In his article Budget Talks: Who Speaks for the American people?, Dave Johnson reflects on the disconnect between discussions surrounding the federal budget deficit and what polling consistently reveals about Americans’ opinions:
Polls show that the public wants taxes raised on the rich, cuts in military spending and more & bettter-paying jobs. The public isn’t stupid, because it turns out that these are exactly the things that economists say will get us out of the deficits. But raising taxes isn’t considered a “serious” deficit-cutting option. [Ne]ither is cutting military. And to top it off, in DC the idea of creating more and better-paying jobs is so unserious that it isn’t even discussed.
These “serious” people who engaged in these “serious” negotiations have something in common. They are almost all very, very well paid, usually white, always DC or Wall Street or big-corporate insiders, always college-educated and comfortable people who work in offices. They do not reflect the diverse makup of the American population. Doing that wouldn’t be “serious,” but it would be ‘small-d’ democratic.
Johnson offers a glimpse of deficit commissions which would better reflect the diverse makeup of the American population. I’d like to add one more for you. Because, although Johnson does rightly point out that the vast majority of these negotiators are white, he doesn’t offer a look at what kind of a racial commission would reflect the American population.
If a deficit commission of 100 existed which reflected the United States in race and ethnicity:
- 72 would be white
- 16 would report Hispanic or Latino origin
- 13 would be African American (1 or 2 of whom would not be able to vote on the commission’s decisions because of systemic voter ineligibility for people released from prison.)
- at least 2 would be Native American or Native Alaskan
- 5 would be Asian
- 7 would be of a race not mentioned above