Can we believe them?

I seem to remember a similar letter about the public option:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and 28 other members of the 53-member Senate Democratic caucus have signed a letter opposing any cuts to Social Security as part of a deficit reduction package.

The letter forms a significant marker as Congress looks toward a possible deficit bargain in the lame-duck session after the election. It says Social Security has problems down the road, but that they should be dealt with separately from any budget deal.

Cuts to Social Security and other entitlements are seen as key to getting the bipartisan cooperation of Republicans in any deal, just as revenue increases are key for Democrats. The Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan produced by President Obama’s deficit commission contained Social Security cuts, including a change in the way inflation is calculated and an increase in the retirement age.

The letter could reduce the chances for a long-term, multi-trillion-dollar deal soon. Congress will need to put some kind of deal in place before January to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of indiscriminate spending cuts and tax increases.

The Senate’s number three Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), also signed the letter. Notably, Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who supported Bowles-Simpson, did not.

Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Solving the puzzle

(Medical stuff is boring to a lot of people, so if you’re one of them, skip this post.)

I saw the physiatrist yesterday, and I mentioned that my GP thinks the pain in my upper arms — the same pain the physiatrist thought was a rotator cuff tear – is from a herniated disk in my neck. “Hmm,” he said.

He made me push back from varying positions and said, “It’s not an unreasonable conclusion, but you have no weakness in your arms,” he said. “I don’t know that we can rule it out completely, but it doesn’t seem likely.” He said an MRI would probably help — except that even if I did have a herniated disk, it didn’t really prove anything. “Just about everyone 40 and older has at least one herniated disk,” he said.

But he thought it might be helpful to try some deep acupuncture in my neck and upper back, so we did. A couple of the spots ALMOST SENT ME THROUGH THE ROOF when he stuck in the needles, but he said that indicated we were on the right track. He said if I had arthritis, or a herniated disk, it was likely that my muscles spasmed to protect the area — and since my upper back and neck are always as hard as a rock, even after myofascial work, that seemed to confirm his theory.

I have to say, my neck feels really good right now. Much looser than usual! That’s the thing I love about acupuncture: If it’s going to work, you feel better right away. Stay tuned!

White working-class voters don’t like either candidate

And really, who can blame them?

White, working-class Americans get a more nuanced look in a new survey out today from the Public Religion Research Institute. The big takeaway? It’s not all guns, God, and the GOP for one of the most targeted demographics of this election season.

The survey defines the group—which makes up about 36 percent of all Americans—as “non-Hispanic white Americans without a four-year college degree who hold non-salaried jobs.” That group is mainly compared to white, college educated Americans, over the course of the PRRI results.

Mitt Romney has a double-digit lead over Obama with working-class white voters (48-35), but things get more complicated when broken down a bit more. Romney fares the best among southern voters and men in the group, but has no significant lead over the incumbent among Catholics, women, or non-southern members of the group.

Perhaps tellingly, neither candidate is particularly well-liked by the demographic: Just 45 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Romney, only one percentage point more than said the same thing about Obama. By contrast, George W. Bush had a favorability rating of 51 percent in the survey.

Despite everything that’s happened, some people still want to have a beer with Shrub! Oy.

Here are a few more takeaways from the survey:

  • 70 percent of white, working class Americans agree that the economic system in the U.S. unfairly favors wealthy people. Eight-in-ten believe that outsourced jobs are either somewhat or very responsible for economic instability in the U.S.
  • While the demographic was no more likely than white, college-educated Americans to say that the Tea Party movement shared their values (34 percent vs. 31 percent), they’re half as likely to support Occupy Wall Street (28 percent vs. 16 percent). By contrast, the two groups had about equal support for the labor movement (31 percent vs. 29 percent).
  • Just 1-in-20 cite abortion or same-sex marriage as the most important issue for their vote. And the group is divided on those issues, with about half opposing same-sex marriage. Half of those surveyed also responded that abortion should be legal in most or all instances.

Greg Sargent:

Nearly two thirds of working class whites want to hike taxes on those over $1 million. More than half say one of our biggest problems is that we “don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.” Seventy-eight percent of them blame America’s economic problems on corporations moving jobs overseas and 69 percent on Wall Street making risky decisions.

In fairness, 69 percent also blame government regulation and 64 percent blame Obama’s policies. But as Molly Ball notes, there is clearly a strong strain of economic populism and a powerful skepticism about unfettered capitalism among them.

And this gets us back to what this is all about. Obama is hammering Romney over Bain outsourcing, his own wealth and low tax rates, his proposed tax cuts for the rich, and the ways the overall Romney/Ryan agenda would redistribute wealth upward, because these voters are clearly receptive to this kind of populism. Romney, meanwhile, is countering all that with his own message about all the ways Obama allegedly wants to redistribute wealth downward to the dependent poor, a narrative that may also resonate with their views.

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