Hold that thought.
Senator Bernie Sanders is very upset by the blocking of the Democrats’ “Build Back Better” package. “Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for $ 3.5 trillion better construction legislation,” Sanders said in a statement, “and the need to cut prescription drug costs, to expand the health insurance to cover dental, hearing and vision care… ”and so on.
But as the National Review’s Charles Cooke wrote, Sanders’ statement refutes. In the next paragraph, says the Vermont senator, “the polls also show that although President Biden introduced this proposal five months ago, a majority of Americans have very little knowledge of what is in this bill. “. Sanders adds: “It’s hard to ask people to trust their government when they have little understanding of what their government is trying to do.”
As Cooke rightly notes, it’s strange to simultaneously claim that a bill is extremely popular and that a majority of Americans have no idea what’s in it.
But Sanders thinks it’s proof that the mainstream media fails to educate the public. The individual elements of the bill sound good, hence the claim that it is popular. “The foundations of American democracy are threatened not only by extremism, but by ignorance and lack of knowledge,” he exclaims.
I’m all for dispelling ignorance, but Sanders perpetuates a myth that also harms democracy – in particular, that massive welfare spending is very popular with American voters.
In 2016, Vox polled Bernie Sanders’ proposals for nationalized healthcare and free tuition. They did not survey the general public; they interviewed Bernie Sanders’ own supporters. Unsurprisingly, respondents favored single-payer health care. But when asked if they would be willing to personally pay more for it, support plummeted. Two-thirds said the maximum they would be willing to pay in additional taxes for “free” health care was $ 1,000 per year, or about $ 83 per month. That number includes the 8% of Sanders supporters who said they would not be willing to pay anything for universal health care.
The cheap socialists are not the story here. Americans in general don’t want to pay much – out of pocket – for what progressives constantly say America demands.
A Washington Post poll in 2019 found that 68% of Americans were in favor of taxing “rich families” to pay for the fight against climate change. But when asked if they would agree to pay an extra $ 2 per month on their electric bills, support fell to less than 47%. That same year, an AP-NORC poll asked people if they would be willing to spend an extra $ 10 a month on their energy bills to fight climate change. Some 68% of respondents said no.
This is where the truly dangerous ignorance begins. For years, voters have been told that both rich and greedy corporations are an untapped renewable resource that can pay for anything and everything. It’s wrong. You could confiscate all the wealth of the richest 1% and that wouldn’t cover the bill, for example, for the Green New Deal or Medicare for All. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may turn heads as she scribbles “tax the rich” on her prom dresses, but the truth is, we’re doing it already – at a remarkably progressive rate.
There is no room here to explain why I think Biden’s promise that his $ 3.5 trillion package will not be “free” to anyone who earns less than $ 400,000 a year. So let’s pretend it’s true. In the market, popularity is determined by what people are willing to pay with their own money. However, in progressive politics – and in most mainstream media – popularity is determined by what people are willing to charge others. To define public support in this way is misleading.
But even if the rich could pay for everything, democracy does not get richer when voters think that a very small class of people are greedily obstructing economic salvation.
When populist politicians promise that it would be easy to bring that salvation but they don’t, voters feel betrayed and politicians blame sinister and corrupt forces (the “one percent”, vested interests, evil corporations) or supposedly outdated obstacles to progress such as systematic obstruction or even the Constitution itself.
This feeling of betrayal is not conducive to sound politics. This leads to “extreme” demagogues promising to deliver what they claim the corrupt establishment could not.
Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and host of The Remnant podcast. His Twitter handle is @JonahDispatch.
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