Are You For Or Against The Actual Idea, Though?

[ Posted Thursday, April 29th, 2021 – 15:25 UTC ]

President Joe Biden has proposed a very ambitious agenda, after he already successfully passed the equally-ambitious American Rescue Plan (to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic). The next two legislative initiatives Biden has now unveiled -- the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan -- are also just as breathtaking in scope. Republicans, at least so far, have been caught rather flatfooted in their response. And it is up to the mainstream media to start pointing this out, by zeroing in on questions of actual policy rather than getting distracted by the GOP's attempts at demonization and misdirection.

Biden's pandemic plan is, so far, extremely popular with the public. It's even more popular when the individual items are broken out and asked, one by one. This is also true of almost everything that is in his second and third plans as well, and yet so far the Republicans have been allowed to object on the weakest of grounds. Their reaction to the American Jobs Act was to parse and hairsplit exactly what they considered was proper "infrastructure" and what was not.

To date, I have yet to see any journalist interviewing any Republican politician ask a rather basic question: "Do you really think the public really cares what category you put it in, or are they just going to support or oppose the initiative on its merits?" This would then lead immediately to much more pointed queries: "Do you support the idea? Why or why not? If you oppose it, please make the conservative case against the idea, because that is all the public really cares about."

When they're not playing grammar police on what properly constitutes infrastructure, Republicans have fallen back on their old favorites -- Biden's plan is "a progressive wish list," or "too far-left," or even (gasp!) "socialism!" But again, this dodges the issue. Is it popular -- does it have bipartisan support with the voters or not? Who cares whether the item came off a "progressive wish list" if people actually like the idea? And maybe -- just maybe, mind you -- a proposal that 60 or 65 percent of the public supports might actually be mainstream, and not "far left" in any way?

In other words, it would be nice if one of these television interviewers would actually commit an act of journalism once in a while. I mean, I'm not exactly holding my breath, but it would indeed be nice to see.

"Senator Whitebread, do you support the idea of two years of free pre-school? You don't? Why not? Do you support two years of free community college for all? Or are you opposed to that? Are you opposed to the concept, or do you just object at how it would be paid for?"

That sort of thing. The list of agenda items in Biden's second and third proposals is a long one, so there really is no shortage of specific subjects to ask about. And the public would dearly like to know why Republicans are against all kinds of things that would directly benefit their lives. This is what progressives have been trying to convince mainstream Democrats of for at least two or three decades, now, and they finally have a champion for commonsense ideas on how government should help people that have always polled very high with the public. Coupled with the fact that most people are now just fine with hiking taxes on giant corporations and ultra-wealthy earners, and Biden truly might have a chance to utilize the bully pulpit for at least a big chunk of his agenda.

But this can only really happen if we start having an actual policy debate about the ideas. And that is not going to happen until the journalists realize they are just being hoodwinked by all the Republican whining about "it's not infrastructure as we define it!" (and all the rest). Why are ideas like Medicare covering home healthcare not worthwhile? What real objection do Republicans have for replacing all the lead pipes in this country? Does the GOP even claim to be the "party of family values" anymore? Then how can they oppose things like paid family leave or the beefed-up child tax credit?

This is the debate we need to have. The Biden agenda needs to be presented and debated seriously, and the Republicans are never going to voluntarily join in this debate -- because they know how popular all this stuff really is. They are instead trying to throw sand in the air to distract us. As they usually do. But this time they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

Journalists need to get beyond horserace idiocy and false equivalency. There just is no Republican plan to do any of this stuff, other than their counteroffer of just one-fourth of the American Jobs Plan. They don't have their own ideas to put on the table, because the status quo is just fine with them. They don't see any need to tackle any of these problems, and even if they did they don't really have any viable solutions to offer.

Other than their standard one, of course: lowering taxes on millionaires must be the answer to everything. But that's not too popular these days either. The Trump tax cut was the least popular tax cut in modern times because everyone could plainly see how all the goodies went to those at the very top of the heap. So cutting the one percent's taxes even further is not a viable political position to even take, at this point.

But the emptiness of the Republican cupboard won't be evident until the political discussion gets a lot more specific. Why shouldn't Democrats use budget reconciliation to pass things like free college and pre-K if people actually want to see those things happen? Republicans used the same tactic to pass the Trump tax cut, after all. Who cares if a program is called "infrastructure" or not, when a vast majority wants to see it enacted?

