The American Public Knows how to Solve the Deficit and Re-start the Economy

By Democracy Corps/Campaign for America’s Future
November 8, 2012

Warren Buffett has famously said that of course there’s a class war, “and my class has been winning.”

Voters are worried about both jobs and deficits. They see the two as the two leading priorities for the president and the Congress.

But these are not parallel worries.

The Voters’ Priorities

Their first priority is to create jobs and get the economy going. Many mistakenly believe that large deficits cost jobs. But when we asked them to chose between work to “grow the economy” and a plan to “reduce the deficit,” they chose growing the economy by more than two to one, 62-30, a margin of 31 percentage points. Fifty-five percent said they felt strongly on the first.

Second, voters disagree strongly with the priorities of the elite consensus congealing around the president’s deficit commission co-chairs, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, and his own discussions of a grand bargain with House Speaker John Boehner. Those discussions suggest a deal that trades cuts in Medicare and Social Security for tax reform that lowers rates for individuals and corporations while gaining revenue by closing loopholes – a sort of Romney-lite tax reform.

When it comes to a deficit reduction plan, Americans have clear ideas.

They want tax rates to be raised on the wealthy. 68 percent find a plan that did not raises taxes on the rich “unacceptable.” 70 percent support a plan that raises taxes on the top 2 percent while keeping the taxes of others at the same level. 63 percent would find a plan that continued to tax investors’ income at lower rates than worker’s wages unacceptable. 75 percent would support a plan to create a higher tax bracket for millionaires. 67 percent finds a plan that lowers tax rates on corporations or the rich unacceptable.

They do not want Social Security benefits cut over time. By 62 to 31, they would find a plan that did that unacceptable.

They do not want Medicare payments cut or capped: 79 percent, nearly four out of five, find capping Medicare payments forcing seniors to pay more unacceptable.

By 50 percent to 41 percent, they favor a deficit reduction plan that starts with closing loopholes and raising tax rates at the top, and excludes cuts to Medicare and Social Security over one that closes loopholes but “gets entitlement spending under control, including reducing the growth of Medicare and Social Security.”

The public is very skeptical of the $1.5 trillion in across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending over the next 10 years that Congress has already passed Most Americans do not share the scorn of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for poverty programs providing a “hammock” for the lazy.

Seventy-five percent – three-fourths of the country – find a plan unacceptable if it requires deep cuts in domestic programs without protecting programs for infants, poor children, schools and college aid.

Moreover they embrace the president’s argument that we should reduce the deficit and invest in areas vital to the economy at the same time. By 70 percent-27 percent, they support a plan to cut “wasteful spending and abolish special interest tax breaks and subsidies so that we can invest in infrastructure and technology and make sure we support education,

Medicare and Social Security which are key to the middle class, over a statement that we have to cut spending seriously and that will require across the board reductions in the size of government…including education, Medicare and Social Security.

Four Pillars of American Majority Opinion

Despite a bad economy, despite the desire for change, Americans rejected the change offered by the tribune of the 1 percent. They want action on jobs and deficits, but put a priority on jobs first.

But they want programs for the middle class – and the poor – protected. Want the rich and corporations to pay their fair share, and expect Congress to focus on wasteful subsidies to entrenched interests – not the programs for the vulnerable when they turn to deficit reduction.

The Washington Post today contains a full-page ad supported by organizations representing the constituencies that helped build the winning coalition. They make it clear that they stand with the American majority. They won’t accept an agreement that sabotages growth or cuts programs vital to basic family security.

Their four pillars:

- No deficit reduction until the economy recovers. Good Jobs first.

- Roll back tax cuts for the rich – and don’t cut their taxes more.

- No cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

- Don’t make poverty worse by cutting programs for the most vulnerable.

Those principles speak to the values and opinions of most Americans. Just as in the last election, the CEOs will have more money to raise their voices. But they will be speaking past Americans who have a clear view of how we should proceed – and will want to know which side you are on.

Download the report (PDF)

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