By wide margins, Americans oppose Republican agenda

BY WIDE MARGINS, AMERICANS OPPOSE REPUBLICAN AGENDA…. To hear congressional Republicans tell it, they have their finger on the pulse of public opinion. The “American people” stand behind the far-right GOP agenda, not those rascally Democrats. After seeing the Greek debt crisis on TV, Americans even support slashing entitlements.

It’s hard to overstate how hopelessly misguided this is. The American mainstream and congressional Republicans have wildly different priorities and beliefs. If the GOP is working under the assumption that voters love its agenda, the party is making a tragic mistake.

A McClatchy-Marist poll released yesterday found a whopping 80% of the country opposes cutting Medicare or Medicaid as part of a deficit-reduction plan. Even among self-described conservatives, 69% want Congress to leave Medicare and Medicaid alone. What’s more, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans also support raising taxes on the wealthy. What Americans want, in other words, is the opposite of what Republicans are offering.

New data from the Washington Post-ABC News poll bolsters the point.

Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. Most also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support.

Opposition to cutting Medicaid is very strong, with 69% against the idea. Opposition to cutting Medicare is even more overwhelming, with 78% opposed. The only popular idea for deficit reduction is “raising taxes on Americans with incomes over 250-thousand dollars a year,” which is endorsed by 72% of the country. Even most rank-and-file Republicans agree with the idea.

The same poll, without identifying names or parties, described Paul Ryan’s House budget plan, as it relates to Medicare. A 65% majority opposes the agenda, and wants Medicare to stay intact.

What’s more a 59% majority wants policymakers to take a balanced approach — some tax increases, some spending cuts — to deficit reduction, which is the opposite of what Republicans think.

In 2009, after a massive misinformation campaign undermined public support for health care reform, congressional Republicans decided that opinion polls are the single most important factor policymakers should consider, especially when dealing with controversial changes to the status quo. For politicians to simply ignore overwhelming poll results was offensive and arrogant, undermining core American ideals like “consent of the governed.”

Here’s a question for those same Republicans, two years later: do you still believe that? And if so, don’t you have a responsibility to scrap your wildly unpopular budget plan?