It’s becoming clearer every day: New Yorkers support government for the common good.
For years, we’ve been fed false stories about how government spending should be minimized, that the responsible way to spend tax dollars is not to spend them at all. Our state and federal legislatures still have ridiculous competitions about who can cut more from government budgets. But around the kitchen table, in public library meeting rooms, and in community centers, the discussion is very different.
The people of New York know that when our government focuses on the common good — the things that make us free — we are all better off. When we make investments in housing and healthcare and education, all New Yorkers benefit. When we make sure justice applies equally to everyone, all New Yorkers are safer. When we make sure everyone is included, all New Yorkers are better off.
So New Yorkers are rejecting “austerity,” the approach to governing pushed by Republicans and some Democrats, demanding reducing government spending at every turn. Pushers of austerity falsely assert the best way to spend public dollars is on giveaways to corporations and tax cuts for the wealthy rather than on the infrastructure that we all need to succeed, like transportation and communications systems; public utilities; clean air and water; and affordable healthcare.
Recent polling shows that the people of our state are unified in their rejection of austerity nonsense and in their support of government for the common good. In fact a whopping 72 percent of New York voters agree that “Our economy should promote the common good. First and foremost, that means the economy needs to work for every New Yorker, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they do. It also means good jobs with fair wages and worker protections; universal broadband access; support for small businesses; and making sure the wealthiest New Yorkers and corporations pay more in taxes.” Majority support for this view of government’s role in the economy holds true across party lines with 55 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of Independents, and 83 percent of Democrats. It holds across geography with 71 percent of suburban and urban voters, and 79 percent of rural voters supporting. And it holds steady across other demographic groups with approximately two-thirds to three-quarters majority support across racial groups, gender lines, and education level as well.
New Yorkers are too smart to fall for the trickle down con. They know that so many of the crises we face now are caused by years of corporate welfare and underinvestment in our communities. That’s why when asked how we should close our budget deficit, 70 percent of voters said by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy and only 14 percent said by cutting funding for healthcare, education, and other public services. Again, this support cuts across all party, geographic, and demographic lines.
Rarely do we find such robust and uniform support in public opinion. So we should take note. Voters understand that the way to improve and strengthen our communities is to put the needs of the people first, to make sure that everyday folks have money in their pockets. That’s what a successful economy looks like. And we all know it. The only ones who don’t get it, or won’t get it, are the elected members of our government who continue to dismiss the will and the needs of the people.
This polling data should serve as a clear directive for the state legislature, the governor, and our federal representatives. From here on out, we expect government for the common good.
Dana Balter is a worldview strategist for Citizen Action of New York and the Public Policy Education Fund.