Occupy D.C.? Most Back Protests, Surtax

The Occupy Wall Street movement that started in New York City spread to Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.
National Journal
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Matthew Cooper
Oct. 18, 2011, 5:35 p.m.

At a time when protests have erup­ted across the coun­try over a grow­ing in­equal­ity of wealth and Con­gress is con­sid­er­ing meas­ures to im­pose a sur­tax on those earn­ing more than $1 mil­lion an­nu­ally, the pub­lic seems to be in a pop­u­list mood — one that’s tempered by skep­ti­cism about Wash­ing­ton’s abil­ity to do any­thing about the grim eco­nomy.

A new sur­vey shows that Amer­ic­ans over­whelm­ingly sup­port the self-styled Oc­cupy Wall Street protests that not only have dis­rup­ted life in Lower Man­hat­tan but also in Wash­ing­ton and cit­ies and towns across the U.S. and in oth­er na­tions. Some 59 per­cent of adults either com­pletely agree or mostly agree with the pro­test­ers, while 31 per­cent mostly dis­agree or com­pletely dis­agree; 10 per­cent of those sur­veyed didn’t know or re­fused to an­swer.

What’s more, many people are pay­ing at­ten­tion to the ral­lies. Al­most two-thirds of re­spond­ents — 65 per­cent — said they’ve heard “a lot” or “some” about the ral­lies, while 35 per­cent have said they’ve heard or seen “not too much” or “noth­ing at all” about the demon­stra­tions.

The res­ults ap­pear in the latest edi­tion of the United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll.

When it comes to the ques­tion of how to pay for the Demo­crat­ic jobs bill, most re­spond­ents were more than will­ing to place a spe­cial bur­den on the wealthy. Those sur­veyed were asked about a pos­sible 5 per­cent sur­tax on those earn­ing more than $1 mil­lion an­nu­ally. The idea got con­sid­er­able dis­cus­sion earli­er this fall when Con­gress con­sidered Pres­id­ent Obama’s jobs pack­age. Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans united against the bill and were joined by some Demo­crats, mak­ing it im­possible for the meas­ure to pass in a cham­ber where 60-vote ma­jor­it­ies have be­come the norm be­cause of fili­bus­ter­ing. Still, a whop­ping 68 per­cent of adults sup­port the Demo­crat­ic sur­tax to pay for the cost of their jobs plan. Only 27 per­cent op­posed the tax, while 5 per­cent didn’t know. Men and wo­men split al­most identic­ally on the is­sue, and black non-His­pan­ics were more sup­port­ive of the sur­tax than white non-His­pan­ics, with 84 per­cent sup­port­ing the idea.

Con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats and Obama can also take com­fort from Amer­ic­ans’ re­ac­tion to Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans block­ing the nom­in­a­tion of Richard Cordray, the former Ohio at­tor­ney gen­er­al, to head the Con­sumer Fin­an­cial Pro­tec­tion Bur­eau, an agency cre­ated in the wake of the fin­an­cial crisis to look out for the in­terest of cit­izens. More than 40 Re­pub­lic­ans — enough for a fili­buster — have signed a let­ter vow­ing to block his ap­point­ment un­less changes are made to the bur­eau that the GOP feels, in its cur­rent con­struct, is in­hib­it­ing fin­an­cial in­sti­tu­tions and lend­ing that could spur the eco­nomy. A ma­jor­ity of those sur­veyed said that the Sen­ate should con­firm Cordray, and 39 per­cent said that it should not con­firm him, while 15 per­cent either didn’t know or re­fused to say.

Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, 70 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­an re­spond­ents said that Cordray should not be con­firmed, while 75 per­cent of Demo­crats said that he should be. In­de­pend­ents broke 43 per­cent to 40 per­cent in fa­vor of con­firm­a­tion.

The United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll is con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, which sur­veyed 1,007 adults by land­line and cell phone on Oct. 13-16. It has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points.

Look­ing at Wash­ing­ton and the abil­ity of law­makers to do any­thing about an eco­nomy be­set by high un­em­ploy­ment, more than half of adults said the main reas­on that un­em­ploy­ment has re­mained high is that “there have been good ideas, but fight­ing between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans has blocked needed gov­ern­ment ac­tion.” Only 16 per­cent said that the main reas­on was that “neither Demo­crats nor Re­pub­lic­ans have come up with any good ideas to re­duce un­em­ploy­ment so far.” A slightly high­er per­cent­age of re­spond­ents — 21 per­cent — saw the prob­lem as be­ing more about gov­ern­ment ef­fic­acy. They said the main reas­on for such high un­em­ploy­ment is that “there is not much Wash­ing­ton lead­ers can do to re­duce un­em­ploy­ment through policy or le­gis­la­tion.”

Throughout the fall, the United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll has re­vealed an elect­or­ate that’s ex­tremely crit­ic­al of Con­gress and wary of em­bra­cing any par­tic­u­lar policy pre­scrip­tion for get­ting the Amer­ic­an eco­nomy grow­ing more briskly. The mil­lion­aire’s sur­tax has cut through the clut­ter. Al­though it may not be sur­pris­ing that 90 per­cent of Demo­crats sup­port this Demo­crat­ic pro­pos­al, it’s not­able that 71 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents do and even 37 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans like this kind of a tax in­crease.

When it comes to those Wall Street protests, there’s also a pop­u­list streak: Re­mark­ably, nearly one-third of Re­pub­lic­ans — 31 per­cent — com­pletely or mostly agree with their aims. The sour eco­nomy has sparked some class re­sent­ments in un­ex­pec­ted places, it seems. Those stir­rings are un­likely to come to fruition in this di­vided Con­gress, but there’s no in­dic­a­tion they’re go­ing away any­time soon.


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