So Who Is It That Cares About The Deficit Anyway?

Your reading assignment is this great piece in the New York Review of Books by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson entitled What Krugman & Stiglitz Can Tell Us. There’s a lot to it, but I homed in on this particular piece:

A majority of Americans have consistently told pollsters that creating jobs is a much higher priority than tackling the deficit. And when asked how deficits might be reduced, the public strongly endorses increasing taxes on the wealthy and cutting defense spending. The problem is not that these ideas couldn’t guide policy. It’s that they have almost no political traction in Washington. The most influential Republican budget plan—the blueprint put forward by Representative Paul Ryan and given even greater prominence by his selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate—would do just the opposite of what most people say they want. The plan would add to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy; increase, rather than cut, defense spending; and enact huge cuts in social programs for the poor and middle class, including Medicaid and Medicare. These are changes that polls show Americans (including, at least with respect to Medicare, even Tea Party supporters) strongly oppose.

While the Ryan budget is at odds with the stated priorities of the majority of Americans, one group appears quite supportive of its general thrust—the superrich. Most polls reach few if any extremely wealthy Americans. But thanks to a pilot poll recently commissioned by a team of political scientists, we now know that the very rich are indeed different from the rest of Americans: They place much higher priority on deficit reduction and cutting spending, and much, much lower priority on reducing unemployment.*

This explains most of the wealthy celebrity Villagers (and those who expect to be wealthy, celebrity Villagers in the near future) flogging deficit reduction as if the future of the Republic depends upon it.There’s no mystery as to “what’s the matter with the Village.” It’s class bias, pure and simple.

Read the whole piece, it’s very illuminating.

This thesis fits with this interesting post today about the Chicago teacher’s strike, which featured this memorable quote:

Billionaire wise hobbit Warren Buffet once told school reformer Michelle Rhee that the easiest way to fix schools was to “make private schools illegal and assign every child to a public school by random lottery.” In England, the notion of banning private education—while highly unlikely—has long been a part of the political debate entertained by major-party candidates.

Why did he say this?

Nationwide, where 10% of the nation’s students—and 16% of the white ones from families making more than $75,000 per year—attend private schools, the stratification is similar. White and asian students enroll in private schools at twice the rate of black and hispanic ones, according to Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project. Nearly two thirds of private-school students are from wealthy families. In the nation’s 40 largest school districts, one in three white students attends private school (the number is one in ten for black students).

I’ll just quote Charles Pierce and leave it at that:

I am not flexible about this. If you want to look tough at the expense of public-school teachers, you are a snob or a coward, or perhaps both. Every member of this MSNBC panel that Digby found, including all the liberals and all the Democrats thereon, can bite me, seriously. If I have to read one more smug, Ivy League writer from Slate talking, as the big strike goes on, about public-school teachers as though they were unruly hired help, I may hit someone with a fish.

*The average wealth of those polled was around $14 million; the average annual income was just over $1 million. See Larry Bartels, Benjamin Page, and Jason Seawright, “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Seattle, September 2011.

h/t to RK

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