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An email yesterday from a progressive group said that after large numbers of individual progressives and the joint efforts of various progressive organizations took up the issue of cuts to those programs, "more than 20 members of Congress have vowed to vote against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits."

OK, it could be worse.  But that's less than 10% of Congressional Democrats making a promise.  Don't forget, politicians often don't keep promises.

Consider this article at the Harris Poll site. It says of last year's poll results, "By more than 3-to-one most people oppose cuts in Social Security, education and health care programs".

Consider this: Democrats who were elected to Congress tend to come from states or districts which are more progressive than the country as a whole.  So public opinion among the constituents of Congressional Democrats - and especially among the Democratic voting blocks - probably oppose cuts to Social Security in even larger percentages than what the Harris poll showed for the entire country.

It sounds like what the email was telling me was this:  After progressives organized and exerted a lot of pressure, they were able to get promises from less than 10% of the Democrats whose constituents oppose cuts by something like a 4-to-1 margin.  We're not asking Democrats to go out on a limb here and vote against the preference of their constituents - but to simply go along with the overwhelming desire of their people.

I don't claim public opinion goes along with progressives on all issues, but there are some where it strongly does.  Democratic politicians don't want to lose votes by openly talking against public opinion on matters like Socieal Security.  Yet they're not doing what they might to use an issue like this where public opinion and Republican politicians come into conflict.  This is an opportunity Democrats could be using to weaken their main electoral opponents.  Democrats don't have to have an opinion on cutting Social Security to take advantage of a chance to look good to most voters and to beat Republicans.

They don't have to have an opinion on cutting Social Security to gather the benefits of going along with the majority.  But one would think they must have an opinion on cutting Social Security to cause them to shy away from taking the benefits of going with the majority and to give up an opportunity to weaken their electoral opponents.  Or if they don't have an "opinion", they have a vested interest that runs counter to the majority.  Democrats aren't simply non-ideological politicians who will go whichever way the public opinion wind may blow.  When their very own constituents support a progressive issue 4-to-1, you can't count on Congressional Democrats supporting it 2-to-1 or even a majority.  Big money makes the difference between what the public wants and how many Democrats will go against public will or only go part-way with the public.

What politicians say only means so much.  You even have to look closely at how they vote.  During the 2011 "debt deal", Democratic Congressman Cleaver criticized the deal as a "Satan sandwich" and voted "No" on the bill.  Afterward, in an interview, Rep. Cleaver explained that he knew there were enough Congresspeople who were going to vote Yes on the bill to guarantee its passage, so his No vote didn't prevent the deal being enacted.  However, he said that if there weren't enough Yes votes to pass without him, he would have had to vote Yes as well.  Democrats usually don't confess to this sort of behavior, but it's common enough.  They'll vote the way they talk as long as it doesn't stop regressive legislation, but they show their true colors when it matters.  When we look at voting records, we have to look at this kind of behavior.  Do that and voting records don't look so pretty.

As long as big money has such influence in politics, that's how it will be with most elected officials.  That's why we need to make clear to elected officials if they don't aggressively act on getting big money out of politics, we'll have to find someone else who will.

This is critical today.  Citizens United let more big money in some ways.  The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging limits on a person's total contributions to various candidates.  Further attacks on campaign finance limits are inevitable.  Gerrymandering has caused dramatic misrepresentations of voters' will.  There have been attempts at voter suppression / intimidation.  There are absurdly long voter lines in communities where they want to discourage voting.  There are other ways the choices of the majority of voters is being undermined.  Every year we use justifications to support candidates who are too influenced by big money to fight for these basic fundamentals of democracy, the more democracy erodes - making it even tougher to fix it the next year.

We should focus on a platform of issues like Social Security that have large public passion, plus an aggressive fight to end these threats to democracy.  Put our energy into those who really fight for those things.  Make clear that those who won't fight for democracy or for what a 3-to-1 majority wants have to decide whose side they're on.  The clock on our democracy is ticking away.

