Gallup Polls Social Security

Bush's press conference, while serving as a nice news distraction from the horrible budget which was passed that same night, has done little to improve the public's opinion his Social Security ideas:The poll, conducted April 29 to May 1, found that 81 percent of respondents believed that the program would need major changes in the coming years.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they approved of Bush's handling of Social Security, while 58 percent said they disapproved.

The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,006 adults and had a margin of error of +/- three percentage points.

Forty-five percent of respondents said that changes would be needed in a year or two and 36 percent said those changes would be needed within 10 years. Sixteen percent said Social Security would not need to be changed within 10 years.

But 46 percent said they would be better off if Congress did not pass a plan this year, while 27 percent said a plan favored by most Republicans would be better and 22 percent favored a plan supported by most Democrats.

While I'm not sure what Democratic plan they are talking about, it is particularly interesting that only 27% of people in the poll wanted to see Bush pass his "ideas" into law this year. 27%. I am not sure if I have ever seen support for a Presidential proposal so ridiculously low. Considering this, I hope Bush extends his Social Security tour another three years, by which time he might be the only person in support of it.

Rise of Small Donors Offset By Rise of Large Donors

We have been told repeatedly that the 2004 Presidential election witnessed the rise of the small, individual donor. This is certainly correct. Overall, in the 2004 Presidential election, small, individual donors giving $200 or less pumped in $205M to the election between ten candidates: Bush, Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Clark, Gephardt, Lieberman, Kucinich, Graham and Nader. By comparison, in the 2000 Presidential cycle, small individual donors giving $200 or less put $119M into the bank accounts of fourteen candidates: Bush, Gore, Bradley, McCain, Buchanan, Forbes, Alexander, Dole, Bauer, Nader, Keyes, Hatch, Browne and Quayle. This is a substantial, if not an astonishing, 72% increase in small donations to Presidential candidates from one cycle to the next.

However, what I feel has been significantly overlooked about donor demographics in the 2004 election is that despite this rise in small donations, large donors were actually able to slightly increase their share of overall individual donations. In 2000, the fourteen candidates I listed above collected $240M in donations of more than $200, making such contributions 66.8% of all individual donations to Presidential campaigns. In 2004, the ten candidates I listed above collected $426M in donations of more than $200, making such donations 67.5% of all donations to Presidential campaigns in that cycle. In the 2004 cycle, money from large donors to Presidential campaigns thus actually increased at a slightly faster pace (77.7%) than money from small donors to Presidential campaigns (72.3%).

Why did this happen? The main reason is obvious: from 2000 to 2004, the maximum contribution limit from an individual donor to an individual campaign increased from $1,000 to $2,000. With this expanded limit, large donors were basically able to instantly double the amount they can donate, thus effectively canceling out the rise in small donations. A second important reason for this, is the often overlooked role of the small donor toward the end of the 2000 cycle was overlooked. Both Nader and Buchanan raised far more in small donations than they did in large donations, as did, somewhat surprisingly, Bill Bradley, Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer. Further, Bush already received around 20% of his donations in 2000 from small donors, while both Gore and McCain both neared 30%.

The combination of a much larger than perceived small donor base in 2000 with the doubling the individual campaign contribution limit combined to make the small donor revolution of 2004 more than a little bit overhyped, at least in terms of Presidential campaigns. In all likelihood, the impact has been far greater upon the party committees, but that is the subject of another post. The point of this post is to argue against one of the most dangerous proposals to new campaign finance regulation that, like the increase in the individual contribution limit, would serve as another, hidden way that the power of large donors would be further increased. Specifically, as part of the new wave of campaign finance regulation that is currently being reviewed by Congress, there is a proposal to entirely remove the maximum individual donation limit for a campaign cycle, which currently stands at $100,000. the Washington Post editorial board takes up this issue today:

As the Rules Committee marks up the 527 Reform Act, lawmakers must beware of two rear-guard attacks that could severely undermine its usefulness and jeopardize Congress's ability to pass reforms. One involves the dangerous notion that the 527 issue should be addressed not by reducing the size of the checks these groups can collect but by easing contribution rules for those who play within the federal election system. This misguided approach is embodied in a House proposal, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), which -- though it's titled the 527 Fairness Act -- wouldn't actually do anything about 527s. Rather, it would remove the overall limit (currently just over $100,000) on how much individuals can give to federal candidates and political parties in the course of a two-year election cycle. Instead, individuals would be free to give up to $1,160,200 to a single political party and $2 million or more to federal candidates per election cycle. Even worse, elected officials or candidates could solicit such mega-donations. One of the most impressive developments of the 2004 campaign was the emergence of large numbers of small-dollar donors. Changing the law to enable more big givers to give more big checks is unwise and unnecessary. Just like the doubling of the individual contribution limit to an individual campaign, if the individual contribution limit to all campaigns in a single cycle were removed, it would effectively cancel out, or even significantly reduce, the potential influence of small donors in federal campaigns. If wealthy donors are able to spread the newly raised $2,100 (yes, it is now $2,100, up from $2,000) contribution limit to an individual campaign to as many campaigns as they want, the need for candidates to rely upon small donors would be significantly reduced.

