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Obama Poll Watch -- February, 2010

[ Posted Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 – 14:54 PST ]

Sinking Slowly

That's a pretty negative subtitle, but unfortunately it is true. February's poll numbers for Barack Obama showed a continuation of a slow slide downwards in approval, and a slow rise upwards in disapproval. His approval and disapproval numbers have not actually crossed yet, but they are within kissing distance of doing so.

The only good news in this situation is the "slowly" part. Obama's approval numbers, for the past six months, have dropped just under five percent. To put this in perspective, plenty of other presidents have had such a drop within a single month. But that's about the most positive thing that can be said, since the trajectory is so inexorably downward.

When will Obama turn this around? Will Obama turn this around? Well, there is a little good news recently, and Obama's numbers have gotten a bounce from his health reform "summit," but as this was at the end of February, it doesn't show up yet in the monthly figures, and it remains to be seen whether he will sustain it or not throughout March. But we'll all have to wait until next month to see the outcome.

For now, let's take a look at Obama's numbers for last month, and then continue our march back through the history of other presidential polling, with a peek at Lyndon Johnson's numbers.

Data for every president from the present back to L.B.J. is available, as always, at the ObamaPollWatch.com website, including up-to-date comparison charts with Obama's numbers so far.

Obama Approval -- February 2010

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]

 

February 2010

February, for both Obama and Democrats in general, was a month of regrouping, after the stunning upset victory of a Republican in a special election in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat. This ended the brief 60-vote supermajority Democrats held in the Senate (which wasn't as long as some in the media have been portraying it, because it didn't even exist until Al Franken was finally seated). Democrats, being Democrats, spent a full month of handwringing and swooning over this turn of events.

Obama got practically no "bump" in the polls from his State Of The Union address at the end of January, and while he has shown some signs of leadership since, they have largely passed unnoticed by the public at large. This, of course, is due to the endless health reform debate still dominating the political news. Obama did show some initiative when he announced an unprecedented meeting -- live on television -- with the congressional leadership over the issue, and while the jury's not in yet in the polls fully, it does seem to have done him some good with the public (if not with Republicans who attended).

But all of this took its tolls in Obama's poll numbers. For the month, his approval was down 1.3 percent, to 47.9 percent, another new low in all-time monthly approval for Obama. His disapproval rate rose to another all-time high of 46.1 percent, up 0.8 percent from the previous month.

 

Overall Trends

Overall, the trends continue to worsen for Obama. His approval numbers slide downward, and his disapproval climbs upward. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there it is.

When you look at the daily graphs, Obama's poll numbers came as close to meeting each other as is statistically possible without actually doing so on the next-to-last day of the month, when his disapproval spiked to 47.1 percent and his approval barely stayed above water at 47.2 percent. Obama's approval rate fell pretty consistently throughout most of February, but then rallied a bit at the end, possibly gaining a "bump" from his health "summit" meeting. His daily approval numbers started the month on a high point at 49.8 percent, then fell to a low of 47.1 percent on the twentieth. This rose a bit, to 47.8 as the month ended. Ominously, though, this is the first month yet that Obama's daily rating never topped 50 percent.

The good news, such as it is this month, is that while Obama's approval fell almost a point and a half, his disapproval moved upwards more slowly. His disapproval rate bounced around a bit day-to-day, but when averaged out, stayed fairly consistent throughout the entire month, rather than showing much of an increase over time. This average was eight-tenths of a point higher than last month's average, but really didn't move much the entire month, as it had been doing previously. Obama's disapproval started in the middle at 46.0 percent, fell to 45.3 percent mid-month, and then rose to 47.2 percent at the end.

