July 13, 2011 4:54 PM:

    For a few years now, 20-23% of our fellow "citizens" have been running over everyone else. Bush die-hards/TeaParty/Neo-Cons/Evangelical Crazies make the most noise, get the FOX attention while everyone else stood around with mouths agape. Then the "mouths agape" crowd decided the best idea was not to vote, and that 20% suddenly had Congressmen representing them and we've been screwed.
    It may be that the other 75/80% have decided to "Just Say No". Maybe the vast majority of us has decided to "Take our Country Back".

  • Anonymous on July 13, 2011 4:58 PM:

    Maybe the vast majority of us has decided to "Take our Country Back".
    I hope so, but polls are not votes.

    Republicans have gambled and lost.
    Dunno. Would you say kamikaze pilots gambled and lost? That's the nearest analogy I can think of.
    F*cking Captcha has a f*cking umlaut. How the f*ck am I supposed to deal with that?

  • DK on July 13, 2011 4:59 PM:

    Hah! This post seems to assume that republicans actually care what most Americans want. What nonsense.

  • cmdicely on July 13, 2011 5:06 PM:

    [expletive deleted] Captcha has a [expletive deleted]umlaut. How the [expletive deleted]am I supposed to deal with that?

    On Windows, Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> Character Map.

  • kindness on July 13, 2011 5:10 PM:

    It has gone beyond Republicans can't read their own polls. A more fitting explaination is Republicans can't read. If it isn't spewed on Fox, they don't know about it.

  • DAY on July 13, 2011 5:11 PM:

    calm down, "Anonymous", we need your sarcastic bombast in these trying times!

    I find that ignoring all the goofy punctuation, characters, etc, and putting a similar letter in its place usually works. Or just ask for a new pair of words.

    (incidentally, on other internet sites, the captcha is usually just one short word, and uses the standard 26 letters we all have come to know and love)

    -Back to our regular programming. . .

  • ME on July 13, 2011 5:12 PM:

    Do I want higher taxes? No. Do I know we need the taxes changed in this country? Yes. If I were told to pay higher taxes, would I? Of course. Why? Because I like roads to drive my car on, and bridges to cross rivers, and police to keep my neighborhood safe, and firefighters to protect my home, and hospitals to take care of me, and schools to educate my kids.

    What I find more interesting are the Repugs continued refusal to tax the rich - especially when billionaires like Bill Gates say they SHOULD have higher taxes, and what does he care, it's not like he'd notice?

    But who I think they really mean is - they don't want to tax their "new millionaire" constituents: these are the guys who *only* make $1 million a year or thereabouts - they don't want to let go of that cash. And they pay the lobbyists, and they fund the GOP. And the GOP is pandering to THEM.

    So what if they only make up 3% of the population? That means there's 97% of us who can carry these guys in the next year while they take their tax write-offs for those "business" trips to Fiji...

  • Anonymous on July 13, 2011 5:13 PM:

    DAY on July 13, 2011 4:42 PM:

    I signed Bernie Sanders' letter to obama.
    Did you?

    Sure did. You, me and close to 136 thousand people :)

    "arevou convex". No, I'm concave. Why do you ask?

  • FRP on July 13, 2011 5:14 PM:

    depending on which Web Browser you are using in a Mac very easy as well .
    Main Header > Firefox > File > Edit > etc.
    Under Edit last choice in the pop down menu Characters .
    Now about those characters that cannot be reproduced with out a calligraphers brush , and two years in Draftsman classes ?

  • blondie on July 13, 2011 5:22 PM:

    DAY, I too signed it as soon as it was posted. Wouldn't miss it!

    'twould be nice if I thought the Prez would pay attention to it.

  • Bless on July 13, 2011 5:25 PM:

    As the argument "can't cut taxes during recession" is completely inferior to "can't cut spending during recession", cutting at all is compromise, and seeing the pres has compromised to the greatest extent possible with a 50/50 mix, seens time to reframe the conversation from
    ... "proportion of tax increases to spending cuts" ...
    ... "proportion of tax increases for millionaires to billionaires" ...

    Perhaps mill's rates become 1.10*current rate and billionaire's 1.20*current?

  • st john on July 13, 2011 5:29 PM:

    What if Bill Gates, George Soros and Warren Buffett and the other "progressive" billionaires who support higher taxes sent their political contributions directly to Obama's campaign and the DNC? Put some their money where their mouths are and declare this publicly. I think that would get the R's attention. I'd love to see a campaign finance war between the Kochs and the Progressive billionaires. What fun! Do you think Murdoch's News Corp would cover such a war...with fairness and balance?

  • Jjm on July 13, 2011 5:39 PM:

    There has to be something to be said regarding the low intelligence of the GOP congressmen to begin with, multiplied in its effect by willed ignorance, hostility to science and to reason, and 'theories' that blind them to reality.

  • ME on July 13, 2011 5:45 PM:

    St. John - I like the way you think!!

  • pluege on July 13, 2011 6:00 PM:

    GOP officials on Capitol Hill simply take it as a given that the country supports their hard line.

    This completely misunderstands republicans (pretty typical for Benen). As super-daddy authoritarians, republicans don't give a sh*t what Americans think because they KNOW that they (and they alone) know what is best for Americans, more so than Americans do.

  • Ron Byers on July 13, 2011 6:09 PM:

    The Republicans picked a fight they couldn't win. If we don't raise the debt ceiling they lose. After throwing their big fit, if we do raise the debt ceiling, they also lose. Essentially they placed a heads you win, tails I lose bet. That isn't gambling. That is just stupid. I have no respect for the leadership of the modern Republican party. They are, to a person, fools.

  • LL on July 13, 2011 6:16 PM:

    pluege has the right of it, I think. Applies more generally to most politicians of any party. And most rulers too. They always think they know best. Sometimes they even do. Mostly they don't, though, because whatever they may say, the Iron Law of Institutions applies to them as much as anyone, if not more so.

    to wit: any single member of an institution (or any "organization") will inevitably act for their own benefit even if such action damages the institution. If given a choice between acting for the good of the institution, or acting for their own personal or professional benefit, a human being will always choose the latter, if the two options are in conflict.

  • dj spellchecka on July 13, 2011 6:30 PM:

    david stockman was on npr the other evening

    While the income tax rate on America's highest earners is 35 percent, many of those earners actually pay quite a bit less. That's because much of their income does not come from traditional wages, but from stocks and bonds money known as capital gains, which is taxed at 15 percent.

    "It's an obsolete provision that originated in the 1970s when we had double-digit inflation," David Stockman tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. Stockman, the budget director under Ronald Reagan, supported the capital-gains measure at the time as a congressman from Michigan. "With double-digit inflation," he says, "you were taxing phantom gains."

    The U.S. hasn't suffered from that kind of inflation in 30 years. Since then, the low capital gains tax has become a huge windfall for the rich.

    "Worse, it is an incentive to get all of the high-paid tax lawyers and accountants in the world to figure out ways to transform earned income into capital gains," Stockman says.

    If capital gains were taxed at the same rate as regular income, he says, the government could bring in tens of billions of dollars more each year. But more importantly, he says, ending the perverse incentives could lead to even more revenue down the road when income of all types is taxed uniformly.


  • bruce k on July 13, 2011 6:34 PM:

    The problem, of course, is that our political representatives do not respond to national public opinion, they respond to their state or district. As long as the small states have the same number of senators as the large ones, the will of the majority of the public can easily be thwarted. Add the filibuster, of course, and 40 senators representing easily less than one-third of the population distort the public's will.

  • bdop4 on July 13, 2011 7:00 PM:

    Gallup: "Gallup finds about 6 in 10 Americans paying close attention to the debate about raising the debt limit. When the same poll asked for their general position on raising the limit, without providing reasons for doing so or not doing so, Americans were more likely to oppose an increase than favor one. The 42% who are opposed to doing so generally find fault with the government's spending patterns when asked in an open-ended format to explain their views."

    Yes, we are a nation of idiots. Obviously, they have been paying attention to the wrong sources (Faux News).

  • nemisten on July 13, 2011 7:49 PM:

    pluege is correct.

    Moreover (and you heard it here first), the GOP will continue their BS unabated, regardless of silly facts, polls, whatever contradicts their marching orders. Here's a sample of what's to come from Boner, Canter, OConnell, et al:

    "The American people have spoken, and they firmly reject tax increases proposed by the President." or "...they overwhelmingly reject Obamacare" or "...they agree with us (Republicans) that tax and spend policies of Democrats are destroying our economy..."

    All to be reported without challenge by the librul (you know, fair and balanced!) media.

  • skeptonomist on July 13, 2011 9:17 PM:

    This bet will not be settled until the 2012 election. Republicans are not gambling that they can convince people that tax increases on rich people are bad, they are gambling that the campaign money they get from the rich people, applied to attack ads, will overcome voters' real preferences.

  • skeptonomist on July 13, 2011 9:19 PM:

    Also, if there are no significant tax increases on rich people Republicans win right away (they won on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, remember?).

  • Pencarrow on July 14, 2011 12:51 AM:

    Looking at the details behind this Gallup poll, two notes...

    The poll group of 1,016 has 482 Republican and Republican-leaning persons, which comes to 47% Repub+, leaving 53% Demo+. That does skew the results somewhat.

    Also, the trend from a similar poll taken in April shows that there is a several point increase in those who prefer spending cuts over taxes.

    Just commenting on how poll results may not be a reliable reflection of voter's views.

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  • bob h on July 14, 2011 6:38 AM:

    Before this crisis ginned up by the Republicans, 90% of Americans didn't even know there was such a thing as a debt ceiling. There is no political price whatsoever to be paid in raising it among normal Americans.

  • steve duncan on July 14, 2011 6:50 AM:

    Republicans will weather this. The public may poll well for Dems, allegedly showing willingness to endure various tax hikes and entitlement cuts for the common good. However, if Republicans stand fast and the shit hits the fan their trump card is THE SCARY BLACK GUY F&*KED ALL OF YOU!!! In a nation rife with slobbering hillbilly skinheads Cantor will fare well. A cadre of old white guys and their sycophant girl compatriots still rule this nation, and it's not lost on any of them the n&#*ers and sp*cs can still suck a big one when it comes down to who is still boss. Just sayin'...............

  • j on July 14, 2011 7:14 AM:

    Who elected Eric Cantor to negotiate the deal?