It is often said that liberal democracies offer reform in order to prevent revolution. Reform may be acceptable, but the mirage of reform certainly is not. We need to stop accepting the spoonfed lie that currently pervades the national political discourse about the rising influence of small donors in federal campaigns. With every rise in small donors, there are those who work to pass, and succeed in passing, campaign finance laws that effectively cancel out those rises, or even make small donors less influential than before. The Pence-Wynn bill is one of those proposed laws, and it must be defeated if small donors are ever to realize a greater amount of influence within Presidential campaign.

Paris Hilton Tax Cut Set To Pass House

Trust fund babies rejoice. Republicans are about to guarantee that you will never have to work a day in your lives: Today, the House is expected to vote to permanently repeal the estate tax, moving the Mars candy, Gallo wine and Campbell soup fortunes one step closer to a goal that once seemed quixotic at best: ending all taxation on inheritances. It worked the way most bad policies work. Misinformation and good framing from the Republican Noise Machine has been show to trump sound policy every time: The secret of the repeal movement's success has been its appeal to principle over economics. While repeal opponents bellowed that only the richest of the rich would ever pay the estate tax, proponents appealed to Americans' sense of fairness, that individuals have the natural right to pass on their wealth to their children.

The most recent Internal Revenue Service data back opponents' claims. In 2001, out of 2,363,100 total adult deaths, only 49,911 -- 2.1 percent -- had estates large enough to be hit by the estate tax. That was down from 2.3 percent in 1999. The value of the taxed estates in 2001 averaged nearly $2.7 million.

Of course, we could quote figures like this until The Simple Life is finally off the air. However, it won't do much to stop this:By 1994, Newt Gingrich's Republican insurgents had latched onto the estate tax issue, but the Contract With America called for an estate tax reduction, not repeal. In 1995, Luntz poll-tested the term "death tax" and advised the new GOP majority to never use the terms "inheritance" or "estate tax" again.

By then, Soldano's Policy and Taxation Group was spending more than $250,000 a year on lobbying. A parade of small-business owners and family farmers appealed to their congressmen, worried that they could not pass on their enterprises to their children, even though most of them would not be affected by the tax.

"There's been a sustained, determined campaign of misinformation that in the end has left the American people with a very different notion of what the estate tax is and does than actually exists," Pomeroy said.

But ultimately, whether people believe the estate tax will affect them has little bearing on support for repeal. Early this year, with Soldano's money, Luntz again began polling, this time in the face of record budget deficits and lingering economic unease. More than 80 percent called the taxation of inheritances "extreme." About 64 percent said they favored "death tax" repeal. Support fell to a still-strong 56 percent when asked whether they favored repeal, even if it temporarily boosted the budget deficit.

The truth alone will not set us free. The sans-culottes are storming the big box stores of exuburbia everywhere, demanding that their landed aristocratic masters be given more power. This is what plutocracy looks like.

Continuing Democratic Gains on Taxes

In 2004, Kerry closed the Democratic margin on taxes dramatically, from a national deficit of 63% in 2000 to a national deficit of only 14% in 2004. A recent poll on the tax system by Blum & Weprin Associates for NBC (4/3-5, 800 Adults, MoE 3) shows that there might be even more ground for Democrats to gain on the issue (from subscription only Hotline):When it comes to who pays what in taxes, do you think the federal income tax system is --?
Basically fair			   40%
Basically unfair			   54
Not sure/Refused			    6


Which tax system would you prefer? 
A system like the one we now have,
 with higher rates for people with
 higher incomes 			   55%
A flat tax with the same rate for 
 everyone, and no deductions allowed	   39
Not sure/Refused			    6
Combine this with the repeated findings raising the wage cap on Social Security is the overwhelmingly popular solution to increase Social Security funding, and it is pretty clear that most of the country would like to see higher taxes on the wealthy rather than continued Republican tax gutting. Also, the perception of corporate abuse is widespreadDo you think corporations pay more than their fair share, less than their fair share or just about their fair share in federal income taxes?
More than their fair share		    4%
Less than their fair share		   54
Just about their fair share		   31
Not sure/Refused			   11
Clearly, there is room for Democrats to continue their growth on this issue. In all the post-election hubbub about how Democrats must improve on "values,""national security," and other areas of Republican strength, little attention has been paid to the strong democratic gains on a traditionally Republican issue: taxes. After already taking the mantles of fiscal responsibility, economic growth and employment, if Democrats can seize the tax issue nationwide, Republicans will no longer have any financial legs to stand up with the significant majority of the electorate.

Bush's Social Security Proposals On Brink Of Being Tabled

Congressional Republicans seem to have had enough, at least for now. The White House seems almost ready to agree with them:Senate Republicans are considering temporarily sidetracking President Bush's plan for personal investment accounts under Social Security, hoping Democrats will then join compromise talks on legislation to restore the program's solvency.

Several GOP officials said Republican leaders discussed the possibility privately this week, recognizing that unified Democratic opposition to the accounts has stalled efforts to advance Bush's top domestic priority.

It is disgusting how this AP article slurps down the Repulibcan "personal" account talking point and, like most articles, never mentions the massive debt Bush's proposals would create. However, it does seem as though Congressional Republicans have had enough of getting kicked around for the past two months and would like to take a break. Of course, taking a break now means that the issue would pretty much be gone for the rest of the year, and bringing this up again in 2006 would be dicey, at best, with the midterm elections looming.

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