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Republicans Split by Income on Reducing Deficit vs. Protecting Benefits

Democrats, opportunity is knocking!

The esteemed Dr. Blanchard will tell you it's really Democrats like me, not Republicans like Kristi Noem, who are trying to destroy Medicare, what with our impractical commitment to maintaining benefits over reducing the deficit.

Even if Dr. Blanchard is right, I take some small republic-destroying comfort in knowing that a lot of Republicans agree with me. Of course, they're not the rich Republicans like Kristi. They're the Republicans closer to my general income bracket—you know, the "Not sure where the money for September's mortgage payment is coming from; sure hope we don't get sick" class.

New data from the Pew Research Center finds Republicans a party divided on budget priorities. Last month Pew asked folks which is more important, reducing the deficit or keeping Social Security and Medicare benefits the way they are. A slim plurality of all Republicans, 47%, prefer protecting benefits over reducing the deficit, as do a resounding majority, 71%, of Democrats.

Prioritizing reducing deficit vs. maintaining benefits | Pew Research Center, June 2011That result alone says that if the election were held today, on that issue, Kristi Noem would lose hard on her vote to support the Ryan plan to destroy Medicare. (Dems, you should be lining up for the 2012 primary!)

But look more closely at the GOP numbers. Relatively well-off Republicans (at least I consider clearing $75K "well-off") prioritize deficit-reduction over preservation of old folks' social safety net by a margin of 63% to 29%. The numbers flip among Republicans making less, including a remarkable mirror image among the under-$30K Republicans, with 62% saying they'd focus on protecting Social Security and Medicare before reducing the deficit.

Notice that among Democrats, there is no such class split on these issues. Sure, our rich Dems are a little less focused on the safety net, but all three income groups field over two-thirds majorities saying Social Security and Medicare come first.

Now we could all be driving the fiscal bus toward a cliff. These huge majorities of grandma-loving Democrats and non-rich Republicans may constitute the 57% of Americans who Rep. Noem says don't realize America has a fiscal problem.

But from a political perspective, a huge chunk of Republicans disagree with the biggest priority their party leaders are shouting at them. That chunk is defined by paycheck. Democrats, you can play for this bloc of voters. You can focus your message on peeling this vast swath of blue-collar and even white-collar workers away from the Republicans without endangering support among your own upper-income supporters.

If I'm planning a Democrat campaign, those numbers make me go Yum! And they make my GOP opponent go Yikes!

Related Reason to Run Against Republicans: A couple weeks ago, my mom and dad, who don't look like they've ever cleared $75K in one year and are far less radical than I, received a nice letter from Congresswoman Noem assuring them that she's "protecting critical programs like Medicare." My dad's immediate response: "Who the **** does she think she's *****ing?"


  1. Eve Fisher 2011.07.07

    Maybe. But we're in South Dakota, where it seems people vote for whoever's got an "R" by their names, irregardless of their policies. A lot of people voted for Dugaard, Noem, and Olson because they were Republican, and it just didn't matter what they said. I've talked to some, who were howling later on, but, too late. And, sadly, they'll continue to vote Republican - despite not liking what these elected Republicans are doing - because, well, they're conservative, you know. Logic really doesn't enter into it.

  2. Curtis Loesch 2011.07.07

    If your family median income is not more than (Google it, I don't have time to parse all the numbers and give a definite number), you might vote republican; if you do not think it would be a good thing that the federal government of the United States should be a theocracy and you possibly think it is a good idea that church and state are separate, you might vote republican; if you think rich people are not really poor and won't starve if required to pay a few thousand more in taxes, you might vote republican; if you think a mother with a child(ren) just can't make it on $7.25/hr, (or, imagine a father and mother) you might possibly be a g..d republican; if you think politicians/"goody two-shoes" (there's one from the vault) should keep their long pointy noses out of women's reproductive decisions, you might be a republican; if you think everyone (even immigrants and minorities, not to mention white trash) should be able to have health-care they can actually afford to pay for, you might be a republican; if you think everyone should have at least a minimum of creature comfort and medical service provided in old age, you might be a republican.
    What did I forget?
    You are a moron.