The Biden White House should push back on this as hard as they can. Democrats should be spending money on public opinion polls which gauge the public's support for each and every item contained within Biden's proposals. And then they should make this information freely available to the media, with the suggested use: "Why not ask Republicans why they're against things their own voters are clearly for?"

Because sooner or later the debate should shift to specifics. Let's have a real policy debate! Let Republicans try to justify opposing wildly popular ideas on the merits of each idea. "Are you for the idea, no matter what you call it? Why not?" should be the proper journalistic response to GOP irrelevancies. Let's move this debate forward, one GOP politician (and one journalist) at a time.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


16 Comments on “Are You For Or Against The Actual Idea, Though?”

  1. [1] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    I appreciate the passionate partisanship, but why would broadcast media ask hard to answer, potentially embarrassing or damaging questions of politicians who they need to have on their shows going forward?

    When you say, " would be nice if one of these television interviewers would actually commit an act of journalism once in a while" you seem to be mistaking television interviewers for journalists. Not sure where that rather silly idea comes from.

    I think it's much more likely and/or hopeful that the Dems, from the president on down, will act like politicians and actively promote the messaging you're talking about: that these proposals for activist government on a national scale are normal, helpful, possible, and good. The television interviewers have to promote equal time to convey non-partisanship, and if the Dems use that time to get their message to the public, it will be up to the public (at least that part that still watches TV) to catch on to the difference between the Dems' positive thinking and the Reps' negativity.

    Or maybe I'm the one dreaming now.

  2. [2] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Re The popularity of Biden's programs.

    Was there ever anybody anywhere anytime, who was against 'freebies' (aka "Goodies for me at somebody else's expense")?

  3. [3] 
    John M wrote:

    [3] C. R. Stucki wrote:

    "Was there ever anybody anywhere anytime, who was against 'freebies' (aka "Goodies for me at somebody else's expense")?"

    There are several things wrong with this:

    1) None of them are freebies... they are all paid for with taxes, the majority being paid by middle class taxes with the benefits going back mostly to the middle class that paid for them in the first place. I.E. Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, etc.

    2) Someone else's expense... interesting phrase. This assumes that there are winners and losers, and that no one derives any benefit at all. This is mindless consumer consumption thinking, an item is used once for pleasure and then thrown away. This is totally false. Whether it is new roads, home health care, education, or child care, they are all investments that benefit society as a whole by improving well being and boosting productivity and even improve overall conditions for the wealthy who might not use such services directly themselves. Ask a wealthy person, are you better off if your workers don't have a high turn over rate, are not sick or absent a lot, are not committing crimes where you have to provide the expense of your own private security services, if you don't have to put out vast sums of your own wealth to educate or train your workers because government has already done it for you, etc. ?

    3) How are tax cuts for the very wealthy, who have neither asked for them to begin with nor derive very much additional benefit from them, not the biggest "freebie" of them all? How is it allowing them to enjoy the benefits that societal infrastructure provides to them, without them having to pay for it, not a freebie? If my millionaire friend gets to use the same airport that my middle class self does, and I paid taxes for its construction, and he paid no taxes because of a tax cut and tax shelter, how is that not a freebie for him?

  4. [4] 
    John M wrote:

    [1] John M from Ct. wrote:

    "I appreciate the passionate partisanship, but why would broadcast media ask hard to answer, potentially embarrassing or damaging questions of politicians who they need to have on their shows going forward?"

    Because it makes for good ratings? Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes used to be famous for this. So was someone named Geraldo Rivera on a show called 2020 also at one time I believe. Not to mention interviews by Barbra Walters, or Walter Cronkite back in the day.

    "When you say, " would be nice if one of these television interviewers would actually commit an act of journalism once in a while" you seem to be mistaking television interviewers for journalists. Not sure where that rather silly idea comes from."

    I think it comes from a time before 24 hour cable TV, reality shows, and FOX News and Rupert Murdoch. Please see the Walter Cronkite reference from above. You know, before we confused the likes of Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson with actual journalists.

  5. [5] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    John M on [5]

    Yes, thanks for the reminder that Chris is remembering an earlier era of broadcast media when investigative and adversary journalism was, if not very common, at least a viable business model for the largest networks with the broadest audiences.

