A recent post at Maddowblog began with the following observation:
Since so much of the public has no idea what the debt ceiling is, what default is, what bond markets are, or what the full faith and credit of the United States means, polling on the subject just doesn’t tell us much.
The post went on to describe a different sort of poll that proved the point; it asked about the debt ceiling, but phrased the same question two different ways. When asked simply whether Congress should raise the debt ceiling, respondents were pretty evenly split. The second version asked whether Congress should prevent the government from borrowing money in order to pay its debts; 73% of those responding to the question when it was posed that way said such a step would seriously harm the economy, and opposed it. Only 22% approved.
The American people aren’t stupid. When the question is asked using language citizens understand, they resoundingly offer the right answer. The lesson of this–and multiple other examples–is twofold: (1) the public is generally unfamiliar with the language of its own government, with many equating “raising the debt ceiling” with incurring new debt; and (2) polls that politicians reference to “prove” that the American public is on their side of an issue tend to be worthless and/or deceptive.
Thanks to their own extremism and lack of elementary economic knowledge, the Tea Party zealots who have captured one of America’s major parties and the House of Representatives are poised to do substantial damage to the people they have been elected to represent.
Pundits from both Left and Right (even Karl Rove!) predict that the government crisis they are determined to precipitate will create a backlash that can only hurt the GOP, but those warnings are falling on deaf ears. As a friend of mine used to say, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.
The broad, sane middle of the American public will need to batten down the hatches and prepare for a totally unnecessary period of fiscal and economic misery–brought to us by people motivated by one and only one “principle”–ensuring that thirty million Americans currently without health insurance don’t get access to healthcare.
And to make sure they don’t, they’re willing to plunge the country into another recession.
Excuse me while I go hit myself some more with that hammer….