Why most people don’t care about “opposing budget cuts”

I’ve always perceived the anti-cut stance to be a leftie buzzword that doesn’t really resonate with the wider population.  This one is pretty simple.

When you speak in terms of “opposing budget cuts,” you are already starting from a weak position; why are we debating how much to cut?  Why aren’t we expanding the public sector?  That’s what gets people in the streets.

The very fact that budget cuts are being made sits within a larger, widely-believed logic that budget-cutting is a generally responsible thing to do, so that a government balances its budget. Perhaps good social programs will suffer as a result.  Simply stated, though, it seems like economic insanity to fight budget cuts which pretty much just have to happen.  It seems like a sort of bleeding-heart impulse to spend money which isn’t there — well-intentioned, but completely unrealistic.

The problem is: simply stating that cuts are bad does nothing to counter this logic which is deeply-rooted in the popular subconscious.

EVERY CONVERSATION about budget cuts must BEGIN with the fact that the money exists; that we must tax the rich, who exploit us in the private sector by paying us less than the money we make for them; that all public-sector budget crises are manufactured; that especially in what some would still call a recession, the answer is increasing public spending, and that decreasing it is actually destructive for the recovery and not helpful.  The tax-the-rich bit is especially important because many working-class people resent the taxes taken out of their paycheck, and in this way the right wing spins the public sector as something that decreases their standard of living instead of increasing it.

Otherwise it’s just so much wasted breath, with ordinary people tuning you out for being impractical and out of touch with reality.

Oddly enough, you can argue for expansion of the public sector, such as universal healthcare or maybe abolishing tuition, without the same assumptions kicking in.  Because the conversation is not framed as a debate over cuts, the image of “staying within a limited pie” does not trigger in people’s minds.

Since the slogan “opposing cuts” must necessarily be followed with that pile of qualifying statements, is it even really a good unifying statement?  Rather than our broad, uniting slogan being “opposing cuts,” many people are oddly comfortable with “redistributing the wealth.”  When you acknowledge that the pie is limited and that what you want is to reslice it from top to bottom, this makes sense to people, and unless they’re right-wingers who buy into trickle-down, they view it as practical, too.

Rather than defensively opposing budget cuts and explaining that we can redistribute the wealth to fund it, we should offensively advocate redistributing the wealth, and point out social services as an example of what we can do with it.


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