Saturday, January 24, 2009

Are the People Ahead of the Politicians?

According to recent polling data, a large majority of Americans support substantial infrastructure spending even if taxes must be raised slightly to pay for it. The debate on the stimulus bill shows the politicians moving in the other direction, however. Republicans oppose most proposals for such spending, pushing instead for greater emphasis on tax cuts, even though tax cuts seem to produce less economic stimulus than increased government spending. Republicans also complain about the increase in the deficit that will be caused by the stimulus bill. (It seems a little late for those kinds of complaints now, considering that the last Republican administration added about $4 trillion to the national debt while neglecting to modernize this country's transportation and energy systems.)

Democrats, on the other hand, want to direct a larger part of the stimulus bill to bailing out state governments, to health care and similar social welfare spending, and a relatively small amount to fixing roads and bridges and such.

So while Republicans protect their ideological positions in the face of massive evidence that their answers are not working, and Democrats want to save their state compatriots from having to raise taxes, while they increase social welfare spending, the people seem to understand and support the type of infrastructure spending that will not only help the economy in the short run, but will also pay us dividends in the future. People are suspicious of bailouts, and government spending in general, but they recognize and support the need to pay for capital improvements. People do not seem to be clamoring for tax cuts.

This seems to be a case where the politicians in both parties would do well to listen to their constituents.

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