Originally posted to workingwords on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 11:05 AM PST.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Why even mention cutting SocSec? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arealniceguy, musiccitymollie

    It's not part of the sequester, it's not part of the Deficit, it has a slight possibility that twenty five, thirty years down the road it will hit a rough patch for about 10 years (and that's easily fixable by raising the cap) and then be fine afterward, why drag it into the arena at all?
    Of course it's popular and not just among blue staters. That 3:1 (which I agree sounds low) is all over the country, all across the spectrum (with the exception of top 1% Republicans).
    Don't jump to a conclusion that has no factual underpinning, please.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 04:10:07 PM PST

  •  The fact that I can look at a congressman's voting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arealniceguy, workingwords

    record on legislation and still not know where he stands without knowledge of the context of each case (i.e. would he have actually voted the other way if a majority vote didn't carry the bill without him and provide the cover so he could vote to match his rhetoric rather than his values?) just shows how many barriers there are for even moderately informed and skeptical individuals to gauge the performance of their elected officials.

    When their very own constituents support a progressive issue 4-to-1, you can't count on Congressional Democrats supporting it 2-to-1 or even a majority.  Big money makes the difference between what the public wants and how many Democrats will go against public will or only go part-way with the public.
    I'm having a little trouble completely understanding this behavior. Do Democrats think that the votes they would get from the electorate by supporting the public will won't measure up to the amount of support they could in essence "buy" with the money they'd get from serving business interests? Or that despite giving the public what they want, the Democrat can still be beat by an opponent who employs some combination of selling out and equivocating, because gerrymandering and the other manipulations of our eroded electoral process you outlined above will make up the difference?
    •  To the extent (0+ / 0-)

      gerrymandering & other attacks on democracy are a factor in what politicians calculates is in their career interest, ask "Are they fighting to restore fair elections?"  Fair elections are basic. If they won't protect fair elections, we need different elected officials.  If they were fighting for fair elections, but voting on other legislation with unfair elections in mind, that might take some thought.  However, the small number of elected Democrats who are seriously involved in restoring fair elections suggests the same factors that prevent them from good voting on other matters also apply to working for fair elections.  It's sort of a circular logic within the current system - you can't work for fair elections because we don't have fair elections.  We need people who aren't just thinking about their careers to take it on.

    •  You say: ". . . won't measure up to the amount (0+ / 0-)

      of support they could in essence 'buy' with the money they'd get from serving business interests?"

      Short answer:  Yes, many Dems and Repubs think this way.

      Mollie

      "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson

      hiddennplainsight

      by musiccitymollie on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 08:48:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think it should be increased so NO person on SS (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    musiccitymollie

    is below the official poverty line. I have known people living on Social Security who had to eat dog food because that was all they could afford after paying for their must pay bills.

    We can not consider ourselves to be a responsible country when we lag behind many other countries in how we care for the people who's shoulders we stand on to be where we are today.

    Our money system is not what we have been led to believe. The creation of money has been "privatized," or taken over by private money lenders. Thomas Jefferson called them “bold and bankrupt adventurers just pretending to have money.” webofdebt

    by arealniceguy on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:37:23 PM PST

    •  You're spot on. Don't have the info at my (0+ / 0-)

      fingertips, but just read recently that our "measure of poverty" is greatly 'out of whack' compared to that of all the other OECD nations.

      Even a country that has very high inequality in Europe, Great Britain, measures there poverty level at a much higher percentage of the median income, then does the US.

      Seems like it was in the neighborhood of approximately 60% there, and in the US is closer to only 30%.  Other countries have even more generous measurements than Great Britain and the US.  [Link]

      That's where the real problem is.  Defining poverty down.

      It is a travesty that in a nation with 425 billionaires (Forbes and Wikipedia--here's the link), almost one out of sixteen people in the USA are living in deep poverty.

      The US Census Bureau defines people in deep poverty when they make 50% below the poverty line; Census figures show that, in 2011, 6.6 percent of all people, or 20.4 million people, lived in deep poverty.

      This absurd "measurement" is where we need to start, if we truly want to tackle inequality.

      And certainly Social Security benefits need to be raised for the bottom four quintiles.  

      I will post some videos during the Social Security blogathon, including one of the President of the NASI (National Academy Of Social Insurance) stating that 4 out of 5 individuals depend "heavily" on their Social Security benefits. [Which means that it is either their primary or only source of retirement income.]

      Thanks for holding this event.  Not sure that anything will change the trajectory that the PtB are on (in regard to dismantling the social safety net), but maybe this will wake up many folks who are oblivious to the cuts that are being proposed, and in some circles, seriously considered.

      Thanks.

      Mollie

      "If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson

      hiddennplainsight

      by musiccitymollie on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 08:44:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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