To hear Democrats tell it, the solution to all their political troubles is simple: talk more.
As Politico reported, Democratic operatives and politicians insist that their party’s declining fortunes in public polling can be reversed if they “spend their next few months talking up their infrastructure and coronavirus relief laws,” among other speculative legislative victories yet to materialize.
The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, for example, recommends “shifting the conversation to the terrain of values,” which would involve resting the party’s argument for itself on provisions like the expanded child tax credit. As even Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office implied in a May press release, the Biden administration’s “stimulus is overwhelmingly popular,” and “direct payments to individuals are even more popular.”
If this sounds like a wish fathering the thought, there’s evidence to support that theory. A new NPR/Marist poll released on Thursday suggests that votes cannot simply be bought. That survey found that over 60 percent of respondents believed they had received a direct payment of $1,400 as part of the Biden administration’s COVID-relief bill passed in February. But among those who know they received those payments, only 21 percent said the dispensation “helped a lot.” Forty-five percent conceded only that the payments helped them just “a little,” while nearly one-third said the check didn’t help them “at all.”
More urgently, the parents who supposedly benefited from direct advance payments related to the changes to the child tax credit were the most unaware of the beneficence Washington had bestowed upon them. Only 59 percent of Americans eligible to receive those payments were even aware that they had received the advanced tax credit. Among those respondents who were aware, only 15 percent said it helped “a lot.” While most said the credit helped them “a little,” one-fifth of self-aware recipients said it didn’t make one bit of difference in their lives.
To the extent that there is credit to go around for this achievement, a plurality of voters correctly acknowledge that Democrats are responsible for the expanded child-tax-credit payment system. Voters attribute this initiative to Joe Biden and to congressional Republicans in roughly equal numbers. And none of the latter voted for a new round of COVID stimulus. Once again, the experts insist, the problem isn’t the policy but the “messaging” around it. Biden and his fellow Democrats just need to remind American voters to audit their checking accounts for direct payments from the IRS. But if American voters were going to reward the governing party for an advance on their own tax refund, they wouldn’t have to be cajoled into doing so.
Worse yet, this tepid reception of the child-tax-credit scheme is the status quo that pertains before income-tax season begins, when millions of Americans are going to learn that they have to return this generous stipend to the federal government. Repayment protection eligibility varies so wildly based on an individual tax filer’s status and income levels that many Americans will be surprised to learn what they owe next year.
Perhaps most troubling, these efforts to insert cash directly into the pockets of American voters have not assuaged their pocketbook concerns. The economy, generally, and rising rates of inflation and consumer goods prices, specifically, continue to rate at or near the top of voters’ concerns heading into 2022. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from mid-November found that 70 percent of voters think the economy is in “bad shape.” Fifty-five percent of respondents disapprove of the president’s performance when it comes to the economy, and a majority of voters “blame Biden directly for inflation.”
The progressive left’s one big idea—“give people money”—hasn’t turned out to be the political winner its advocates thought it would be. Many are unaware of their receipts, yes, but many more are simply ambivalent about the disbursement of stimulus and advanced tax refunds into their accounts. Hectoring these voters about their ingratitude and false consciousness doesn’t seem like the most efficient way to win hearts and minds.