Consent Of The Governed
By Nick Paleologos
June 27, 2017
As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, we keep being told that as a country we are hopelessly divided, polarized and siloed. That we are getting exactly what we what we want – indeed what we voted for. But the dirty little secret is this: our system is badly broken. It routinely gives us exactly the opposite of what we want. The simple, documentable truth is that Americans are remarkably unified on most key public policy issues – and have been for decades. Here are just a few examples:
For the past sixteen years (half under a republican president and half under a democrat) the Gallup Poll asked Americans the same question -- eighteen different times:
Do you think it’s the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage, or is that not the responsibility of the federal government?
If you average America’s responses since 2000, it’s not even close:
57% - Yes, healthcare is a federal government responsibility.
40% - No, healthcare is not a federal government responsibility.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Americans are increasingly aware that universal healthcare is a fact of life in Austria, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and even Croatia – for crying out loud. So the arguments that it’s too expensive, or that it can’t be done, or that we are deeply divided on the subject, are all just plain false.
Universal College Education
Last summer, in the heat of the presidential campaign, CNBC reported on a poll asking Americans the following question:
Would you support or oppose making tuition at public colleges and universities free for anyone who wants to attend?
62% - Support free public colleges
35% - Oppose free public colleges
This result should not be a surprise to anyone. Eight million fathers of Baby Boomers built the Great American Middle Class on the back of the GI Bill. We tried this idea already. It worked like a charm. And pretty much everybody knows it.
Universal Background Checks
Here again, the Gallup Poll has asked the same question eleven times over the last twenty-five years and America’s answer, on average, has been remarkably consistent:
In general, do you think the laws governing the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now:
58% - More Strict gun laws
32% - Same gun laws
9% - Less Strict gun laws
Back in the fall of 2015, Gallup asked this question:
Would you favor or oppose a law, which would require universal background checks for all gun purchases in the U.S. using a centralized database across all 50 states?
86% - Favor background checks
12% - Oppose background checks
Call me crazy but that doesn’t look very polarized to me.
Social Security & Medicare
In 2015, on the 50th anniversary of these two laws, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a national survey asking Americans which government programs were very important to them.
Social Security (83%) and Medicare (77%) topped the list – followed closely by: Federal School Aid (75%); the Military (73%); College Loans (64%); and Medicaid (63%). Yet we keep being told that all but the military are “controversial” government spending programs. Go figure.
Tax Cuts For The Rich
Finally, the Gallup Poll asked this question no less than nineteen times in the last twenty-five years:
Tell me if you think upper income people are paying their FAIR SHARE in federal taxes, paying TOO MUCH, or paying TOO LITTLE?
This, on average, is how America has responded since 1992:
65% - Rich people pay TOO LITTLE
22% - Rich people pay their FAIR SHARE
10% - Rich people pay TOO MUCH
Americans clearly understand that the two most recent tax cuts for the rich (under Reagan & GW Bush) were the cause of, and not the cure for, massive annual deficits and an exploding national debt. Yet despite America’s sustained opposition to tax laws that consistently favor the rich at the expense of the working poor and middle class, ever more noxious tax cut proposals just keep on coming.
We are told that America is hopelessly divided on the bread and butter issues. That’s not true.
We are told that we can’t afford the country we want. That’s not true.
Two of our last three presidents got the job after losing the election, most recently by a whopping three million votes.
When the policies most of us want, don’t become law, and the candidates most of us voted for don’t become president, the time is ripe to re-read that document we venerate on July 4th -- especially that second sentence about governments deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed:
“That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it…”