Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gallup: Gov't Debt Is Tea Party Supporters' Top Concern

According to a USA Today/Gallup national poll released Monday, 61 percent of self-described Tea Party movement supporters say that the federal government's debt is an extremely serious threat to the country, with only 29 percent of those who do not identify with the Tea Party movement saying that the debt is an extremely serious threat.

Leading conservative economist Bruce Bartlett says that those who blame Democrats and Obama for the huge national debt have it wrong—the person they should be angry with left the White House a year and a half ago.

Forty-nine percent of Tea Party supporters say the size and power of the federal government is an extremely serious threat, with only 12 percent of those who do not identify with the Tea Party movement agreeing.

Tea Party activists say one of the aims of their movement is to reduce the size of the federal government. Eight out of 10 Tea Party supporters questioned say that the government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and business. That drops to 27 percent among those who do not identify with the Tea Party movement. Only 17 percent of Tea Party activists say the government should be doing more to solve the nation's problems. That figure jumps to 64 percent among those who do not identify with the Tea Party movement.

The survey also indicates that the concerns of Tea Party supporters align with the Republican Party. Gallup published another poll last week that found most tea party supporters are right wing Republicans. "Their similar ideological makeup and views suggest that the Tea Party movement is more a rebranding of core Republicanism than a new or distinct entity on the American political scene," Gallup Poll director Frank Newport wrote in an analysis of the results. Newport adds: "Republican leaders who worry about the Tea Party's impact on their races may in fact (and more simply) be defined as largely worrying about their party's core base."

Gallup Poll Question
Tea Party
Gov't doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses 80% 81%
Gov't should be doing more to solve country's problems 17% 13%
Gov't should promote traditional values 57% 63%
Gov't should not favor any set of traditional values 39% 32%

The Daily Beast:
Where is the evidence that everything would be better if Republicans were in charge? Does anyone believe the economy would be growing faster or that unemployment would be lower today if John McCain had won the election? I know of no economist who holds that view. The economy is like an ocean liner that turns only very slowly. The gross domestic product and the level of employment would be pretty much the same today under any conceivable set of policies enacted since Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Until conservatives once again hold Republicans to the same standard they hold Democrats, they will have no credibility and deserve no respect.
In January, the Congressional Budget Office projected a deficit this year of $1.2 trillion before Obama took office, with no estimate for actions he might take. To a large extent, the CBO’s estimate simply represented the $482 billion deficit projected by the Bush administration in last summer’s budget review, plus the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, which George W. Bush rammed through Congress in September over strenuous conservative objections. Thus the vast bulk of this year’s currently estimated $1.8 trillion deficit was determined by Bush’s policies, not Obama’s.

I think conservative anger is misplaced. To a large extent, Obama is only cleaning up messes created by Bush. This is not to say Obama hasn’t made mistakes himself, but even they can be blamed on Bush insofar as Bush’s incompetence led to the election of a Democrat. If he had done half as good a job as most Republicans have talked themselves into believing he did, McCain would have won easily.

Conservative protesters should remember that the recession, which led to so many of the policies they oppose, is almost entirely the result of Bush’s policies. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession began in December 2007—long before Obama was even nominated. And the previous recession ended in November 2001, so the current recession cannot be blamed on cyclical forces that Bush inherited.In a larger sense, the extremely poor economic performance of the Bush years really set the stage for the current recession. This is apparent when we compare Bush’s two terms to Bill Clinton’s eight years. Since both took office close to a business cycle trough and left office close to a cyclical peak, this is a reasonable comparison.

the economy performed very, very badly under Bush, and the best efforts of his cheerleaders cannot change that fact because the data don’t lie. Consider these comparisons between Bush and Clinton:
  • Between the fourth quarter of 1992 and the fourth quarter of 2000, real GDP grew 34.7 percent. Between the fourth quarter of 2000 and the fourth quarter of 2008, it grew 15.9 percent, less than half as much.

  • Between the fourth quarter of 1992 and the fourth quarter of 2000, real gross private domestic investment almost doubled. By the fourth quarter of 2008, real investment was 6.5 percent lower than it was when Bush was elected.

  • Between December 1992 and December 2000, payroll employment increased by more than 23 million jobs, an increase of 21.1 percent. Between December 2000 and December 2008, it rose by a little more than 2.5 million, an increase of 1.9 percent. In short, about 10 percent as many jobs were created on Bush’s watch as were created on Clinton’s.

  • During the Bush years, conservative economists often dismissed the dismal performance of the economy by pointing to a rising stock market. But the stock market was lackluster during the Bush years, especially compared to the previous eight. Between December 1992 and December 2000, the S&P 500 Index more than doubled. Between December 2000 and December 2008, it fell 34 percent. People would have been better off putting all their investments into cash under a mattress the day Bush took office.

  • Finally, conservatives have an absurdly unjustified view that Republicans have a better record on federal finances. It is well-known that Clinton left office with a budget surplus and Bush left with the largest deficit in history. Less well-known is Clinton’s cutting of spending on his watch, reducing federal outlays from 22.1 percent of GDP to 18.4 percent of GDP. Bush, by contrast, increased spending to 20.9 percent of GDP. Clinton abolished a federal entitlement program, Welfare, for the first time in American history, while Bush established a new one for prescription drugs.

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