But that's not much in the way of good news, I realize. The question at this point is will Obama actually turn this slide around next month, or will his poll numbers actually cross each other (where more people disapprove of his handling of his job than approve)? Well, Obama is entering the month of March on a bit of an upswing, but the real answer to this question is likely the same as the answer as to whether Congress passes health reform or not this month. At this point, the public is not giving Obama (or much of anyone in Washington, for that matter) the benefit of any doubt. The only thing which will change things is action. Whether this action (assuming a bill gets signed) proves to help Democrats or hurt them is still an open question, depending on which polls you believe on the subject, but one thing is painfully certain -- not passing anything will likely mean Obama's downward slide will continue.

 

Obama v. Lyndon Johnson

As I mentioned last month, while I'm going to continue creating charts for past presidents on a monthly basis (until we get to F.D.R., the first president with any real opinion polling data available), the further we go back in time, the harder it gets to draw any parallels between the past and the present.

This month, we move back to the turbulent 1960s, by taking a look at Lyndon Baines Johnson. L.B.J. finished Kennedy's term out, then was elected to a full term in 1964, before dramatically deciding not to run in 1968 (since he had served less than half a term after J.F.K. was assassinated, he was still eligible to serve a second full term from 1969-1973, had he run).

First, a quick look at L.B.J.'s first term (what there was of it):

Lyndon

[Click on graphs to see larger-scale versions.]

[I apologize for the gap during the election season, as the site I use for data has gaps for certain election years. If anyone knows a site with more complete data, please point me to it.]

Johnson began his term immediately after the death of John F. Kennedy, and as a result had pretty high poll numbers for his entire first term, which only lasted a little over a year. Johnson rode these high numbers into the 1964 election. When L.B.J. took over, the first poll taken in early December, 1963, showed him with a 2.0 percent disapproval rating. This has got to be a low point in the entire history of public opinion polls. Other presidents (both Bushes, for instance) got higher approval ratings at times (immediately after we went to war), but nobody has ever had a lower disapproval rate than 2.0 percent, I believe. Johnson's approval started in the high 70s and ended up in the low 70s.

Lyndon

[Click on graphs to see larger-scale versions.]

L.B.J.'s second term, however, was a lot more contentious. As the Vietnam War dragged on, Johnson's popularity suffered. He started off with extremely high approval (71) and extremely low disapproval (15), but these numbers got worse slowly, until they finally crossed about two years into his term. From about the middle of 1966 through the end of his term, L.B.J.'s approval and disapproval numbers bounced back and forth chaotically between about the high 30s and low 50s.

Obama v. Johnson -- February 2010

[Click on graphs to see larger-scale versions.]

For completeness' sake, here is the comparison between Obama's and L.B.J.'s poll numbers, so far. Not much in the way of conclusions can be drawn, however, since Obama doesn't face anything like the backlash Johnson faced over the military draft and the Vietnam quagmire.

Next month, we'll take a look at J.F.K.'s short time in office. Until next time, this column sinks slowly in the West....

 

[Obama Poll Watch Data:]

Column Archives

[Jan 10], [Dec 09], [Nov 09], [Oct 09], [Sep 09], [Aug 09], [Jul 09], [Jun 09], [May 09], [Apr 09], [Mar 09]

 

Obama's All-Time Statistics

Monthly
Highest Monthly Approval -- 2/09 -- 63.4%
Lowest Monthly Approval -- 2/10 -- 47.9%

Highest Monthly Disapproval -- 2/10 -- 46.1%
Lowest Monthly Disapproval -- 1/09 -- 19.6%

Daily
Highest Daily Approval -- 2/15/09 -- 65.5%
Lowest Daily Approval -- 2/20/10 -- 47.1%

Highest Daily Disapproval -- 2/27/10 -- 47.2%
Lowest Daily Disapproval -- 1/29/09 -- 19.3%

 

Obama's Raw Monthly Data

[All-time high in bold, all-time low underlined.]

