Voters Decide Between Free Markets and the Welfare State in 2008

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Voters Decide Between Free Markets and the Welfare State in 2008

One of the most important factors in any election is how voters feel about their own finances. The less satisfied that people are with their ability to make ends meet and attain all the extras that add up to the American dream, the more motivated they will be to demand a change in leadership. During the 1980 presidential campaign against incumbent Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan asked voters, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Because the majority of Americans answered no, Reagan won the election in a landslide.

Today, Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are trying to use this same approach by claiming that under a Republican administration, America’s middle class is under siege and that only the rich are getting richer. But the reality is that most Americans do not feel they are being excluded from the American dream.

For example, Investor’s Business Daily1 recently reported the results of an IBD/TIPP survey that asked Americans, “All things considered, do you consider yourself to be part of America’s haves or part of America’s have-nots?” A mere 19 percent considered themselves to be “have-nots.”

When the results were broken down by income, even people whose earnings place them squarely in the middle class or lower middle class reported feeling they were getting their share of the country’s wealth. Specifically, 83.5 percent of people with household incomes of $50,000 to $75,000 described themselves as “haves,” as did 60 percent of those with incomes of less than $30,000 a year.

And when the researchers considered political party affiliation, nearly three times as many Democrats said they were “haves” than said they were “have-nots.” Among Republicans, the ratio was an even greater seven to one.

Similarly, a 2007 Harris Poll found that 94 percent of American adults consider themselves either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the lives they lead.2 And when asked a question very similar to the one that Reagan asked in 1980, i.e., “If you compare your present situation with five years ago, would you say it has improved, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?” 82 percent said their lives had improved or stayed the same. This is hardly a mandate for change in the White House.

And yet, liberal candidates claim that America is filled with downtrodden middle-class workers who are being denied their share of the American dream, which leads inevitably to one “solution”: Higher taxes on the country’s richest people, and more government spending on everyone else...

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