Labels don't match beliefs
The worth of the Aug. 1 Focus story ("America's right turn") on the United States becoming more conservative lost considerable value by glossing over the difference between people identifying themselves as "conservative" and the beliefs they actually hold.
People can self-identify any way they want, of course, but after years of Fox News propaganda and the denigration of the term "liberal," labels mean little without definitions or deeper issues being considered. And many surveys in recent years show that Americans who classify themselves as conservatives or moderates actually espouse progressive preferences.
Asked about eliminating tax cuts for wealthy Americans, 59 percent supported it (Gallup 2010); asked about imposing a tax on Wall Street profits, 70 percent supported it (Bloomberg 2010). And on the flip side, the left can be just as frustrated with government and just as concerned with fiscal matters as the right claims to be. "Left" and "right" have become meaningless labels.
This piece's attempt to fit events into a rigid, old-fashioned, left-right model is its biggest error. Yes, budget deficits are a major concern to most Americans, but this is hardly a surprise less than two years after the near meltdown of the US financial system. When polls ask about specific cuts in programs, a very different picture of Americans' political views emerges than the one this piece portrays.
For more than 70 years, Social Security has provided a base of stability on which prosperity and progress can build. The public understands this and consistently reflects it in polls. Ask about education and support of scholarships, and the polls produce a similar answer.
The article touches some of the essence when it states that "voters place blame on both parties." Unfortunately it doesn't follow this thread but continues to pursue the more sensationalist theme of huge national fractures.
America faces a complex, technocratic future where vigorous free enterprise coupled with appropriate public-private cooperation will be essential. This progress will be built on a stable, healthy, educated society. I'm confident that the good sense of the American people will transcend extremism and bring this picture to fruition.
A pledge for no more pledges
Regarding "How pledges blind Congress" (Aug. 8), the only pledge any member of Congress or candidate should sign is: "I pledge not to sign any pledges!" Pledges are written by people wanting to force others to work for them. Signing a pledge means "Don't bother me with the facts. My mind is made up!" Such narrow thinking created our congressional stalemates and crippled states.
Ann M. Bovbjerg
Iowa City, Iowa