Ben Nelson Does Not Think You're Paying Attention
Sen. Ben Nelson isn't happy about the surtax on the rich that's being proposed to fund health-care reform. But not because he doesn't like it. Rather, because his constituents won't like it.
“Tax is a four-letter word” with voters, said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). Even families not ranking in the top 1 percent of earners “hope they’re going to be there someday,” he said. “So they don’t necessarily think it’s fair.”
The only problem with that statement is that it isn't true. Nelson made this comment to The Washington Post. But as Jon Chait points out, a few weeks back, The Washington Post polled voters on different ideas for funding health-care reform. One of the questions asked whether you would "support or oppose raising incomes taxes on on Americans with household incomes of over $250,000 a year to help pay for health-care reform."
A solid 60 percent supported that idea. Merely 37 percent opposed it. And that's not even the idea on the table: This policy would raise taxes only on voters making more than $350,000 a year, not $250,000. Presumably, even more Americans would support it.
This is a nice example of a tic unique to legislators and particularly common with Ben Nelson: the constituent voice. Some politicians talk in the first person ("I oppose raising taxes on the rich"). Some talk in the third-person ("Bob Dole opposes raising taxes on the rich"). And then some talk in the constituent person ("Voters oppose raising taxes on the rich"). The problem with the constituent person, however, is that it's falsifiable. And in this case, it's false.
And, presumably, Nelson knows that. Taxing the rich may or may not be right, but it's not broadly unpopular. Nelson, however, isn't explaining this vote to Nebraskan voters. He's explaining it to the congressional reporters at the paper that covers Washington, D.C. And he's dodging: He's hiding behind the will of the people, even as he's betraying it. And that's the problem with the constituent voice. It's not simply used to reflect the preferences of voters. It's just as often used to hide the preferences of legislators.
Photo credit: Twp Photo .
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