Saturday, February 12, 2011


Those of us who are not political addicts may not be familiar with push polls.  A push poll is a thinly disguised political tool to influence the opinion of potential voters by asking a question in such a way that it “pushes” them toward adopting a predetermined political viewpoint.

I recently received an official Republican Party document entitled, “Listening to America.”  My examination of this document, at least in my mind, raised more questions than answers.  Also, a close examination of the questions asked reveals exactly how tilted the questions are; and as we lawyers say in many of our objections, the questions assume facts not in evidence.

For example, Question No. 1 asks “Should the House Republicans unite in opposition to all of President Obama’s planned tax hikes?”  This question made me wonder if there is something I missed, because I even watch Fox News on occasion and I do not remember hearing of any tax hike planned by President Obama.  I do know there was some effort to leave the legislation passed under George Bush’s administration in place which would have restored tax rates for people making more than $1,000,000 to the level they were under the Clinton administration.  I’ve not heard any announcement from the Obama administration that they plan any legislation to raise taxes.

Another question under the spending section asks, “Do you support passing strict budget caps to help reduce federal spending?”  In case you weren’t aware, there have been caps on the federal budget in place for several years.  Unfortunately, these caps have routinely been suspended even when the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate.  The question makes me wonder what kind of cap we could put in place to stop the current Republican House of Representatives from suspending it in the near future.  In their typical, hypocritical way, among the first actions of the new Republican controlled House of Representatives was to repeal the rules put in place by Democrats requiring “pay as you go” on any proposals to pass the Congress.

A real zinger in the questionnaire asks, “Do you believe Medicare and Social Security should be modernized, starting with fraud and abuse in each program?”  It has been my experience that most of the fraud uncovered in recent years has been on the part of medical suppliers such as doctors and hospitals, most of whom are absolutely supportive of Republicans and opposed to health care reforms.  I’m also struck by the choice of words in this question by asking whether or not Social Security needs to be modernized.  I suspect what they’re talking about is going back to the old George Bush proposal of turning our Social Security over to Wall Street. Wouldn’t that have been nice in the recent Wall Street bust!

The questionnaire also asks whether or not we should reform our tax code.  The key word here is reform. I’m not sure so-called reforms of the last two generations under either Democrats or Republicans have amounted to reform.  A study of our whole national economy shows that every time we change the tax code we give another bite to the super-rich.

A book I have been reading recently points out and documents that the wealth of the top 1% of Americans has more than quadrupled since mid-1970.  Most of it is attributable to the fact that every tax break passed by Congress gives a much bigger share of the wealth to the super-rich than to middle-America.  It also pointed out this type favoritism to the super-wealthy is rapidly depleting America’s middle-class which for over 200 years has been one of the great strengths of our nation.

How about earmarks and pork-barrel spending?  Talk about hypocrisy!  One of the greatest critics of rampant spending by Congress is Sarah Palin.  However, we need to remember, it was during her tenure as governor of Alaska that earmarks broke the record for a single state.  Although she now criticizes the practice, I do not remember her ever sending any of it back to the U.S. Treasury.

Speaking of assuming facts not in evidence, one question asked, “Should the Republicans immediately repeal the most damaging regulations that President Obama and Speaker Pelosi imposed on job creators?”  First of all, the Speaker of the House is not in a position to pass regulations.  They can vote on the change in the law but not regulations.  Republicans obviously want to continue to keep doctors and medical providers in their corner the best they can by asking whether or not the voters support medical liability reform by cracking down on junk lawsuits against doctors.  

As I have pointed out numerous times in this column, it is not the junk lawsuits that doctors fear.  It is the one where they are clearly negligent and through their carelessness cripple someone for life. A case in point is a woman in San Antonio whose medical provider wrongly amputated both of her legs. She has found it almost impossible to find a lawyer to file suit for the doctor’s mistake.  If that’s what they call cracking down, I certainly would have to answer that question “no.”

Let’s hear it for patriotism.  Republicans pile on by asking whether or not you believe foreign terrorists should be given military trials and kept out of civilian courts.  Actually, some of us believe that what has set America apart from rogue nations --which have no concern for humanity or individual rights-- is the fact we believe justice is a human right.  

Having a “play-like” trial before a military tribunal does not ensure protection of those rights in the American tradition of justice for all.  I would dare say most of the right-wingers who favor denying trial for people accused of international criminal activity would just as soon execute the so-called terrorists without a trial.  They are wondering why waste our money going through such a charade?  Have we already forgotten we just got rid of a vice president who openly advocated torture?  

Two other questions start summing up the Republican philosophy by asking, “Should congressmen cite the Constitution as authority on any bill that is up for a vote and should they install cameras in the powerful rules committee so that voters could see how bills are brought to the House floor?”  I would certainly favor both, if I had any assurance that those listening to the Constitution being read would understand what they hear.  

I would add to the proposal of the additional cameras in the congressional realm by suggesting they put one in the Republican caucus so the American people could see what they were really thinking when they adopted their policy of bills to favor and oppose.  

I just have one observation about the so-called push poll sent to me.  As far as I’m concerned, whoever sent it can take it and shove it.  

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