When we hear about the deficits we hear a lot of scare stories, which most “serious” media just echo and amplify. The prevailing “serious” narrative we hear is that we must cut entitlements — any “serious” budget proposal cuts Medicare and Social Security. Even though they just extended tax cuts for the rich the deficits are the worst problem in the world, ever, so we are supposed to be really scared and give in. Seriously.

Polls show that the public wants taxes raised on the rich, cuts in military spending and more & bettter-paying jobs. The public isn’t stupid, because it turns out that these are exactly the things that economists say will get us out of the deficits. But raising taxes isn’t considered a “serious” deficit-cutting option. Either is cutting military. And to top it off, in DC the idea of creating more and better-paying jobs is so unserious that it isn’t even discussed.

Serious Commissions and Gangs Of Negotiators

The public recoils every time politicians get close to reaching their “serious” goal of cutting Social Security or Medicare, instead of raising taxes and cutting military. So the DC elite come up with ways to mask what they are doing : commissions, “triggers,” “caps,” “across-the-board cuts” all of which avoid actually spelling out that these will cut Social Security and Medicare without touching taxes or military. All the “serious” people favor this approach.

There are so many “serious” reporters and editors and politicians and deficit commissions and negotiators and even “gangs” consist of very “serious” people who come up with these “serious” recommendations.

Who Is At The Table?

These “serious” people who engaged in these “serious” negotiations have something in common. They are almost all very, very well paid, usually white, always DC or Wall Street or big-corporate insiders, always college-educated and comfortable people who work in offices. They do not reflect the diverse makup of the American population. Doing that wouldn’t be “serious,” but it would be ‘small-d’ democratic.

The fact is, the American People just are not reflected “at the table” in these budget negotiations. When you hear about these deficit commissions, discussions, etc. ask yourself: How many make less than $250K? How many are unemployed? How many work taking care of someone else? Who speaks for We, the People in these negotiations?

And ask yourself: What would these deficits talks, commissions, gangs consist of if they were representative of the interests of regular Americans?

What If a Deficit Commission Looked Like America?

If a deficit commission with 100 members had the diversity of the American population “at the table” it would look like this:

  • 19 people on the commission would receive some form of Social Security benefits, 12 of those as retirees. And on this deficit commission they get to talk when the ones making over $250K propose cutting Social Security.
  • 43 of the commission members would have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement. 27 of those less than $1,000.
  • 98 of the 100 members would make less than $250,000 a year.
  • 50 of the members would come from households in which the total income of all wage-earners is less than $52,029.
  • 13 wold have income below the poverty level.
  • 14 members would be receiving food stamps.
  • 16.6% of the commission members would be un- or underemployed, and would be wondering why they are on a deficit commission at all instead of a jobs commission.
  • The commission would include the right proportion of factory and construction workers, and people who work in a kitchen, and work waiting tables, and teaching, and nursing, and installing tires, and all the other things that people do except, apparently, those on DC elite commissions. (People who do hard, manual labor get an extra vote each on what the retirement age should be.)
  • 74 members would not have college degrees.
  • 20 would not have graduated high school.
  • 18 would speak a language other than English at home.

Have you seen any deficit commissions like that lately? No, seriously, have you?

What does the PUBLIC want?

A “serious” deficit commission in a democracy would come up with deficit solutions that reflect what the public wants. Here are some of the polling results compiled at The American Majority Project Polling:

Social Security & Medicare:

  • 53% support Collecting Social Security taxes on all the money a worker earns, rather than taxing only up to about $107,000 of annual income.
  • 57% oppose raising the retirement age from 66 to 67.
  • 64% oppose spending cuts to Social Security.
  • 82% oppose cutting Social Security benefits in order to reduce the debt.
  • 67% oppose cutting Social Security to make the program more solvent in the long term.

  • 66% support enacting Social Security taxes on wages about $106,800 (the Pay Roll Tax Cap) to make the program more solvent.
  • 64% oppose spending cuts to Medicare.

Lots more polling on Social Security at The American Majority Project Polling


  • 74% believe eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries to help reduce the budget deficit is mostly or totally acceptable.
  • 68% 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.
  • 72% of one group of 512 participants favored raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year over cutting important programs once they received details on the impact of the budget cuts. That percentage had been 62% before receiving details of the cuts.
  • 53% believe it is totally or mostly unacceptable to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% .
  • etc…

Lots more polling on taxes at The American Majority Project Polling

Military Spending:

  • 67% support minor or major reductions in funds to national defense.
  • 66% support removing all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • 49% said to cut defense “even if it means eliminating programs that bring jobs to your state.”
  • Pew Research Poll, March 8-14, 2011


More polling on military spending at The American Majority Project Polling

Union Employees and Collective Bargaining Rights:

  • 81% support the rights of workers to unionize to negotiate with their employers.
  • 77% believe public employees who belong to a union and work for the state government, city government, or school districts should have the same right to bargain when it comes to their health care, pension and other benefits like those members of unions who work for private companies.

More polling on labor rights at The American Majority Project Polling

Job Creation and the Economy:

  • 56% believe creating jobs, rather than spending cuts is the more important priority for the federal government right now.
  • 56% agree that “it is time for government to take a larger and stronger roll in making the economy work for the average American.”
  • 62% believe the government should focus on creating jobs, even if it means increasing the deficit in the short-term.

More polling on jobs and the economy at The American Majority Project Polling

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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About the Author

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California. Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

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