Awash in the sound and fury of today’s anti-tax crusaders — the refusenik governors, the tea party attendees, the screamers of “socialism,” the Ayn Rand-loving libertarians “going Galt,” the op-ed writing de facto leaders of the Republican party, the just plain fools — you would think there was significant disagreement among the U.S. population on the big tax-spending stimulus package.
All of the racket generated in the days since this surprising piece was published by Republican pollster Frank Luntz at the end of January drowned out what polls have demonstrated: Americans agree the government should spend whopping amounts of tax dollars in order to get people working again and spending money in order to get more people working and spending money.
Faced with the kind of noise that the Limbaughs and Malkins and Sanfords of our political life can generate, it’s worth quoting Luntz at length:
I’m a pollster and political consultant associated with Republican causes: the Contract with America, the “death tax” and, of course, ending wasteful Washington spending. So why am I behind the new stimulus legislation — the biggest spending bill ever to be considered by Congress? Maybe because when it comes to some things — crumbling schools, overcrowded highways, an ineffective energy system, clean-water facilities that don’t clean water and trains and planes that are always late — we’re all on the same side.
Last month, I conducted a national survey of 800 registered voters on their attitudes toward infrastructure investment … The survey’s findings were unlike any other issue I have polled in more than a decade …
Fully 84% of the public wants more money spent by the federal government — and 83% wants more spent by state governments — to improve America’s infrastructure. And here’s the kicker: 81% of Americans are personally prepared to pay 1% more in taxes for the cause. It’s not uncommon for people to say they’d pay more to get more, but when you ask them to respond to a specific amount, support evaporates. (That 74% of normally stingy Republicans are on board for the tax increase is, to me, the most significant finding in the survey.)
This isn’t “soft” support for infrastructure either. It stretches from Maine to Montana, from California to Connecticut. Democrats (87%) and Republicans (74%) are prepared to, in Barack Obama’s words, put skin in the game, which tells you just how wide and deep the support is.
Luntz is ready to move on to discussing how exactly we can most productively and, with limited waste, spend the money we all want to spend. That seems like genuine and helpful analysis and commentary. The rest is entertainment.