House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News this week that he takes public attitudes seriously.
“Well, in our ‘Pledge to America’ that we outlined almost a year ago, on the eve of the last election, one of the commitments we made was to listen to the American people and to follow the lead of the American people. And trust me, we’re continuing to listen to the American people.
“And the American people are telling us, here’s what you need to do. Stop the regulatory onslaught coming out of Washington. Fix this tax code so that American companies can be more competitive in a worldwide economy. And then thirdly, stop the overspending that’s serving as a wet blanket over our economy.”
What a remarkable coincidence — the agenda congressional Republicans have been pushed repeatedly for years just happens to coincide with what “the American people” are urging GOP officials to do. Amazing.
As a policy matter, Boehner is just economically illiterate. For example, the notion that public investments are hurting the economy — when we know the opposite is true — is a reminder that the Speaker of the House has no idea what he’s talking about.
But what’s really interesting about the quote is that Boehner claims to care about public attitudes. He and his caucus are committed to “listening” to the American mainstream and “following the lead” of the American mainstream.
And that suggests that Boehner not only can’t read economics textbooks, he also can’t read polling data.
Americans’ attitudes are not exactly inscrutable. We know tax increases on the wealthy, for example, are very popular. We know the ideas in the American Jobs Act are also quite popular. We know compromises between the parties are popular. We know policies intended to protect the middle class are popular.
And we know congressional Republicans are not popular.
Boehner, meanwhile, wants to do the polar opposite of what most of the country wants. He is, of course, entitled to do that — there’s no rule that elected leaders have to listen to prevailing public attitudes of the day. If the Speaker wants to make the case that the American mainstream is simply mistaken, and he feels compelled to do what he thinks is right, even if the public disagrees, then Boehner certainly has that option.
But to argue that Americans’ attitudes are in line with Republican priorities, as if all of the polls simply don’t exist, is to live in an alternate universe where our reality has no meaning.
Put it this way: Boehner believes he’s listening to the American people. Fine. Can he point to any evidence of his caucus honoring the public’s preferences on the major issues of the day?