Senate Democrats are having trouble passing a spending bill that would, among other things, extend unemployment benefits and deliver much-needed financial aid to cash-starved states. Today the New York Times (6/18/10) explained the legislative logjam this way:
The spending and tax measure has become caught up in intensifying politics around deficit spending as members of both parties, reacting to rising public concern, have grown reluctant to vote for measures that add to federal red ink.
Reacting to public concern? As we've noted before, there is far more public concern that the government is not doing enough to stimulate job growth. Concern for the deficit comes much further down, when citizens are asked to rank them. (See some of those polls here.) So where reporters are getting this idea is somewhat mysterious (and let's not forget that no one shouldascribe politicians'votes asevidence that they're"reacting" to public sentiment).
A similar idea was expressed in yesterday's Times (6/17/10)by Matt Bai, who argued that anti-corporate populism ("the oppressed are the poor, and the oppressors are the corporate interests who exploit them") is out of fashion, a quaint worldviewthat "made sense 75 years ago."
These days it's Tea Party populism that has taken hold: "This new American populism is why the federal deficit has emerged as a chief concern for voters."
Again,arguments like this would make a lot more sense if there was more evidence that the deficit is a "chief concern for voters."