Month -- (Approval / Disapproval / Undecided)
02/10 -- 47.9 / 46.1 / 6.0
01/10 -- 49.2 / 45.3 / 5.5
12/09 -- 49.4 / 44.9 / 5.7
11/09 -- 51.1 / 43.5 / 5.4
10/09 -- 52.2 / 41.9 / 5.9
09/09 -- 52.7 / 42.0 / 5.3
08/09 -- 52.8 / 40.8 / 6.4
07/09 -- 56.4 / 38.1 / 5.5
06/09 -- 59.8 / 33.6 / 6.6
05/09 -- 61.4 / 31.6 / 7.0
04/09 -- 61.0 / 30.8 / 8.2
03/09 -- 60.9 / 29.9 / 9.2
02/09 -- 63.4 / 24.4 / 12.2
01/09 -- 63.1 / 19.6 / 17.3

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

18 Comments on “Obama Poll Watch -- February, 2010”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I wonder how Obama's poll numbers might change if the media was actually the least bit capable of doing its job, notwithstanding the obvious deficiencies on the communication front across the Obama administration.

    President Obama has many problems to deal with - simultaneously - but his biggest problem continues to be the dysfunctional and toxic media and political culture - to borrow a phrase from another wise Californian - and the ineptitude and incompetence that run rampant through both.

    Consequently, a dangerously ill-informed electorate doesn't do President Obama - or his poll numbers - any good, either.

    It is during times like these that I wish Vice President Biden would rekindle his ‘Augean Stables’ speech. But, the media would get it all wrong again, anyway ... so why bother.

  2. [2] 
    akadjian wrote:

    What I wish Obama would have said in the healthcare debate:

    "It's clear Republicans are going to oppose this bill no matter what. They hate single payer. We compromise. We get no support. They hate the public option. We get rid of it. No support. They want tort reform. We add it. No support.

    Are you picking up on the pattern here? We could bring Reagan back from the dead and throw him into the bill and Republicans wouldn't support it.

    No I always thought that compromise meant both sides giving a little. Would you continue talking with someone who only told you what he wanted all the time? No.

    It's clear they're positioning themselves for the next election so we're going to move forward without them."

    This is what the public wants to hear. Quit dicking around with them. No matter how much you try to compromise with them they're going to turn around and call you a socialist. It's been going on for over a year.

    This is the kind of message that would improve his poll numbers.

    -David

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    David,

    "It's clear Republicans are going to oppose this bill no matter what.

    Uhhh.. Don't YOU oppose Crapcare???

    If so, how can you blame the GOP for opposing it as well??

    They hate single payer.

    As do many Democrats...

    We compromise. We get no support. They hate the public option. We get rid of it. No support. They want tort reform. We add it. No support.

    Tort Reform is NOT added to CrapCare. According to Obama, they will "look into" Tort Reform..

    That's it...

    There is no "compromise" in CrapCare. There is none whatsoever.. Obama has placed a few "well, we'll look into it"s Republican ideas sprinkled here and there and calls that "compromise"..

    What a crock o' crap...

    Regardless. Sorry, folks. It's only going to get worse.

    Here's the deal. If President Obama refuses to abandon CrapCare and put forth some REAL reform this will only go one of two ways. Both ways are disasters for Democrats.

    CrapCare will fail utterly and completely because Pelosi can't pull in enough votes to pass the Senate version of CrapCare as it stands. This is the most likely scenario and it will be completely devastating for Democrats. Dems won't be able to blame Republicans for this at all. It will show the public that Democrats, even with every legislative and majority advantage possible, can't do dick. And the voters will carry this to the polls..

    The second option is no more palatable for Democrats. Under this scenario, the House barely passes the Senate version of CrapCare as is.. Then the Senate, thru reconciliation passes the "changes". This is the exact same sort of crazy partisanship that the American people have rejected time and time again. A full 75% (SEVENTY FIVE PERCENT!!!) of Americans do NOT want CrapCare passed into law.. So, how do you think that 75% will feel if Democrats force it thru on a hyper-partisan basis?? That 75% will vote GOP and it will be a massacre at the polls for Democrats.

