Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com
My biggest problem with centrist establishment Democrats has been their insistence on trying to prove they’re the bigger grown-ups in the room by embracing punitive conservative economic ideas and more successfully implementing them. Welfare reform was a perfect example of this. Democratic support for it, including President Clinton’s, was supposed to neutralize the issue for Democrats forever. Oddly, though, I never noticed the tendency of voters to associate Democrats with “welfare” to diminish. What happened was that the idea of “welfare” simply expanded to include any public assistance whatsoever, whether or not the recipient worked for wages, and then further to mean 47% of the country. People still defend welfare reform to me on the policy merits but no one can reasonably argue that it was a long-term political success for Democrats, unless they want to make the perverse case that Mitt Romney lost because at least half the country was offended that he thought they were on welfare.
President Obama embraced deficit reduction from the beginning of his presidency. And he did succeed in shrinking the deficit. Does he get any credit for it? Nope.
At the same time, the size and trajectory of the U.S. deficit is poorly understood by most Americans, with 62 percent saying it’s getting bigger, 28 percent saying it’s staying about the same this year, and just 6 percent saying it’s shrinking. The Congressional Budget Office reported Feb. 6 that the federal budget deficit is getting smaller, falling to $845 billion this year — the first time in five years that the gap between taxes and spending will be less than $1 trillion.
Even more weirdly, Americans currently trust Republicans more on the economy:
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows why the Republicans are doing so well in the polls right now.
“Recovery” Or Not, The Economy Sucks For Most People
Q: Would you describe the state of the nation’s economy these days as excellent, good, not so good or poor?
Not so good 44%
People Think The Economy Is Rigged To Favor The Wealthy
Q: Do you think the U.S. economic system (generally favors the wealthy) or (is fair to most Americans)?
Generally favors the wealthy 71%
Is fair to most Americans 24%
People Think Republicans Will Fix This
Other polls show something ironic: People trust Republicans more than Democrats to fix this and make the economy favor regular people again.
An October 13 Gallup poll: “On the No. 1 issue, the economy, Republicans have more than doubled their April lead over Democrats, to 11 percentage points.”
Strange how Democrats are incessantly accused of excessive spending, despite not doing that at all, while Republicans reap the electoral rewards of austerity. If you’re always going to be painted as “spenders” why not just push for more spending in ways that improve everyone’s lives? When you do do it, as with the Affordable Care Act, why not brag about it, with nonstop ads of people who are ecstatic over having health coverage for the first time in years? The vast majority of Americans couldn’t care less about “bending the cost curve”.
Democrats should definitely not ever trash the momentous progressive accomplishments of the New Deal and Great Society. There is no good in that, as evidenced by the pounding upon Democrats who (stupidly) signed on to cuts to safety net programs:
Cutting federal health and retirement spending has long been at the top of the GOP agenda. But with Republicans in striking distance of winning the Senate, they are suddenly blasting the idea of trimming Social Security benefits.
The latest attack came in Georgia, where the National Republican Campaign Committee posted an ad last week accusing Rep. John Barrow (D) of “leaving Georgia seniors behind” by supporting “a plan that would raise the retirement age to 69 while cutting Social Security benefits.”
Crossroads GPS, the conservative nonprofit group founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, has run similar ads against North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D), Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.). Crossroads accused Hagan of supporting a “controversial plan” that “raises the retirement age.”
Republicans totally want to end Social Security and Medicare but want Democrats to take the blame for it, which is why they’re constantly trying to trick Democrats into these “grand bargains”. I have encountered centrist Dems who seem genuinely shocked that liberals didn’t eagerly embrace Simpson-Bowles. My guess is that they believe (wrongly) that liberals are so enamored of the possibility of tax increases on the wealthy that we’ll gladly trade our own and everyone else’s retirement security for them. We did warn them that Republicans would hang any cuts, actual or proposed, to Social Security and Medicare right around Democrats’ necks, which is exactly what is happening to the Democrats who signaled support for them. There truly is no upside to Democrats pushing austerity. None.