May 03, 2007


Caption: This man can barely keep his head above water.

The guiding thread of this week’s Goat Rope has been about the politics of resentment and the disastrous results this has brought to the nation as a whole.

Fortunately, there is some good news.

Ruy Teixeira, writing for the Center for American Progress, reports that public opinion research nonetheless shows that “the public is very willing to extend a helping hand to the least fortunate in society.” In fact, this sentiment is increasing, perhaps due to the growing sense of economic insecurity and growing concerns about inequality:

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January of this year, for example, shows that 69 percent agree that “the government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep” and an identical 69 percent agree that “it is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.” These figures are up 10 and 12 points respectively relative to their recent low point in 1994.

Americans are also willing to consider a wide range of options for helping the poor. The most complete results along these lines are provided by an NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard poll from 2001. As the chart below shows, four proposals garnered 80 percent support or higher: expanding subsidized day care, increasing the minimum wage, spending more for medical care for poor people, and increasing the tax credit for low-income workers. Yet every option offered, even increasing cash assistance for families, received majority support.

The country as a whole needs policies that promote shared prosperity and grow the middle class again. The research shows that people want it. Now we have to make it happen.

NEW TRADE BLOG. People interested in issues of fair trade by want to check out Public Citizen's new "Eyes on Trade" blog.


No comments: