No matter what the final result of the debt ceiling debate it has now become clear that one relatively small segment of the population makes decisions for the whole country. Polls show that the “silent majority” in America is now being ignored, as the debt ceiling agreement reflects the wishes of the most vocal that turned out strong in one midterm election.
The final debt ceiling agreement has still not been crafted, but the Democratic and Republican bills now agree on some basic elements including:
- Massive spending cuts to government programs
- A consideration of future spending cuts to Medicare and Social Security
- No new taxes, even on the wealthiest of Americans
In many ways the debate has already been won by the most far-right wing of the Republican Party. Democrats have agreed to reduce spending levels to those not seen since the Eisenhower administration. Programs once considered sacred are now being put on the chopping block. Any tax increases, even those on billionaire hedge fund managers, have now been flatly rejected. The debt ceiling proposals include no provisions for job creation or an investment in infrastructure.
Polls show that the current proposals simply do not match up with the wishes of a majority of Americans.
A Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans were more concerned about the “economy in general” or “job creation” than the deficit. Just 16% listed the “budget/deficit” as the number one problem facing the country, yet this 16% of the population now dominates the agenda in Congress.
A Pew Research poll found that 60% of Americans favor keeping Medicare and Social Security as they are, while just 32% favor making adjustments to those programs in order to balance the budget. Once again, the minority is driving the agenda in Congress, as both the Reid and Boehner plan open commissions to consider cuts to Social Security and Medicare in the future.
Finally, a Washington Post poll found that 72% of Americans favor increasing taxes on those making over $250,000 in order to reduce the deficit. Despite the overwhelming support for this proposal, it has now been completely eliminated in all of the debt ceiling proposals.
Whatever passes out of Congress in the coming year is likely to significantly affect nearly every American for decades to come. The “grand bargain” proposed by President Obama and rejected by Speaker Boehner would have raised the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, and reduced the Social Security benefit in the future as well. What this practically means is that 20% of the population is now deciding the public policy for the other 80% to the majority’s detriment.