It’s a funny thing, just how epically our supposedly “representative” democracy fails to represent us. And by “funny,” I mean “eternally disappointing and frustrating.” And by “us,” I mean “the American people in general.” Consider:
It turns out that the budgets produced by the White House and Congress in no way resemble the budget Americans would write. The biggest difference is that the public would significantly cut the military, while the White House and Congress would increase it.
There are lots of other differences too…. The public would more than double investment in renewable energy and conservation, while the President would increase it only 44% and the House Republicans would cut it by 36%. The public would increase spending on controlling pollution by 17%, while Obama would cut it by 13% and the House would cut it by 39%. The public would more than double spending on job training while Obama would cut it slightly and the Republicans cut it substantially. The public would boost higher education spending by 92% while Obama would only raise it 9% and the Republicans cut it 26%…. The public and the President both want to cut subsidies to big agriculture, but the public is alone in wanting that funding to assist small farmers.
And here’s the big gap between the people and the politicians. The public wants to raise more money by cutting the military and by taxing the wealthy, taxing wealthy estates, taxing corporations, taxing alcohol, taxing soft drinks, taxing hedge fund managers’ income, and by charging a crisis fee to large banks. A plurality of 49% of the public also wants to tax carbon dioxide emissions. A strong majority does not want a sales tax. The White House and Congress, in contrast, prefer a combination of going into debt and slashing basic services. The public reduces the deficit dramatically. The President increases it, and Congress leaves it about where it was before.
How about that. Us poor, dumb ordinary folks figured out how to cut the deficit without screwing over the poor, the sick, or the elderly, but all those big brains we elected to represent our interests in this big ol’ complicated world are completely stumped. But how can that be? Especially when the solutions are so simple and obvious?
Oh wait, I know: Most of us aren’t millionaires receiving obscene amounts of money and lucrative job prospects from fellow millionaires, billionaires and giant corporations in exchange for protecting their interests above all others. Why yes, I think that just might be it. See also: Jon’s excellent post about how a majority of “center-right” Americans favor policies which are far too leftist and extreme to be considered by Serious People.
As I said a couple of years ago, money has unnaturally constrained the boundaries of our political discourse:
Need to slash greenhouse emissions to prevent the ice caps from melting? You have to do it without hurting the energy companies.
Need to rescue the economy and reform the financial system? You have to do it without hurting Wall Street.
Need to make healthcare affordable and available to everyone? You have to do it without hurting the insurance companies.
Need to reform campaign finance? You have to do it without diminishing the influence of the corporations or the advantages of incumbency.
It is virtually impossible to achieve meaningful reform within such nonsensical parameters.
I guess now I can add: Need to reduce the national debt? You have to do it without cutting defense spending or raising taxes on corporations or rich people.
Or, alternatively: Do we need to reduce the national debt? OMG YES, right away or we will all DIE!!! Oh, and cut my taxes.