Last year, U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) shared a story from one of his town hall meetings. A constituent stood to demand that Congress keep “government out of my Medicare.” Inglis reminded the constituent that government created and runs Medicare, a truth-telling affront which may help explain why Inglis was defeated by a rightwing tea-party type in the Republican primary a few months ago.
In any event, the constituent’s comment illustrates something I’ve long believed: “government” is just a word for those things voters don’t like. A strong “anti-government” sentiment doesn’t really illustrate that voters want to cut those government programs which benefit them. Alaska, which prides itself on its frontier independence, is the nation’s biggest welfare state.
Now, a new poll has shown just how contradictory voter attitudes are about the role of government and just how difficult it will be for Congress to make significant cuts to government spending. From the WaPo:
A new study by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University shows that most Americans who say they want more limited government also call Social Security and Medicare “very important.” They want Washington to be involved in schools and to help reduce poverty. Nearly half want the government to maintain a role in regulating health care.
The study suggests that come January, politicians in both parties will confront a challenging and sometimes contradictory reality about what Americans really think about their government. Although Republicans, and many Democrats, have tried to demonize Washington, they must contend with the fact that most major government programs remain enormously popular, including some that politicians have singled out for stiff criticism. . .
Even as Americans generally hold Washington in low regard, they still like much of the work it does. Support for government action on such issues as national defense, health care and fighting poverty remains high, in some cases just where it was a decade ago.
Nearly six in 10 say they want their congressional representatives to fight for additional government spending in their districts to spur job creation; fewer (39 percent) want their member of Congress to cut spending, even if that means not as many local jobs. This is a turnabout from September 1994, when 53 percent said they wanted their representative to battle against spending and 42 percent were on the other side.
This oughtta be interesting.