Poll Finds Americans with a Pox on Both Houses Attitude -- Will it Lead to Economic Suicide?

If you repeat something again and again and again, eventually people will believe you, regardless of whether your claim is based in fact or fantasy. And if you're a politician who spews enough bullshit, one effect is that people will decide everything politicians tell them is equally specious.

That's evident from a new poll released by Bloomberg yesterday.

Americans say that the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt threatens the economy and that entitlement programs may go broke even as they dismiss as “scare tactics” the arguments offered by Republicans and Democrats who are debating a solution....


More than 60 percent of those surveyed say that interest on the debt may lead to a recession and that the rising costs of Medicare and Social Security represent real dangers, according to the poll conducted June 17-20.

At the same time, the poll found that most Americans aren’t swayed by the arguments Republicans and Democrats make to advance their competing remedies for debt reduction and strengthening the financial stability of entitlement programs, viewing them as empty rhetoric. Among the rejected assertions are that either spending cuts or tax increases would cause a double-dip recession or would lead to continued joblessness...

The problem is that cutting spending or hiking taxes will slow growth, even if it doesn't cause us to enter another double-dip recession. We should be running deficits -- bigger deficits -- as long as those deficits result from spending that might kick-start this moribund economy. 

Taken together, the results show that while Americans are concerned about the country’s fiscal condition and that of cherished social programs, they don’t trust either party’s assessment of what’s needed to address those issues.

“The level of trust of politicians is frankly at an all- time low, and it’s at an all-time low because both sides have recognized how to scare the living hell out of the other,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican polling expert and message strategist. “The tragedy of it is, people know they’re in the middle of a crisis, but politics has so poisoned the well that voters don’t want to drink from the fountain of knowledge.”

Let's pause for a moment to consider the stunning hypocrisy of Frank Luntz, who gave us "job-killing" taxes, global warming denialism and so much other disinformation griping about "both sides" having recognized the value of scare tactics. Wow. 

Fifty-one percent of poll respondents say they aren’t convinced the U.S. could default on its obligations unless Congress raises the debt ceiling. They say that’s a scare tactic, compared with 43 percent who say default is a real danger.

If Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling, we will default on some of our debts. That is a simple, objective fact.

The poll tested 10 statements on economic dangers often cited by public officials, asking respondents whether they consider each a “real danger” or more of a “scare tactic.” Majorities of respondents consider six as scare tactics -- three of them Democratic messages and three voiced by Republicans...

On Medicare, 62 percent see a real danger that the program would go broke if not dramatically overhauled, compared with 35 percent who say that’s a scare tactic. Sixty-six percent see Social Security going broke without changes as a genuine threat, compared with 31 percent who call it a scare tactic. And respondents see the prospect that interest on the debt could drag the economy into a recession as a real danger rather than a scare tactic by 66 percent to 31 percent.

“Every year you’ve got more and more people getting on the government bill and more borrowing, and now we have less and less people paying in,” said Jason Gibson, 28, a truck driver from Romulus, Michigan. “You get too many people on one side of the ship, it’s going to tip.”

Public sentiment fractured when the poll tested the partisan solutions to those dangers.

Only 27 percent say -- as some Democrats have argued -- there is a real danger of a double-dip recession if government spending is cut, compared with 67 percent who don’t. A greater proportion, 37 percent, say there’s a real danger that spending reductions will lead to an increase in the unemployment rate, compared with 59 percent who call that a scare tactic.


The tragic punchline to this was provided to Bloomberg by AEI: “'What this shows is that politicians’ claims just aren’t credible on a lot of issues; we’ve done a lot of damage,' says Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion expert at the American Enterprise Institute." Why, yes. You have.



AlterNet / By Joshua Holland

Posted at June 24, 2011, 10:57am

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