No, I’m not referring to France. I’m talking about The United States. Yup, I’m just as shocked as you are, but it turns out that we’re all just a bunch of granola eating, dirty hippie liberals.
We just needed Scott Walker to help us see ourselves for what we really are. LIBERAL (peh!). Many, many polls have been taken in the past couple of weeks to assess how America feels about commandant Walker’s actions in Wisconsin. Turns out that Americans aren’t for taking away collective bargaining rights from people, to the tune of 2 to 1. Two thirds of us have a sense of decency, not to mention forethought.
Oh, but we’ve only touched the tip of the Birkenstock with that little factoid. NBC News and the Wall Street Journal commissioned a poll to figure out how Americans would balance the budget if it were up to them. Let’s start with what the pollsters presented to the sample group. They used the actual budget of the United States, more or less (you can download the actual report here if you want more detail). They broke the budget down to discretionary and non-discretionary line items and gave the respondents options for generating revenue, as well as the option to cut spending. Here’s what the respondents did:
76% of respondents cut spending by an average of $145.7 billion. They cut;
$109B out of defense
$13.1B from intelligence
$12.8B from Iraq and Afghanistan
$6.7B from veteran’s benefits
$4.6B from federal highways
$3.2B from the space program
$2.6B from medical research
$2.5B from homeland security
$2.3 from farm subsidies
$2.3B from air travel and roads
$1.8B from development assistance
$1.8B from military aid
$1.6B from the State Department
$1B from land management
$.4B from nuclear weapons
$.2B from federal law enforcement
$.2B from global health
$.1B from mass transit
But is wasn’t all cuts. They also made increases in certain areas (brace yourselves for a big whiff of patchouli);
- $5.2B increase in job training
- $4.6B increase in higher education
- $3.3B increase in energy conservation/renewable energy
- $2.7B increase in elementary/second education
- $2B increase in subsidies to small farms
- $1.5B increase in pollution control
- $1.4B increase to special education
- $1.1B increase to humanitarian aid
- $.9 increase in science
- $.2B increase in housing programs
- $.1B increase to federal prisons
Fascinating, right? But it really gets interesting when you break the respondents down by political affiliation. The biggest spending cuts were made by independents who cut $195.5B out of the budget. The next biggest spending cutters were democrats, who cut $157.3B out of the budget. The “fiscally conservative” republicans were only able to cut $100.7B out of the budget. Any guesses who landed at the bottom of the budget cutting list? I’ll give you a hint – they can’t fucking balance a budget any better than they can spell protest signs. Yep, teabaggers could only bring themselves to cut $100B out of the budget.
I realize that this is getting super fucking wonky with all of the numbers, but I found this report endlessly fascinating so I’m going to continue.
Democrats were the biggest raisers of spending, but not in any meaningful (in terms of adversely affecting the overall budget) way. In fact, when it came to job training, democrats wanted to raise spending from $4B to $9.2B. Independents wanted to go higher than democrats, to $14.4B.
Every group wants to cut defense, so we’ll never see that happen in actuality. Independents cut defense more than any other group, coming in at a cut of $154.1B. Democrats cut defense by $131B. Republicans only cut defense by $56B, but they cut it!
Here are some interesting areas where all groups agreed and differed:
Ready for another dose of American granola? You know how you constantly hear that Americans prefer cutting spending to increasing taxes? Well, that turns out to be true only if they’re not looking at real numbers. 91% of respondents in this poll increased taxes by an average of $291.6B. The amount of tax increases by group looks about how you would expect;
- Teabaggers – $188.2B
- Republicans – $229.9B
- Independents – $305.5B
- Democrats – $338.5B
All of the groups favored a progressive tax rate (meaning that the more you make, the higher the percentage you pay), but republicans and teabaggers were much more forgiving to the higher tax brackets than independents were. Predictably, democrats really stuck it to the rich.
On every single issue of taxation (estate, corporate, personal, etc) each group raised taxes. Yup, even teabaggers. Only 17% of republicans favored the estate tax breaks that Bush enacted and Obama extended. Let me repeat that so that it really sinks in; only 17% of republicans support the current estate tax levels.
