On tax and healthcare, Americans are surprisingly receptive to liberal policies

Thomas Ash
17 October 2008

Conventional wisdom holds that Americans are more conservative than their European brethren. It is probably partly correct, and Joe the Plumber is a good illustration of this.


Despite his claims earlier this week, neither Joe nor the business he wants to acquire make anything close to the $250,000 figure at which his taxes would go up under Obama. However, like a significant number of Americans, he is sufficiently sympathetic to the rich and optimistic about his chances of joining their ranks that he opposes economic policies that are currently in his short-term economic self-interest. He even calls them "socialism", even though they amount only to a slight strengthening of the progressive income tax already in place.

Nonetheless, readers may be interested to hear that the average American is not necessarily as conservative as conventional wisdom (or the example of Joe the Plumber) would suggest. One of the few striking things about Wednesday's debate was the confident and forthright manner in which Obama defended policies which are slightly to the left of what is normally deemed politically acceptable. But early polling suggests that the audience actually preferred these policies to those of John McCain. 59% thought he did a better job on healthcare, and even on taxation 56% preferred Obama. CNN's live audience reaction graphs also turned sharply positive when Obama explained the case for moving towards a slightly more European healthcare model. The average Joe in America may be to the right of the average Jacques in France, but it appears he is also to the left of Joe the Plumber.

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