    It's amazing. Once again, Democrats back themselves into a lose-lose corner.

    What IS it about Democrats that make them always snatch defeat from the jaws of victory??

    Michale.....

  4. [4] 
    Moderate wrote:

    I wonder how Obama's poll numbers might change if the media President was actually the least bit capable of doing its his job

    Fixed.

    (Sorry, couldn't resist ;-))

    They want tort reform. We add it. No support.

    Oh come on. There's no actual tort reform in the bill, it simply incentivises existing state programs, and worse yet, it exempts ones that limit damages, which has been shown to be by far the most effective reform of medical malpractice. That's not tort reform.

    Basically it's "tort reform" if malpractice lawyers got to write it, which Howard Dean intimated they practically did. Now if there was true tort reform in the bill and it still didn't get Republican votes, you'd have a leg to stand on. But that's not the case.

    We could bring Reagan back from the dead and throw him into the bill and Republicans wouldn't support it.

    I doubt Obama's going to be making any more "dead Reagan" gaffes again.

    I always thought that compromise meant both sides giving a little.

    It'd be nice for the Democrats to actually give a little, instead of smoke and mirrors making it look like they've given. Every single Republican idea is voluntary.

    The CBO themselves have already said leaving tort reform to the states will not yield the same level of cost saving as a federal program. Allowing the states to set up interstate trade is going to change nothing. If they wanted to do it, they'd have done it already.

    So all that does is to preserve the status-quo whilst pretending to concede to the Republicans and asking for concessions in return. Nice try, but no cigar.

    Would you continue talking with someone who only told you what he wanted all the time? No.

    Which the Republicans would say explains why they won't even discuss healthcare if the Senate bill is the starting point. Right now it still contains many of the Democrats' ideas, and none of the Republicans' (other than watered down to nothing). Yet the Democrats insist it must be the foundation of a bipartisan bill. Is that really bipartisanship?

    In that case, you can keep it. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer my partisanship to be open, not cloaked in a veil of faux bipartisanship.

    It's clear they're positioning themselves for the next election so we're going to move forward without them.

    The exact same thing could be said of the Democrats. November looms large for both. Democrats suspect passing HCR will boost their chances, Republicans know that opposing it will boost theirs.

    This is what the public wants to hear.

    Not sure it is. Several of the "purple" states have an overwhelming amount of voters who oppose HCR. He may gain back some of the dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, but I suspect he'd lose a lot of independents. The insurance mandate, in particular, is very unpopular with independents.

    they're going to turn around and call you a socialist.

    Aw, but it's so much fun! I don't actually think he's a socialist, but it is a lot of fun to call him one and watch left-wingers cringe. Come on, you guys had your fun with Bush, it's our turn now ;-).

    This is the kind of message that would improve his poll numbers.

    Actually, suspect it'd probably hurt his poll numbers, given the increasing number of independent voters in the country, and those opposed to HCR on the rise too.

  5. [5] 
    Moderate wrote:

    Aw crap. Strikethrough doesn't work. The first bit was meant to have strikes through "media" and "its" but clearly it didn't work. Anyway...

  6. [6] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Aw, but it's so much fun! I don't actually think he's a socialist, but it is a lot of fun to call him one and watch left-wingers cringe.

    Exactly. It makes great sport. But it shows Republicans aren't really serious in wanting to work on this issue. They're happy with the status quo of uninsured and out of control costs.

    There's very little of the bill left that is "left". Dems already compromised away all the points that progressives want.

    It's pretty clear that no matter what they do, Republicans are going to continue having fun and playing for big gains in November.

    So I'm with you. If you're going to partisan, be partisan. Democrats have nothing to gain by trying to work w/ Republicans.

    The cornerstone of the Republican platform for healthcare right now is opposition. Pure opposition. This means no matter what Democrats put forward, they're going to oppose it. So call this out. Then move forward.

