A USA TODAY analysis of polling data used responses on five key questions about the government to divide Americans into five groups with distinct points of view.

The groups in a nutshell:

[1] Fiscal/Economics FIRST!

• Keep Government small, low taxes, cut the read tape, reward small "Mom-Pop Businesses" . . . keep a strong Military!

This cohesive group wants government to stay away from regulating the free market or morality.

They trust private enterprise over public institutions and overwhelmingly oppose Obama and the Socialist Democratic Party.

Many support the Tea Party movement.

[2] Beliefs/Behaviour FIRST!

• Everybody Work hard and long, be honest, take care of your own families and business, help neighbors, build strong local schools and communities; get married-stay-married, raise kids strictly and diligently: don't turn them loose to crimes and drugs:

This group says:

> > If we control government and keep military strong, but LOSE our children to drugs, gambling, prostitution, multiple abortion, gayism-&-AIDS, what have we gained???

> > Conversely, if we raise our kids to ALWAYS work hard and long, get multiple college degrees from 18-25 instead of parties and chasing around, . . . if we do these things, peace and prosperity will take care of itself!

They endorse a SMALL federal governmment - in addressing income disparities.

They are solidly in favor of protecting morals by law to promote prosperity and traditional values.

[3] MUSHY-MIDDLE, Goes with the Times!

Obama in 2008, TEA PARTY two years later!

This pragmatic group avoids the extremes. Those in this category split more evenly on attitudes toward the GOP, the Democratic Party and Obama, taxes, government programs and

. . . FLIP-FLOP from election to election.

> > Some years they vote for more government programs;

> > Some years they vote for less government programs;

Ninety-five percent of them end up somewhere in the middle when asked to place themselves on a five-point scale on the proper role of government — "1" meaning the government should provide only the most basic functions and "5" meaning the government should take active steps in every area it could.

[4] CENTER-LEFT Likes Government Programs

• Typical ypunger liberals: This group wants the government to take:

> > a big role in addressing economic disparities

> > but a small one in upholding moral standards.

> > It is the suspicious of big business, but is always crying for Big-business to create more jobs;

They are the youngest group and the group with the highest percentage of Democrats and big-spending Congress.

[5] LIBERAL-SOCIALISTS, Likes Communism!

• The bigger the GOVERNMENT, the better: The members of this group are the most likely of any to trust government and to endorse its involvement in areas from upholding morality to addressing income inequality.

> > This group is the most racially and ethnically non-white

> > Many immigrants, African-Americans, or other racial minorities;

> > and has the lowest income and educational levels

In their ranks, nine in 10 think the government should take a major role in ensuring adequate health care and a minimum standard of living for all Americans.

The philosophical debate over what the government should do may soon be joined by a practical debate over what the government can afford to do. A report is due Dec. 1 from a bipartisan commission charged with addressing the deficit, including the costs of Social Security and Medicare. The costs of those benefit programs are expected to explode as the huge Baby Boomer generation retires.

Most of those surveyed acknowledge a disconnect: 56% say most Americans demand more from the government than they are willing to pay for with taxes.


> > 51% of Americans work and pay income taxes;

> > 49% of Americans do NOT work and pay NOT taxes and do NOT WANT TO PAY TAXES . . . but they want ever-more-programs . . .

. . . that they want those WHO WORK tom pay for!

More than three of four Americans also see a day of reckoning approaching. They predict that the costs of entitlement programs will create major economic problems for the United States in the next 25 years if no changes are made.

Recognizing the issue isn't the same as reconciling it, however.

Raise taxes to address it? Fifty-six percent say no.

Cut benefits instead? Sixty-six percent say yes!

Just 12% say both steps should be taken.

A showdown on the size and role of government may come next year when the federal budget is debated between the Obama White House and a Congress that is likely to include new members elected on a promise to reduce the government's reach.

"We are almost certainly heading to a real and tough confrontation ... which will result in a shutdown of the government," Ornstein predicts.

That could draw the issue of what sort of government Americans want into very sharp focus, he says.

The crisis of confidence may not end anytime soon.

COPYRIGHT (c) 1977 Cambridge Theological Seminary



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