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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Monday, February 21, 2011

As Republicans See a Mandate on Budget Cuts, Others See Risk

From The New York Times:

In Congress and in statehouses, Republican lawmakers and governors are claiming a broad mandate from last year’s elections as they embark on an aggressive campaign of cutting government spending and taking on public unions. Their agenda echoes in its ambition what President Obama and Democrats tried after winning office in their own electoral wave in 2008.

In Washington, the House approved more than $60 billion in spending cuts before dawn on Saturday that would hit virtually every area of government, setting up a showdown with Senate Democrats and the White House.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, who is embroiled in a political fight with the teachers’ union, is expected to call for drastic steps on Tuesday to close a roughly $10 billion budget gap.

And nowhere has a newly elected Republican flexed more muscle or drawn a more severe backlash than in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker is pushing to curtail collective bargaining rights for state employees. “For us, this is about balancing the budget,” Mr. Walker said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ve got a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We are broke. Just like nearly every other state across the country, we’re broke.”

But in the view of officials from both major political parties, Republicans may be risking the same kind of electoral backlash Democrats suffered after they were perceived as overreaching.

Public surveys suggest that most voters do not share the Republicans’ fervor for the deep cuts adopted by the House, or for drastically slashing the power of public-sector unions. And independent voters have historically been averse to displays of political partisanship that have been played out over the last week.

Mr. Walker’s plan includes banning unions from bargaining over issues other than wages, stopping the deduction of union dues from state paychecks and requiring annual elections for unions to stay in existence.

At the very least, the huge demonstrations in Wisconsin over Mr. Walker’s efforts suggest that the Republicans have succeeded in doing what Mr. Obama was unable to do last year: energize the Democratic base.

In addition, several Democrats pointed to Republican efforts to cut back abortion rights as another example of an issue that made them subject to the same criticism that Democrats faced: pursuing their party’s base agenda while ignoring the central concern of Americans, jobs.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll in January, 43 percent of respondents said job creation was the most important issue for Congress; 14 percent cited reducing the federal deficit.

Michael Dimock, the associate director of research for the Pew Research Center, said its polling had found that while voters were eager to reduce the deficit, they also supported increases in spending on Social Security and Medicare and believed that tax increases would be needed to balance the budget.

“The spending-deficit issue is the trickiest issue for Republicans,” Mr. Dimock said. “It’s clear that the public is with them in principle — smaller government doing less — but it’s unclear whether they’re with them in practice.”

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