Monday, Jul 28, 2014
It is a persistent belief among many in the political and media establishments, fed by decades of right-wing propaganda, that the United States is a “center-right nation” that finds progressives to be far too liberal for mainstream positions of power.
If you look purely at electoral outcomes, those who assert this appear to have a fairly strong point. The last several decades of federal politics have been dominated by center-right policies and truly left-wing politicians have been largely marginalized (e.g., Bernie Sanders). Even Clinton and Obama — the last two Democratic presidents who, theoretically, should be leftists — are corporate-friendly moderates who have triangulated during negotiations with Republicans to pass center-right policy compromises (e.g., Obama’s Heritage Foundation-inspired ACA or the Clinton Defense of Marriage Act compromise).
While electoral results may support the idea of a center-right nation, looking beyond electoral politics — which involve a mixture of policy choices, party politics, fundraising and propaganda — and focusing purely upon raw policy preferences leaves us with an entirely different picture.
Here is a compilation of polling data from various reputable American polling organizations, describing the policy preferences of the Americans people over the last year.
According to Gallup polling, 59 percent of Americans think that U.S. wealth “should be more evenly distributed” among a larger percentage of the people while only 33 percent thought that the current “distribution is fair.” While this is down from the 2008 modern high point, where 68 percent of Americans supported more redistribution, the public opinion of redistribution has held a stable majority, if not super-majority, for decades.
The fact that such a large number of Americans believes that the distribution of wealth is currently too skewed toward the wealthy is made far more relevant by the fact that they don’t actually know just how skewed the wealth distribution has become. As explained by Michael Norton of the Harvard Business School, Americans think that the current distribution of wealth is far more equal (middle bar graph) than it actually is (top bar graph) — in short, they recognize the problem, but lack an understanding as to just how bad it has become.
According to Pew Research, 69 percent of Americans oppose any cuts to Social Security or Medicare, even in order to cut the deficit, while only 23 percent support such cuts. Additionally, 59 percent oppose cuts on programs assisting the poor in order to address the deficit, while only 33 percent support such austerity.
A multitude of polls have indicated that between 60 percent and 80 percent of Americans support increasing taxes on the wealthy, depending upon how the question is worded and the polling venue — this indicates that a majority of Americans support increasing taxes on top-earners in order to reduce the deficit.
BY Parker Marie Molloy
July 29 2014
Equality Michigan launched a petition urging organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to put an end to their ‘Womyn Born Womyn’ intention on Monday. The rule, which festival organizers insist is not an official policy, has been described by many as transphobic.
“[W]e reject the premise that transgender women are lesser than, we reject that this belief is a tenant of feminism, and we will no longer respect the ‘intention’ or that ‘leaving the onus on each individual to choose whether or how to respect it’ equates to inclusion,” Equality Michigan wrote in a blog post. “To us, this sounds like the arguments we heard around ‘don’t ask, don’t tell‘ — and like that policy, this one just doesn’t work for us.”
Later, the organization calls upon lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to “stand up, even if it is to our own, and make it clear that transgender women deserve to be treated as women in all settings,” and adding, “The time has come, we are drawing a line in the sand, this ‘intention’ can no longer stand.”
The petition calls for an end to the “womyn born womyn” intention, for festival cofounder Lisa Vogel to meet with leaders in the transgender community, for vendors and workshop leaders to publicly voice support for an end to the policy, and for artists and attendees to boycott the festival and instead perform at and support trans-inclusive women’s events. Additionally, the petition calls on performers already committed to this year’s festival to denounce the current policy from the stage, and commit to not participating in future years.
Michfest performer Crystal Bowersox told The Advocate in May that the she believes “in equality for everyone, and I do hope that in the future the Womyn’s Fest will choose to include transgender women. In your heart, in your mind, in your lifestyle, in your body — if you’re a woman, you’re a woman. That’s that.”
Bowersox continued, saying that she remains torn on the issue, and understands the festival’s current stance. She followed this by asking festival management to “open their hearts and minds a little more.”
By Amanda Marcotte
July 30, 2014
If there’s one belief that binds the disparate factions of the American right together, it’s the belief in American exceptionalism, both for the nation and for individuals. The mythology that conservatism is about promoting excellence and encouraging strivers is found throughout conservative media and literature, from the story of John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to Reagan’s description of America as a “shining city on a hill.” While it often manifests as contempt for the poor and the vulnerable, in the abstract this conservative enthusiasm for doing better could, in theory, be channeled productively toward actually pushing people to achieve.
So why are so many conservatives abandoning this enthusiasm for the exceptional in favor of what can only be described as jealous sniping aimed at people who are actually trying to expand the world creatively and scientifically? There’s a lot of high-falutin’ talk on the right about supporting the strivers, but in practice, the conservative response to someone who tries to stick his head above the crowd is to beat it down with a hammer. Conservatives may think of themselves as lovers of excellence, but in reality, “Who do you think you are?” is swiftly becoming an unofficial right-wing motto.
It’s easy to see why, despite their supposed enthusiasm for excellence, conservative pundits would offer up liberal scientists, journalists, and artists as hate objects for their base. This is a time of economic instability and ordinary people are seeing their fortunes declining. It’s easy to turn that anxiety into rage at people conservative audiences think have easy, charmed lives as coastal elites.
But in doing so, conservative pundits are exploiting their audiences, turning their class-based anger away from the people who are actually causing their economic problems, such as the Wall Street elite, and toward people who may be successful but who are not doing any harm to other Americans and are often trying to help them. If you can get your audiences to hate journalists and scientists, they won’t hate the wealthy bankers who actually screwed them over.
By Scott Kaufman
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
A bipartisan congressional resolution that would honor Pope Francis before his potential appearance in Philadelphia next year may not be acted upon because of Republican worries that the pontiff is perceived as being “too liberal,” The Hill reports.
House Resolution 440 aims to “congratulate Pope Francis on his election and recognize his inspirational statements and actions,” but according to one Republican backer of the legislation, the resolution is dead because Pope Francis is “sounding like Obama. [The pope] talks about equality — he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged.”
Republicans are upset because of comments the Pope made concerning the free market. Last November, for example, Francis published his Evangelii Gandium, in which he noted that “[a]s long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
He also specifically attacked President Ronald Reagan’s signature economic policy, “trickle-down theory,” writing that “[s]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
The resolution states that Pope Francis should be honored for, among other things, being the first pontiff from the Americas, as well as “his commitment to economic justice and improving the lives of the poor, and his outreach to individuals from all walks of life have been universally praised and are living examples of Jesus Christ’s message.”