Monday, June 25, 2007

Social Democracy: just waiting to happen

This nifty montage is from The Center for American Progress and dates from 2003, some of the names may change, but the story remains the same.

David Seaton's News Links
Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans line up with European social democrats on most major issues. Why is this not reflected in America's policies? Obviously because, although nominally a democracy -- the world's oldest -- the United States of America is in fact run by and for special interest groups. Public opinion is simply ignored. Sometime in the future, perhaps quite soon, some intrepid politician is going to ride this tiger to power. DS

Will the Progressive Majority Emerge? - The Nation
Abstract: Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007, a massive twenty-year roundup of public opinion from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, tells the story. Is it the responsibility of government to care for those who can't take care of themselves? In 1994, the year conservative Republicans captured Congress, 57 percent of those polled thought so. Now, says Pew, it's 69 percent. (Even 58 percent of Republicans agree. Would that some of them were in Congress.) The proportion of Americans who believe government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep is 69 percent, too--the highest since 1991. Even 69 percent of self-identified Republicans--and 75 percent of small-business owners!--favor raising the minimum wage by more than $2. The Pew study was not just asking about do-good, something-for-nothing abstractions. It asked about trade-offs. A majority, 54 percent, think "government should help the needy even if it means greater debt" (it was only 41 percent in 1994). Two-thirds want the government to guarantee health insurance for all citizens. Even among those who otherwise say they would prefer a smaller government, it's 57 percent--the same as the percentage of Americans making more than $75,000 a year who believe "labor unions are necessary to protect the working person." It's not just Pew. In the authoritative National Election Studies (NES) survey, more than twice as many Americans want "government to provide many more services even if it means an increase in spending" as want fewer services "in order to reduce spending." According to Gallup, a majority say they generally side with labor in disputes and only 34 percent with companies; 53 percent think unions help the economy and only 36 percent think they hurt. A 2005 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 53 percent of Americans thought the Bush tax cuts were "not worth it because they have increased the deficit and caused cuts in government programs." CNN/Opinion Research Corp. found that only 25 percent want to see Roe v. Wade overturned; NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard found the public rejecting government-funded abstinence-only sex education in favor of "more comprehensive sex education programs that include information on how to obtain and use condoms and other contraceptives" by 67 percent to 30 percent. Public Agenda/Foreign Affairs discovered that 67 percent of Americans favor "diplomatic and economic efforts over military efforts in fighting terrorism." Want hot-button issues? The public is in love with rehabilitation over incarceration for youth offenders. Zogby/National council on Crime and Delinquency found that 89 percent think it reduces crime and 80 percent that it saves money over the long run. "Amnesty"? Sixty-two percent told CBS/New York Times surveyors that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to "keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status." And the gap between the clich├ęs about what Americans believe about gun control and what they actually believe is startling: NBC News/Wall Street Journal found 58 percent favoring "tougher gun control laws," and Annenberg found that only 10 percent want laws controlling firearms to be less strict, a finding reproduced by the NES survey in 2004 and Gallup in 2006. READ IT ALL

1 comment:

RLaing said...

For the moment, social policy in the U.S. is underwritten by a world prepared to tolerate massive budget and trade deficits. If that changes, possibly because oil begins to be traded in other currencies, then the fact that the U.S. manufacturing base is located in China will have very serious social consequences indeed.

Up until now, U.S. public opinion has been the subject of intense study, but mainly for the purpose of determining how best to move it from A to B. Nobody in Government is that interested in what the public actually wants, as such.

I suspect that Americans tolerate the fantastic waste and expense of the pentagon system on the understanding that it will bring them the perks of empire (a global subsidy for the 'American way of life') without significant risks of death or injury for the citizen. Think Powell Doctrine: in-out, overwhelming force, clear exit strategy--all designed to limit casualties. This is a political statement, not a military one: obviously you are going to 'win' if you have overwhelming force available.

That unspoken social contract has now been broken: the elites continue to use the system to rob the public, but they are no longer providing a risk-free Empire in return. It is for this reason, and not because he lied to bully a weakling, that Mr. Bush's popularity has gone from 90% to 30%.

Can the Empire survive this? MySelf, I don't believe it can, and unfortunately, this empire is not like others in the past, which did not after all have the capacity to destroy the world.

We live in interesting times. Transition to a 'social democracy' is one possibility for the U.S., and I hope that is what happens, because the other future scenarios are not very pleasant to contemplate.