  3. Jim Hock 2011.07.08

    “If you can't answer a man's arguments, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names.”

  4. Stan Gibilisco 2011.07.08

    "... if the election were held today ... Kristi Noem would lose hard on her vote to support the Ryan plan to destroy Medicare."

    As I see it, Ryan wants to prevent Medicare from self-destructing.

    What's the Dems plan to save it?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.07.08

    Eve, I still haven't lost my faith that we can find at least a few of those blue-collar Republican voters whom logic can persuade that they are backing the wrong party. On with the fight!

    Jim, if you're referring to Curtis's comment, Curtis isn't just calling people names. He's offering an excellent summary of GOP policies ought to repel a lot of voters.

    Stan, the Dems are doing a bad job of offering counterplans right now. However, I'll be happy to take the mantle and say the way we save Medicare is to find the political will and revenue to maintain the basic guarantee of health care for all senior citizens. Eliminate the Bush-Obama tax cuts, end the wars, pay our way. I rather like the Bill Fleming plan offered on SDP. Of course, I'd like to think we could save it by expanding the risk pool to include all those healthy, low-cost patients under 65.

  6. Stan Gibilisco 2011.07.08

    Yes, I read Bill Fleming's plan, and agree with pretty much all of it. But he left something out: raising the retirement age!

    As I've mentioned in a couple of other threads (it's been awhile), I'd like to see someone do a feasibility study for an expansion of Medicare to all, funded by a dedicated national retail sales tax (groceries exempt).

    Of course no one will propose such a plan right now if they want to survive politically. Pity. We need the discussion.

  7. LK 2011.07.08


    I'm asking this question not to be snarky but because I really want to hear an answer.

    Do you think that plumbers or cooks or anyone else who does manual labor really can work until 70? Do you really want a 70 year old teaching 2nd grade?

    I'm sure Cory's readers have examples Uncle Festus doing 97 chin-ups before breakfast and working the hungover 19 year old under the table 6 days running, but as a general rule, it I'm not sure that those who need social security the most can really do the jobs they know how to do until the age of 70.

  8. Stan Gibilisco 2011.07.09


    In a word, No. I do not expect people who do heavy manual labor to work until age 70. In fact, for some occupations (building construction, for example), it might be dangerous even to work until age 65.

    I think it would be sort of cool, however, to have a 70-year-old woman or man teaching second grade! Well, maybe. If a teacher wants to work until she's 80, and if she remains qualified, she ought to be allowed to work until she's 80.

    Guess we all have some details, exceptions, and fudge factors to work out here. (If only life were simple!) Meanwhile, I hope never to retire. If I live to be 100, I hope to be able to work until I'm 100. But then, all I'll have to do it sit there and pound away on a keyboard.

    I do hope that I can still swim laps when I'm 100 ... or at least walk back and forth across the pool like a local great-granddad that I know.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.07.09

    Just curious: could we designate certain dangerous physical jobs as having an earlier retirement age? But then that assumes that a construction worker sticks with construction all his life and doesn't change careers like everyone else. That also assumes that physical jobs are inherently harder than mental jobs, I bias I get from my blue-collar dad.

    Job-based retirements ages also would miss the natural variance in ability that LK mentions above. Could we means test the retirement age? Bring Uncle Festus in to the local Social Security office and ask him to show us those chinups. If he can do 20, he can keep working. If not, hand him his first Social Security check and tell him he has the day (and the rest of his days) off.

  10. Ken Blanchard 2011.07.10

    I feel like Jor-El in the first Superman movie. He knows that Krypton is about to explode. The evidence is clear. Everyone else sort of knows it too, but it's just too terrible to face so they deny it and do nothing about it. One of his old friends urges him to "be reasonable." That would be you, Cory.

    If the CBO is even near the truth, we are well on our way to situation Greece is now facing. Only there won't be any Germany to bail us out. That is what you are valiantly fighting for.

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