    Keep in mind, Moderate, that I'm only talking politics right now and not trying to argue details of the healthcare plan - which I'm not particularly fond of.

    If two people like you and I were sitting down to negotiate this, I think we could reach some common ground. Why? Because I think we could come to a balance that both covers the uninsured, that doesn't favor corporations over people - and vice versa, and that uses market incentives and an appropriate amount of government oversight.

    But, if we were negotiating, and you went on camera and called me a socialist, I don't know if I'd be inclined to want to sit down at the table with you. And herein lies the problem - it's not 2 people like us. It's a debate taking place where both sides are at the same time trying to jockey for political position.

    I see Obama trying to do this. He scrapped single payer. He's been trying to find a middle ground. These aren't pretend concessions. As I've said, there's very little left that's "left".

    Yet Republicans continue to paint the bill as extreme. This has me questioning, what have they gained by trying to find middle ground. Nothing.

    What I'm arguing for is, do not compromise with Republicans unless you are going to get support from them. Do not compromise with them unless they're going to be serious and not go around playing games and calling you socialist. If that's the way things are going to be, you're not gaining anything by compromising.

    -David

    p.s. Unfortunately, I believe by not following this path that the Dems will end up pleasing no one. This is the way it's shaping up anyways. You're right that single payer would have been more popular with independents than forced insurance. Which is why when it comes to healthcare my personal belief was that if you're not going to pass something good, let it die. But I'm not really arguing about healthcare here. What I'm arguing for is a stronger approach from Democrats.

  7. [7] 
    Moderate wrote:

    So I'm with you. If you're going to partisan, be partisan.

    Precisely. I've no problems with the Democrats using reconciliation, just do it already and let's see what unfolds. If HCR is a success, the Democrats will get all the credit, if it fails, they get all the blame. Sounds good to me.

    The cornerstone of the Republican platform for healthcare right now is opposition. Pure opposition.

    I wouldn't quite go that far, I certainly think tort reform, if it were done the right way, could peel off some Republican votes. But you'd expect me to say that, wouldn't you? ;-) But yes, if we're talking pure politics, I'd suggest that Democrats are better off using reconciliation and just passing it already. It's far from a foregone conclusion that they'll even get enough House votes for that, so all this "bipartisanship" is keeping them from the real issues.

    If two people like you and I were sitting down to negotiate this, I think we could reach some common ground.

    I've always said that two people with common sense could hash out better policies than most governments, of either party persuasion. Like you said, the game of politics and jockeying for position gets in the way too often.

    Yet Republicans continue to paint the bill as extreme.

    Without the public option or single payer, it's certainly not extreme. I'd say it's a bad bill, but there I think even you agree with me, albeit possibly with very different reasons. I actually support a minimal public option, as I think there needs to be a safety net to ensure people don't die needlessly.

    if you're not going to pass something good, let it die.

    I couldn't agree more. There's no point passing a bad bill.

    What I'm arguing for is a stronger approach from Democrats.

    Well, like you, I think by pursuing this current path the Democrats are doing themselves a world of harm. If they pass nothing, or try and pass something with "bipartisanship", they'll lose the progressive voters. Without having any gains from independents (who favour a public option) or Republicans (who want proper Tort reform). They'll please nobody. So yeah, politically, their approach needs to be much stronger, pass their agenda and be judged on what they've done, rather than what they haven't, come November.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    I think ya'all are missing the main issue here..

    Reconciliation is not really where the fight is.

    As disgusting as it is to twist and warp the use of reconciliation to meet partisan needs, the REAL fight will be the House vote.

    The Senate can't do dick with reconciliation until the House passes the Xmas Eve Senate bill AS IS..

    Meaning all of the gross pork barrel goodies for Nebraska, Florida and Louisiana, all of the ABORTIONS FOR EVERYONE ON THE FEDERAL DIME stuff, everything that 75% of Americans oppose will have to be passed by the House and then signed into Law by President Obama.

    THEN...

