Thursday, June 05, 2014

Facts Make the Tea Party Veer to the Political Left on Spending?

This isn't new, but I just came across it.
In fact, a sophisticated poll covering 31 budget items as well as revenue sources conducted around the 2010 elections found that, even then, Republican, Democratic and independent voters all agreed on much higher taxes and much deeper defense cuts as the most striking elements of how the budget should be crafted....

...[S]upport for government spending has varied somewhat cyclically since the[ 1964 election], but only within a relatively narrow range, as recorded by the gold standard of public opinion research, the General Social Survey [data archives here].

The GSS asks about more than two dozen specific problems or program areas, asking if the amount we’re spending is “too little,” “too much” or “about right.” Not only do most Americans think we’re spending too little in almost every area — most conservatives also think the same. Indeed — hold onto your hats — even most conservative Republicans feel that way as well....

The researchers also found broad agreement across party lines. Their first report noted, “Among a total of 31 areas, on average Republicans, Democrats and independents agreed on 22 areas — that is, all three groups agreed on whether to cut, increase or maintain funding. In 9 other areas there was dissensus.” That’s not to say there weren’t differences. Republicans cut much less from defense — $55.6 billion for core defense (versus $109.4 billion) — and much less overall — $100.7 billion (versus $146 billion) — than Americans as a whole. But even so, the position of Republican respondents overall was still dramatically to the left of the political conservation in Washington....

[Tea Party members were] more conservative than Republicans overall, but they still come across as wild-eyed socialists compared to their D.C. representatives:
Those who described themselves as “very sympathetic” to the Tea Party (14% of the full sample), as would be expected, raised taxes and revenues less than Republicans in general, and less than Democrats and independents. Even so, on average, Tea Party sympathizers found a quite substantial $188.2 billion in additional revenues to reduce the deficit ($105.2 billion in individual income taxes).
This sort of information makes it more understandable why the Republicans have proved to be such poor fiscal stewards when they hold power. They demagogue about taxation and spending, but prioritize budget increases in areas such as military spending and revenue reduction via tax policy that favors the wealthy and corporations. When it comes to actual budget cuts, they can read the polls as well as anybody else. In specific regard to Medicare and Social Security,
Combining GSS data from 2000 to 2012, and asking about Social Security and spending on “improving and protecting the nation’s health” (GSS’s closest match with Medicare), liberal Democrats thought we were spending “too little” rather than “too much” on one or both by a margin of 87.1 percent to 2.4 percent — a ratio of over 36-to-1. But all other groups of Americans held the same view, even conservative Republicans — just not by the same overwhelming amount. They “only” thought we were spending “too little” rather than “too much” by a margin of 59.2 percent to 13.1 percent — a ratio of 4.5-to-1. With figures like that — all well to the left of Democrats in D.C. — it’s no wonder that conservatives in Congress always talk about “saving” Social Security and Medicare, and forever try to get Democrats to take the lead in proposing actual cuts.
The Republicans are not willing to lose the next election by savaging domestic spending in a manner necessary to even make up for their spending increases and tax cuts, let alone make cuts dramatic enough to put the budget into balance or to create a surplus and spend down the debt. Instead, when they take power, we get Dick Cheney-type comments that "deficits don't matter". Instead, if you want a balanced budget, they offer the worst of both worlds -- tax policies that reduce revenue and spending policies that increase the overall budget, resulting in a significant increase in the nation's debt.

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