The vast majority of Americans don't want Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and vital government services, and believe the Bush-era tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year should be reversed, according to a recent national Bloomberg Poll. Americans do not want a government shutdown. Congress, however, remains focused on ever greater tax subsidies for the wealthy, and Republicans are threatening to shut down the federal government unless they get cuts to Social Security as a first step toward their long-coveted dream of handing the Social Security trust funds over to their Wall Street pals.
Americans would rather see cuts to defense spending than to Social Security and Medicare, but spending on defense, or more specifically, spending on defense contractors, is the only cow sacred to Congress, especially Congressional Republicans.
The poll found most Americans understood the government had to find additional revenue and opposed extending Bush-era tax subsidies for the rich. This was consistent with an earlier NBC/WSJ poll which found nearly all Americans approved of a tax surcharge for those making more than $1 million a year. In Congress, however, tax reform is off the table, out of the room, down the street and drowned in a canvas sack at the bottom of the Potomac.
Beltway politicians in their current iteration are all about coddling trans-national plutocrats by plying them with billions of dollars in taxpayer money. At every turn, Republicans want to hand over ever-greater chunks of America's wealth to corporations and plutocrats through tax breaks, loans, guarantees and subsidies, and Democrats hem and haw for a few minutes before giving in.
Republicans have demanded $61 billion be cut from this year's budget, and, having been foiled in getting the cuts in one chunk, are now holding the government hostage to a shutdown unless they get $2 billion in cuts every week. Considering the fiscal year runs another half a year, that comes out to just about $60 billion. The Republicans want to cut every part of the discretionary portion of the budget, which amounts to just 12% of total government outlays, slashing everything from Head Start to PBS to the EPA to programs for the elderly and sick. All these cuts are ostensibly to eventually balance the budget, but in fact, will just make life miserable for ordinary Americans so the very rich can continue to add to their collections of private jets, or yachts, or embroidered panties from young female private service contractors.
Americans want Congress to compromise on cuts and taxes, but Congressional Republicans seek only to cut vital government functions. By eliminating funding for the EPA, bank regulators, food safety inspectors, and every public watchdog agency, the budget cuts very conveniently benefit big corporate interests by eliminating oversight and enforcement of the rules and regulations designed to insure the public's safety and well-being. While Americans want real compromise balancing cuts and taxes, when Congressional Democrats say "compromise," they just mean they're giving the Republicans what they want.
Americans don't want to spend $159 billion this year on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and considering how American presence in the region appears to just be adding futile misery to a region roiled by new, more relevant turmoil, one can hardly wonder why. However, Defense Secretary Robert Gates can only talk of avoiding premature withdrawal, as though repeating a mantra he'd heard somewhere, perhaps in a different context.
And all of this should take into consideration that only 29% of those polled believed that deficit and spending was the nation's top problem. 43% cited jobs and unemployment as the top priority.
Of course, slashing the budget and crippling the government would be the top priority for anyone who wanted to get rid of America's ability to curb illegal, unethical, and dangerous business practices. Slashing the budget and crippling the government would be the top priority for those who believe ordinary Americans should suffer every indignity so the rich can cannibalize the nations' strength in favor of their own excesses. Slashing the budget and crippling the government would be the top priority for right-wing lunatics from the annals of the Southern Poverty Law Center's hatewatch pages who dream of overthrowing the United States and restoring some hazily-envisioned antebellum white supremacist regime.
Now, where are those right-track, wrong-track numbers?