With Congress in recess, members have been talking to their constituents about the budget. The press has tried to create the impression that voters are opposed to the Ryan budget and angry that Republicans don’t want to keep the Ponzi scheme going for a few more years until it crashes. The contrast is striking: when voters were, in fact, irate with Democrats a couple of years ago, the media tried to keep it a secret. When that failed, they portrayed rightfully-concerned Americans as wackos, racists and haters.
You’ll see none of that this time around. Now the crowds that turn out for town hall meetings are just concerned citizens, and the headlines read like this: “Conservative lawmaker meets another crowd angered by Rep. Ryan’s budget.”
But behind the spin, what is really going on? Gallup reports that in its current polling, by far the biggest difference between the parties is that Americans think Republicans are better able to deal with the federal budget than Democrats. The margin is 48/36. Republicans have smaller advantages on the economy, jobs and foreign policy.
Other poll data indicate that, by an overwhelming 73/22 margin, Americans think that “spending too much on federal programs that are either not needed or wasteful” is to blame for the federal deficit, rather than “not raising enough money in taxes to pay for needed programs.” Sure, that may change when more people realize that cutting federal spending means cutting entitlements. But the GOP starts with a huge advantage.
The country’s conservative mood is reflected in the positions that are being taken by politicians. Do we see Republicans sidling over to the “let’s raise taxes and leave spending as it is” side? No. Instead, we see Democrats who are up for re-election in 2012 trying to align themselves with the budget cutters. The Washington Post reports:
A growing number of Democrats are threatening to defy the White House over the national debt, joining Republican calls for deficit cuts as a requirement for consenting to lift the country’s borrowing limit.
The tension is the latest illustration of how the tea-party-infused GOP is driving the debate in Washington over federal spending. And it shows how the debt issue is testing the Obama administration’s clout as Democrats, particularly those from politically competitive states, resist White House arguments against setting conditions on legislation to raise the debt ceiling.
The push-back has come in recent days from Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a freshman who is running for reelection next year. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) told constituents during the Easter recess that he would not vote to lift the debt limit without a “real and meaningful commitment to debt reduction.”
Even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), generally a stalwart White House ally, is undecided on the issue and is “hopeful” that a debt-ceiling bill can be attached to a measure to cut the federal deficit, said her spokesman, Linden Zakula. Klobuchar is also up for reelection next year.
Do I seriously expect lefties like Amy Klobuchar to vote for meaningful spending reductions? Of course not. But the fact that Democrats who have to face the voters next year are maneuvering to posture themselves as deficit hawks reveals the silliness of the media claim that voters are irate at Paul Ryan and the House Republicans for presenting, for once, an honest budget.