    Then, the The Joint Committee on Taxation will have to score the reconciliation changes in the context of CrapCare..

    THEN...

    Then, and ONLY then, can the Senate even CONSIDER any reconciliation changes.

    So, it's entirely possible, even LIKELY that the CrapCare we have today, the CrapCare that 75% of Americans oppose, the CrapCare that ya'all have said you oppose yourselves....

    It's likely that THAT CrapCare will remain the law of the land UNCHANGED.

    Do ya'all really want CrapCare to pass??

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Well, like you, I think by pursuing this current path the Democrats are doing themselves a world of harm. If they pass nothing, or try and pass something with "bipartisanship", they'll lose the progressive voters. Without having any gains from independents (who favour a public option) or Republicans (who want proper Tort reform). They'll please nobody.

    Couldn't agree more. Amazing that they've managed to paint themselves into this corner.

    Appreciate your comments because it helps confirm my suspicion that a stronger approach might resonate better with independents. Pass the agenda and then be judged in November. Quit trying to please everyone.

    I'd say it's a bad bill, but there I think even you agree with me, albeit possibly with very different reasons.

    Yup. Getting back to this current healthcare proposal, it would not bother me one bit if it sank.

    And I actually don't think we'd be that far apart on healthcare reform if they'd just let the 2 of us sit down over a couple beers one evening and figure this bloody mess out for them :)

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    What the president has come upon is what i term a "Missouri" electorate - an entire nation of voters who say "show me," because words don't cut it. the only things that will are jobs with reasonable paychecks and decent, affordable health coverage. the president has told us many times about the things he plans to change. now the polls reflect that voters are waiting to be shown. I don't agree with michale's name-calling against health care reform, because i'm still hopeful that it can be improved, but regarding the current state of it we're in accord. Either Big-O delivers something positive or not, and that's how both he and the democrats in congress will be judged.

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    I don't agree with michale's name-calling against health care reform,

    To be fair, it was akadjian who came up with the moniker of "CrapCare"..

    I was perfectly happy with DunselCare... :D

    But we are in 100% agreement.. President Obama and Democrats need to come clean with the American people and give us something that HELPs *US*, not their corporate sponsors..

    Michale.....

  12. [12] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Alan Grayson leading the GOP - yes, GOP - primary. Fascinating ...

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/04/grayson-leading-in-republ_n_486090.html

    Now they obviously don't like him because he's compromising w/ conservatives ... could it be because he states what he believes in?

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    Now they obviously don't like him because he's compromising w/ conservatives ... could it be because he states what he believes in?

    You mean like Joe Wilson?? :D

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    akadjian wrote:

    You mean like Joe Wilson?? :D

    It is interesting how the right is taking the tactics of 60s radicals, radicals that they supposedly despise, and using them to support their corporate agenda.

    I think this is a good thing for progressives since the right did such a good job de-legitimizing these tactics that they now appear to be the fringe.

    -David

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    It is interesting how the right is taking the tactics of 60s radicals, radicals that they supposedly despise, and using them to support their corporate agenda.

    You mean like those that support CrapCare?? :D

    No matter what example ya come up with, David... I can always point to the Left just as easy as you can point to the right??

    You were dead on ballz accurate before when you said that, to really get things done in a fair and honest way, we need common people like us setting things up. :D

    Michale.....

  16. [16] 
    akadjian wrote:

    No matter what example ya come up with, David... I can always point to the Left just as easy as you can point to the right??

    I'm sorry you feel that everything is "right" vs. "left," Michale. I've always argued that this is a false dichotomy that perpetuates the status quo.

    The real story here is one of class - upper, middle, and lower class. The upper has never owned more, the lower less, and the middle is disappearing.

    So I'm in favor of anyone who understands this issue, is willing to talk about it, and wants to fight to help reverse the trend - whether they be Democrat or Republican.

