Shouldn’t this settle the argument?

I’ve never thought that elected officials should govern by polls, at least not on most issues. America is a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. We try to elect the best people we can and send them off to make tough decisions based on the best information available to them.

During the health care reform debate, though, Republicans made it clear that they felt that “going against the will of the people” was practically treasonous.

Well, the people have had a chance to look at Republican plans for Medicare and Medicaid, and it turns out they don’t like them, not one little bit.

The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. Most also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support.

Should we expect Republicans to acquiesce to the vaunted will of the people? I didn’t think so.

And, while I think the Republican approach is radical, immoral and dead wrong, the polls show that the American people don’t understand the budget situation. Congress and the president should not – indeed, cannot – listen to the people, not if they want to make progress on the deficit. (I do agree with others who make a convincing point that the people are right that the immediate focus should be on jobs and reviving the economy, not the long-term debt, but that’s another post.) The unfortunate fact is that when it comes to spending by the federal government, the American people are astoundingly ignorant. They think far more money is spent on things like foreign assistance and spending for the arts than is actually spent and far less money is spent on things like defense and Medicare.

The deficit cannot be eliminated solely by raising taxes on the wealthy – the only approach “the will of the people” is behind.

Still, after watching them beat Obama and the Democrats over the head for months about “shoving health care down the throats” of the nation against the will of the people, it will be interesting to see how Republicans deal with polls showing that their ideas are even more unpopular than health care reform.

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