On the issue of capital gains, both independents and democrats want to either raise the percentage of taxation or treat capital gains as income, thereby raising the percentage of taxation! Only teabaggers (68% of them), had a decisive majority that don’t want to raise capital gains. Republicans were divided with 49% against raising taxes, 46% for raising taxes.
Every group agreed that oil companies don’t need the tax breaks they’re currently enjoying, and they would all repeal them.
Every group overwhelmingly agreed that they wanted to fix the social security shortfall by increasing they payroll tax limit from the current level of $106,000 to at least $156,000. 38% of respondents went further and removed the cap entirely and chose to take social security contributions on all money earned. There wasn’t much deviation on this among the different party affiliations. Every group overwhelmingly chose to raise the retirement age, but only to 68. Only 1/3 were willing to go up to 70.
I can keep going, but I won’t. You should definitely download the report from the link above if you want to see more.
Let me summarize what I got from this report, other than the fact that America is made up of liberals (as defined by Fox News).
First and foremost, I see that a strong political ideology creates blinders that make it harder to get things done. That applies to both the left and the right. That being said, left wing ideology doesn’t seem to be as debilitating as right wing ideology does. Over and over again in this report, independents were much closer to democrats than to republicans. Teabaggers were consistently way out there.
When it comes to coming up with solutions to problems, nothing should be off the table, unless you have historical precedent that demonstrates failure. You shouldn’t let your ideology create your facts. It should be the other way around.
It’s clear that one side does love their unicorns more than the other does. Republicans are emotionally attached to the “trickle down” theory that is demonstrably false. But, they’re not as attached to it as our government is. When they were presented with the budget in detail, they all deviated from that ideology to a greater extent than any administration in the past thirty one years has.
But the thing that most struck me about this poll is that our government isn’t representing us. Not any of us. If you had to put a direction on it, you could make a case that our government is to the right of all of us. “Right” as defined by a greater deference to corporations and corporate interests. But that isn’t really an accurate description of what’s happening here. It wouldn’t be hyperbolic to say that what we’re experiencing here is an oligarchy.
–noun, plural -chies.
1. a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.
2. a state or organization so ruled.
3. the persons or class so ruling.
We have a government that serves only the interest of its donors. And last year, when the Citizens United decision came down from the supreme court, the system insured that it’s donors will never be the people. The supreme court gamed the system and completely locked the citizenry out of it. In 2008 when Obama ran, he kept repeating that 90% of his contributors were ordinary citizens making small contributions. While those statements were completely accurate, they didn’t tell the whole story. The contributions made by 90% of his donors represented 50% of the total amount that he raised. The other 50% came from corporate interests. Believe it or not, a 50-50 ratio is astonishing. Corporate contributions typically eclipse private contributions so what Obama accomplished was amazing.
But it will never, ever happen again. The supreme court made sure of that. If we don’t all work to pass laws that make the public financing of campaigns mandatory, we well never be represented by our government. None of us, conservative or liberal, will get the opportunity to be heard or represented.
If we don’t change the system, we’re fucked. We need to stop focusing on the democrat or the republican in the race. Party affiliation is irrelevant because both sides can only get their campaigns financed by entities that don’t give a shit about you or me.
The ideological lines between right and left are drawn between having faith in corporations versus having faith in the government. Both sides are wrong. The growing wealth disparity on the country has proven that corporations aren’t going to do right by the workers. And Citizens United has insured that good government isn’t possible.
So if you’re having a political debate with someone from a different political persuasion, and you’re taking the pro-corporate or the pro-government side, your point sounds like nonsense to the person you’re talking to because it is nonsensical. You’re having the wrong debate, and you have to realize that the team you’re on isn’t on your side.
Obama is not a great president because the system won’t allow him to be. He has to fellate Wall Street if he wants to have a single democratic congressman or senator elected during his term. Democrats idealize Obama’s presidency at their own peril. Look at what happened to republicans when they idealized Bush’s eight year fucking nightmare. That didn’t turn out to well for republicans, not to mention America and the world.
It’s time to play for your own team. Fuck the politician you’re spending your time or money on. Use that energy to change the system. We need to get public financing of campaigns on ballot measures in every state across the country. We need to stop having stupid fights amongst ourselves and unite around our own self interest. America will never embrace its inner hippie (again, as defined by Fox News) until we do.