    But as you say, that is not just in the past, it's in a distant past that shows no signs of life or of revival. Thus my (gentle) criticism of Chris for even suggesting that it's on the media to carry the Democratic Party's water for it in calling out the Republicans' hypocrisy, mendacity, and greed.

  6. [6] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M [4]

    If things really were as you describe them, most of those points would be valid

    However, a quick glance at the IRS website reveals that the top half of U.S. earners pay 97% of all the money the IRS collects, while the bottom half pays the remaining 3%.

    Therefor, it's pretty damn tough to deny that while clearly not for everybody, but for a helluva bunch of people, their benefits are indeed "freebies", right?

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M [4]

    Re "tax cuts for the rich" also deserving designation as "freebies".

    By definition, not taxing, or cutting taxes (for anybody) is a case of letting people keep what they've earned. You are not thereby "giving" them anything, you are rather failing to confiscate what they already have, right?

    Only by twisted ideology could not confiscating equate to giving.

  8. [8] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    CRS on [9]

    Arguments like that go back quite quickly to the question of whether taxation is a legitimate government activity.

    To anyone who denies that it is, taxation is therefore theft or confiscation, only successful due to coercion and the police power. I hear this a lot from conservative friends; it always surprises me.

    To anyone who agrees that it is, taxation is the price of civilization, as necessary to progress and peace as its brother, death.

    By the latter standard, lowering taxes on one group but not others, when the taxation itself is held to be fair, equitably distributed, and guided by popular representatives*, has the effect of being a gift to that group in the sense of a give-back of something contributed voluntarily.

    (*reminding us that the basis of America is 'no taxation without representation' rather than 'no taxation whatsoever')

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    the trouble with tying taxation to representation (in determining spending priorities as well as legal ones), is that it's not just a question of some or none, it's also a question of how much. the folks who pay the smallest portion of their material gains in taxes also get the largest portion of representation in both legislative priorities and spending priorities.


  10. [10] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Was there ever anybody anywhere anytime, who was against 'freebies' (aka "Goodies for me at somebody else's expense")?

    Just read both plans [], can you point out the specific freebies? And why they are freebies?

    Take for example, two years of free community college. Is that a freebie or an investment? Will the added tax due to better education theoretically ending in a higher paying job, paid over a lifetime be higher or lower than the initial investment?

  11. [11] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I haven't and likely wont, read the "plans". I'm mostly thinking of the category of "freebies' of the type we've been distributing recently as "stimulus" cash.

    I'm 100% in favor of universal totally free education, provided we do it on the European model They do universal k-12 type basic education for everybody, and they do essentially free higher education for those who can demonstrate the qualifications/abilities/aptitudes etc. for the STEM fields. Those who cannot meet the standards are directed toward apprenticeships within the trades.

    Total free education for everybody at public expense on our current system tends to produce baristas and burger flippers with PhD's in "Ancient Chinese Pottery", or "Gender Equity Studies", etc. Colossal waste of public resources.

  12. [12] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Do you have a non "freebie" method of bringing back the economy? Seems like austerity as recently implemented in a few countries ended in long patches of stagnation...

  13. [13] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    BB [14]

    Ours will end in long patches of price inflation. Hard to say which is better or worse.

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    Over 60% of citizens want third party competition.

    Third parties already exist.

    So are you, CW, for or against these ideas and proposals like One Demand, Medicare for all or at least medicare for all with a private option and the MPP and other alternatives to the Deathocrat/Republikiller deception?

    If you had been paying attention, you'd already know the answers to your questions because they've all been discussed by the author before... with the exception of your stupid labels, of course.

    Everything you say about the Republikillers and their dodges, etc. also apply to you and the Deathocrats in regard to these questions.

    He doesn't say anything about your invented cartoon bullshit because those parties only exist in your fantasies.

    While it would be nice to see a television interviewer do some real journalism, you should concentrate on the journalist you can control and provide some real journalism here.

    I like this idea of yours about concentrating on "the journalist you can control." You should take your own advice and get your own blog since you quite obviously can't control this journalist.

    As someone that has spent the last several years dodging these ideas it is time for you to provide a proper journalistic response.

    As someone with a keyboard, an Internet connection, and your own website who has spent years and years of your time trolling this author, it is time for you get a clue and your own blog and "concentrate on the journalist you can control."

    Good talk.

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:



    I feel that moderation is generally the answer to everything; it is a lot like pie in that regard. :)

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