The Public vs. the Media on Unions, Deficits

Today the New York Times reports its new poll (3/1/11):

As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

That’s big enough news, and once again cuts against the People-Don’t-Support-These-Overpaid-Union-Workerstrope.

But there’s more.When the poll asked about fixing the deficit, peoplehad a message rarely heard in the media:

Asked how they would choose to reduce their state’s deficits, those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one. Given a list of options to reduce the deficit, 40 percent said they would increase taxes, 22 percent chose decreasing the benefits of public employees, 20 percent said they would cut financing for roads and 3 percent said they would cut financing for education.

Imagine if the corporate media conversation about deficits were driven more by what the public thinks we should do. Raising revenue is hardly even part of thediscussion.

And a bonus finding–which group of peopleis most supportive of cutting workers’ pay? The Times explains:

Although cutting the pay or benefits of public workers was opposed by people in all income groups, it had the most support from people earning over $100,000 a year. In that income group, 45 percent said they favored cutting pay or benefits, while 49 percent opposed it.

The cut-their-pay pundits don’t reflect public opinions, but theydo a decent job of representingtheir class.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.