Majority favors taxing rich, ending war to cut deficit

In a sign that most Americans favor a progressive social agenda, a recent public opinion poll revealed that a solid majority of respondents want to curtail military commitments abroad, raise taxes on the rich and close tax loopholes for large corporations.

At the same time, the survey shows that the Republican political establishment is out of sync with the views of the Republican base on these and other questions.

According to results of a survey released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press earlier this month, in order to reduce the national debt and deficit:

  • 66 percent favored increasing taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year
  • 65 percent favored reducing military commitments overseas
  • 62 percent favored limiting tax deductions for large corporations

The attitude for decreasing military presence abroad corresponds with the public view - held by six-in-ten - that the cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has contributed greatly to the national debt, more than any other factor tested.

This public sentiment was no doubt an important factor in President Barack Obama's recent decision to scale back troop presence in Afghanistan.

The findings also reveal that the Republican political establishment appears to be at odds with the majority of the Republican base. Sixty-two percent of Republicans approved limiting corporate tax deductions and 56 percent favored reducing military engagements abroad.

While Republican leaders in Congress stand firm against raising income taxes (for the rich), Republican respondents were evenly divided (49 to 49 percent) on whether to support increasing taxes on income over $250,000 to reduce the national debt.

Meanwhile, the poll finds widespread opposition to measures being promoted by Republican Congressional leaders aimed to reduce the deficit and national debt:

  • 73 percent of respondents overall (64 percent of Republicans) disapprove of cutting funds for the states for education and roads
  • 73 percent overall (70 percent of Republicans) disapprove of taxing employer-provided health insurance
  • 59 percent generally (51 percent of Republicans) oppose gradually raising the Social Security retirement age
  • 54 percent generally (43 percent of Republicans) oppose reducing programs that help low-income Americans. Of the four, this is the only issue on which a majority of Republicans (52 percent) goes along with Republican political leaders.

Despite the Republican propaganda machine's best efforts, the figures demonstrate that clear majorities understand what is in their and the nation's best interests.

The study also reflects the positive impact on public opinion of issue-oriented campaigns led by labor and other popular movements in conjunction with center-left politicians and political figures in the Democratic camp, including the president on several issues he has championed.

The survey further showed that public concern for the budget deficit increased since last year. May 25-30, when the survey was conducted, 28 percent cited the budget deficit as the economic issue that most worries them, up from 24 percent in March and 19 percent in December.

This appears to demonstrate the influence that the powerful Republican propaganda blitzkrieg - coupled with the acquiescence of some Democratic politicians - is having on people's thinking.

However, the job situation remains the number one concern for even more Americans - 38 percent said they worry most about jobs, up slightly from March (34 percent), though down from 47 percent in December.

While the March and May figures suggest a somewhat (albeit anemic) overall improvement in the job situation, it also shows the need for a more robust movement for jobs - all the more so given the increased likelihood of a double dip economic downturn.

Massive jobs' creation is a sure way to bring down the federal deficit because it will expand the tax base.

Contrary to Republican claims, increasing taxes on the rich, closing tax loopholes of the large corporations and transferring monies from a reduction in foreign military engagement - all of which enjoy widespread public support as the poll indicates - would go a long way in reducing the deficit and financing a jobs' program.