Thursday, April 21, 2011

Right Wing has Unthinking Americans on the Run

If you live on a street that is full of potholes and the town mayor tells you that the only way that the village can repave the road is to cut taxes on the wealthy - because of a deficit in the local budget - you are caught between a rock and, well, a pothole.

If the community newspaper carries the message of the mayor that only by cutting taxes on the rich and corporations can the street be fixed - and cutting services to the poor, veterans and jobless - it's hard to be cognizant of an alternative.

And that is the lopsided situation we are in right now in the US, where the Republicans have capitalized on a four-decade campaign to sink governments at the federal and local level into massive debt, and then resort to "disaster capitalism" (as Naomi Klein calls it, echoing Milton Friedman) by taking advantage of a misinformed public who only hears, for the most part, about a tax-cutting-for-the-rich and corporations-deficit reduction perspective on budgets.

What's strikingly odd about this "conventional wisdom" of the GOP; right-wing think tanks; the corporate media; and even some Democratic, DC, insiders, is that it is out of sync with the American public when polled on specific policy options.

A recent Washington Post poll revealed that 72 percent of Americans support raising taxes on those with incomes over $250,000. Only 21 percent support cutting spending on Medicare.

A McClatchy-Marist poll was even more eye-opening:

In a McClatchy-Marist poll released this week, 70% of registered voters who identify with the Tea Party opposed making cuts to either Medicare or Medicaid - the government-run health programs for the elderly and the poor - to help reduce the nation's deficit. Meanwhile, only 28% of tea partiers said they'd be willing to cut spending on those two programs.

Yes, that's right, according to this poll, most people associated with the Tea Party oppose cutting government-administered Medicare and Medicaid by a lopsided margin.

On many other progressive issues concerning what President Obama calls "the social contract" with Americans, most US citizens agree with supporting programs for the common good and doing that, in part, by increasing taxes on the rich.

But Washington, DC, and the GOP revolt in the states exist in a bubble of long-term right-wing propaganda that uses pressure and bullying to create a sense of impending doom in order to "shock" the public into allowing the passage of regressive legislation.

Only by clarifying the specifics, as President Obama has begun to do, will there be an honest public debate. But it appears that the jury is in on increasing taxes on the rich and saving the social safety net. The message just hasn't reached DC or some state capitols yet, what with all the lobbyist and Koch brothers' money floating into campaign funds.

Mark Karlin
Editor, BuzzFlash at Truthout

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