If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.

 

The Politics of Threat

A Commentary By Froma Harrop

Friday, December 28, 2012

The people are sad. If holiday shopping is any measure of public mood, the joy vanished this year. The grade-school massacre depressed everyone, and now our rapid approach to the Fiscal Cliff has many scared and afraid to spend money.

The Fiscal Cliff is a phony crisis dropped on us by the politics of threat. Rather than further their goals through the normal process, so-called conservatives are using threats against the economy to get what they want. They tried it during the debt-ceiling fiasco of 2011. They're trying it now.    

The Cliff is itself the result of that scandalous threat by the Republican right to let the United States go into default as a "negotiating tool" to force cuts in programs. To avoid economic catastrophe, the sides agreed to automatic tax increases and spending cuts, starting on Jan. 1, if budget deficits haven't been dealt with by then. They haven't. Removing $500 billion from a still-weak economy could send us back into recession.   

Republican House Speaker John Boehner seemed ready to deal before Christmas, but the right-wingers in his caucus wouldn't let him. His Plan B proposal would have let tax rates rise only for those making over $1 million, and "conservatives" in his party still rejected it. Heaven forfend that folks with seven-figure incomes be asked to pay more in taxes.    

Obama doesn't seem to have much to negotiate over and, in any case, is politically stronger this time. For one thing, if the Bush-era tax cuts expire (as was written into the law by Bush-era Republicans), Democrats could try to restore them for the middle class. For another, Republicans lost the last election. For a third, some responsible Republicans are finally standing up to their own extortionist, Grover Norquist, and his threats of political annihilation against any Republican willing to raise tax rates. They're telling him to take a hike.    

Threats, threats, threats. One major tea party website is promoting a "Fax Blast" to end the "political cancer" of deficit spending. The recent election showed the tea partiers to be a menace mainly to the Republican Party, and the party elders are speaking up about it. The movement's power-of-the-threat is clearly not what it was, which is why the site blusters: "Just about the time they thought the Tea Party is growing weak from battle, giving up, WHAMMY! They get fax hammered with boiling hot faxes!"    

Guess what. I don't care for deficit spending, either, and neither do most Americans. But we're not running deep deficits because we have unsustainable programs, as Republicans claim. Programs are sustainable if you sustain them. Things are paid for with tax revenues, and federal taxes as a percentage of the gross domestic product are at their lowest level in six decades.    

No one likes a profligate government, and savings are there to be found. ObamaCare starts to address the enormous waste in the biggest source of entitlement spending, Medicare. Republicans want to slash its spending deeper through a voucher system. Fine, if they can sell Americans on their voucher plan, they should go ahead and do it. But note that they haven't, because the people want more medical security.    

Since the right can't get what it wants through normal channels, it is trying the back door of threats to the American economy. We can all go over the Cliff, and everyone suffers. That'll teach us a thing or two. After Plan B went down, congressional Republicans' approval rating inched even lower to 26 percent. Perhaps the public is getting tired of being threatened.    

COPYRIGHT 2012 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop.

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.