In a piece in last week’s edition of The Nation titled “Why Washington doesn’t care about jobs,” Christopher Hayes points out that D.C. is doing much better than the rest of the country economically, which is a significant contributor to what he terms “social distance” from the Americans the government purports to serve. That distance is disorienting and bizarre to those of us outside the Beltway, and is hugely fueled by the annoying conceit of many in the political media that they personally embody the concerns of average Americans. This misguided assumption would be merely amusing if not for the fact that almost the entire political conversation in the U.S. takes place among this small group of people — and that these alleged champions of the middle class inevitably convey the impression that Americans across the land are obsessed with deficit reduction and low taxes, which require deep cuts to “entitlements.”
Yet out here in the real world, poll after poll shows that, in fact, Americans are far more concerned with unemployment and favor surtaxes on the wealthy to close the deficit. And so, from time to time, these gilded Regular Joes are forced to regretfully admit that sometimes the people are like dotty old relatives who “just don’t get it” or that they just want a “free lunch” — after which they promptly forget those findings and go back to pretending that the American people see things exactly the way they do.
Now, it’s true that these powerful media figures would get a smaller Social Security check and have to kick in more for their Medicare just like the rest of us if these programs are cut. But it’s highly unlikely they will suffer the same financial pinch as the person scraping together a retirement income based on a paltry Social Security benefit and whatever he’s managed to salvage from his wrecked 401(k) and lost housing equity.
It’s very easy to prescribe “shared sacrifice” when you will not personally sacrifice anything at all.
Americans are busy people, and mastering the arcane details of the budgetary process is difficult. But they almost certainly have no trouble understanding that anyone who makes a living on national television is nowhere near average and that millionaires aren’t “sacrificing” anything real at all when they call for cuts in Social Security.
If these wealthy celebrities are regular Joes and Janes, then Charlie Sheen must be the boy next door.
Heather Digby Parton writes the Santa Monica-based liberal political blog Hullabaloo. You can follow the blog at http://digbysblog.blogspot.com.