    The trouble is that both sides talk about this, in different ways mind, when they are up for re-election. Then, when they get into office, it seems to go by the wayside. A bit of a broad generalization here, but this, I think, puts the finger on why the public is in general so frustrated w/ Washington.

    Cheers, Michale, and hope happy hour is sometime soon for you!
    -David

  17. [17] 
    akadjian wrote:

    So I'm in favor of anyone who understands this issue, is willing to talk about it, and wants to fight to help reverse the trend - whether they be Democrat or Republican.

    p.s. This is also why I enjoy discussing this so much with you, Moderate, Chris, and others on this blog. Well ... that and the humor, that is.

    Because I often hear this message at the core. Moderate argues quite often from the standpoint of the middle class with an eye towards we can't neglect the lower class. And though I haven't heard you directly say this, Michale, I think you're in favor of a growing middle class as well. It's a key cornerstone of a healthy economy. This class issue is also oddly enough at the core of both the union and the Tea Party argument.

    But the very wealthy are going to fight tooth and nail to hold onto their piece of the pie and even to expand it. And they often win because they have a lot of resources at their disposal.

    The trouble is that the way wealth is currently divided is not characteristic of a healthy economy. There is too much at the top. We had a healthier economy when there was more in the middle and even at the bottom.

    Those at the top are not paying their fair share into the system. They're able to use their resources to avoid responsibility and pay less percentage wise than the rest of us. It's why folks like Warren Buffett are saying that it's crazy that he pays less, percentage wise, than his secretary.

  18. [18] 
    Moderate wrote:

    The real story here is one of class - upper, middle, and lower class.

    It always has been. One party claims to look after the working class, the other the middle class, but both actually cater to the upper class, because they're the people who bankroll their election campaigns. They talk a good game to win votes, but that's all.

    This is also why I enjoy discussing this so much with you, Moderate, Chris, and others on this blog.

    The reason I enjoy it is because everyone seems to understand the reality of politics. We know how "the game" is played and are able to separate discussion of the issues from the politics. We then engage in honest, mutually respectful, discussion, with an eye on both the issues and the "game" of politics surrounding them.

    Moderate argues quite often from the standpoint of the middle class with an eye towards we can't neglect the lower class.

    Well I'm middle class, but my parents started off as working class. My father left school at 14 and my mother at 16. They started with nothing and worked hard to climb the social ladder. So I feel I'm a good example of what upward mobility is all about.

    What gets me isn't the existence of the class system, but the way that the classes have become immutable. It's becoming a closed shop; the people who've climbed the ladder are stopping others from doing the same. Society functions best when it's meritocratic.

    This class issue is also oddly enough at the core of both the union and the Tea Party argument.

    Well the unions represent the working class, the Tea Party is a middle class group, and both are saying they're fed up of the upper class running things to suit themselves.

    But the very wealthy are going to fight tooth and nail to hold onto their piece of the pie and even to expand it.

    I do sense a small amount of change here, thankfully, with the likes of Buffet and Gates talking a lot about the wealthy paying their fair share. Talk is cheap, though, and it'll be interesting to see what action actually takes place when their money is on the line.

    The trouble is that the way wealth is currently divided is not characteristic of a healthy economy. There is too much at the top. We had a healthier economy when there was more in the middle and even at the bottom.

    Wealth is always better when it "trickles" up. The working class need enough money to employ the middle class professionals (accountants, doctors, lawyers etc), who in turn need to be sufficiently comfortable to buy the luxury goods that those below them just can't afford. Meanwhile the working class makes the goods, and at the end of it all, the upper class should skim off their profits. That's how a functional economy should work.

    Those at the top are not paying their fair share into the system.

    Precisely. The supremely wealthy need to be taxed effectively. What I would propose is rather than increase the rate of tax (because the people who we would want to pay the top rate are clever enough to divert their funds so as to avoid paying the highest rate of tax), levy a surtax on top of the wealthy that has no exceptions or loopholes to it.

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