Monday, December 13, 2010


Well, first of all, if we're to believe the new ABC/Washington Post poll, the tax cut deal is basically the mirror image of the health care law -- people support the health care law's provisions but hate the law, whereas people have serious problems with the tax cut deal but support the deal:

About seven in 10 Americans back the tax deal negotiated last week by President Obama and congressional Republicans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The high bipartisan support for the package masks more tepid public approval for some of the main components of the agreement that comes before a key Senate vote Monday afternoon.

A slender 11 percent of those polled back all four of the deal's primary tax provisions: an across-the-board extension of Bush-era tax cuts, additional jobless benefits, a payroll tax holiday and a $5 million threshold for inheritance taxes. Just 38 percent support even two of the components.

But put all four items together, and 69 percent of all Americans support the package. Large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike favor the agreement, which has drawn stiff opposition from some Democrats in the House. In the poll, 69 percent of liberal Democrats support the agreement, which Obama has called a framework for legislation.

Even when primary objections to the pact are mentioned -- that it would add about $900 billion to the federal budget deficit and that it extends tax breaks to the wealthy -- 62 percent of all those polled support the package....

My guess is that poll respondents like it because it seems to be down the middle -- at least that's how it's been described -- and because it seemed to have been arrived at in a grown-up fashion. I'm not advocating these beliefs; I've just looked at a lot of polls and absorbed a lot of Beltway conventional wisdom, which inevitably seeps down to the public and becomes part of what the public thinks, so I believe the public just wants some kind of agreement, especially one that seems to include difference-splitting. Spare me the angry comments -- I know you don't think that's what this us. I'm just saying the public thinks that's what this is. And that, for better or worse, seems good to the public.

Now, maybe there'd be less support if certain progressive messages were finding agreement among liberals and Democrats. But some basic liberal notions aren't getting through:

Support for the tax exemption on inheritances to $5 million also tops 50 percent among Republicans (60 percent) and Democrats (52 percent).

... Some 54 percent of all Americans support an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all taxpayers, including wealthy people and the middle class. It's this provision that generates the biggest partisan gap: 85 percent of Republicans say these tax cuts should be continued for all taxpayers; 38 percent of Democrats (31 percent of liberal Democrats) agree....

(Emphasis added.)

If nearly a third of liberals think the rich deserve to keep their tax cut, and more than a third of Democrats, then notions of how the classes have been faring in this country don't seem to have penetrated nearly as much as they need to. And a majority of Democrats support a very high exclusion for inheritance tax? Really?

Progressive messages just aren't getting through -- either that or self-described liberals are such bleeding hearts that they bleed even for the rich and comfortable.

This is why I've been dubious about the campaign to scuttle the deal -- it's based on messages that haven't really penetrated. How do you make Republicans fear the consequences of sticking to their pro-rich positions when the Democratic/liberal base isn't even universally ngry about that?

This is just one poll, and other polls have different results -- a USA Today/Gallup poll, for instance, shows the deal with only 49% approval. A mere third of voters oppose the eeal, however.

We need to be able to sell the arguments against GOP economics. It's the only way to strike fear in the hearts of Republican members of Congress. Absent that, they'll win every fight on issues like this, sooner or later.

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