Scott Rasmussen has posted a reaction to Pew Research’s finding that a majority of Americans don’t want the federal government to make any cuts. His point? That the finding reveals a language problem:
On the surface, those results appear to support the Political Class conceit that voters like spending cuts in the abstract but not in specific programs. That’s the way it was reported by most media outlets.
But the reality is quite different. The Pew results actually show support for what official Washington would consider massive spending cuts.
Just to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Pew poll questions or results. The raw numbers are similar to what we find at Rasmussen Reports. The problem is with the way the numbers were reported.
The questions were asked using the language of America, but they were reported using the language of the Political Class.
To most Americans, maintaining spending at current levels would mean spending the same amount in 2013 as we spent in 2012. However, to those experienced in the mysterious ways of Washington, maintaining spending at current levels means spending $3.5 trillion this year and $4.5 trillion in five years. To most Americans, that’s a trillion dollars in spending growth.
The Political Class, on the other hand, would consider holding spending unchanged at current levels to be a massive spending cut. Why? Because it wouldn’t allow for the trillion dollar spending growth that is already built into the budget.
With this understanding, the numbers from Pew take on an entirely different tone. Consider the Pew numbers for roads and infrastructure projects: 38 percent want more spending, and only 17 percent favor a spending cut. But a plurality (43 percent) wants to hold infrastructure spending steady. Since the Political Class would consider holding spending steady to be a “cut” in spending, 60 percent in the Pew poll favors what official Washington calls cuts.
In my view the question they should be asking is whether most Americans want to pay 40% more in federal taxes? If the answer is “No”, that either implies that they want federal spending to decrease, they want to keep borrowing/inflating the money supply (something that will become increasingly and uncontrollably dangerous), or they want somebody else to pay the freight. I’m guessing it’s the last alternative and it should be viewed with some suspicion.
Over the period of the last forty years or so there has been substantial sorting of the political parties. Two “catch-all” parties have become substantially more ideological, more programmatic in their nature. Although the Democratic Party has become increasingly progressive, progressives still don’t comprise a majority of Democrats. The Republican Party has become much more socially conservative but social conservatives don’t comprise a majority of Republicans. And there’s a large body of independents, many of whom are dissatisfied with either party.
The apparent paradox can be resolved by recognizing that the American people by and large are more pragmatic than ideological while their political parties are increasingly ideological rather than pragmatic. Modern political fund-raising practically assures that outcome. And assures that more people become disaffected with the political parties.
Yesterday on ABC’s This Week Republican rising star Mia Love made the observation that the United States was ripe for a populist resurgence. I think that’s right but it won’t take place in Washington. It will take place in the state and local governments.