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Vision: How to Make Media Reflect the Popular Views of Americans, Not Those of Elites

We should demand that the media cover the views of the majority.

“Liar! Liar!” “He's lying!” That's how Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's constituents responded at a town hall meeting in Kenosha a week after House Republicans passed Ryan's draconian budget plan to privatize Medicare and slash taxes for the wealthy.

Ryan seemed genuinely shocked, totally unprepared for the grassroots outrage and for good reason: the gap between Washington elites and the American people seems to have reached an all-time high. While Ryan's plan was lauded as “brave” and “visionary” inside the Beltway, poll after poll showed that the American people wanted none of it.

62 percent believe the government should focus on creating jobs, even if it means increasing the deficit in the short-term, according to a Lake Research Partners poll in March, 2011.

76 percent believe cutting Medicare to help reduce the budget deficit is mostly or totally unacceptable, and 67 percent believe the same about Medicaid, according to a Wall Street Journal /NBC poll in February, 2011.

68 percent believe that phasing out the Bush tax cuts for families earning $250,000 per year is mostly or totally acceptable to help reduce the budget deficit, according to the same poll.

65 percent oppose changes to Social Security as a way to reduce the budget deficit, according to a Pew Research poll in March, 2011.

Yet, despite similar results in dozens of polls over the past few months, none of it seemed to penetrate the Beltway bubble.

The American Majority Project, a coalition of three groups, is spearheading an effort to change that, and put the American people back into the center of public debates about the future of our country. In a statement published on Huffington Post, Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America's Future (CAF) announced the partnership with the Center for Economic Policy Research and the media watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.  

Hickey wrote that CAF was “ sending letters to all the major media demanding that the views of the American Majority be represented in the news programs, print articles and opinion pages, and the non-stop daily and Sunday talk shows in which the debate about America's future is being conducted as we move toward the showdown over the budget. We are demanding representation in the media proportional to the size of the American Majority.”

Hickey went on to say, “We are also supplying the media with an extensive list of economists, experts and advocates who share the majority view that deficits are not now the major threat to US prosperity, and that getting revenue back into the budget is far less damaging (and more just) than cutting spending and crippling important programs for the poor and the elderly.”

"Washington is preoccupied with draconian spending cuts because the pundits, news shows and politicians engage in group-think. And billionaire financier Peter Peterson has taught them what to think – that America has a deficit crisis,” Hickey told me later.

“But outside the beltway, the polls show the American majority cares more about high unemployment and the slow economy than the deficit. And the American majority rejects most of the budget cuts being pushed by the Washington crowd. Strong majorities would rather reduce the deficit by growing the economy, raising taxes for the wealthy and corporations, and by cutting military spending.” 

The polls cited above are but a few of the many CAF collected to support this argument.

Perhaps the Beltway elites could be partially excused if these popular views had suddenly sprung out of nowhere, without rhyme or reason. Or if the growth of government recently was explosive, unprecedented or arbitrary. Or if there wasn't a centuries-long history of elites fighting the will of the people over progressive taxation and enhanced social welfare. But none of these is the case. In fact, it's taken a tremendous effort by elites to block out three well-established historical facts, which add tremendous muscle to the effort CAF, CEPR and FAIR are spearheading: