"Let them eat cake" — is that not the president's message in supporting the Ryan health plan and budget? It's all about values (or lack thereof), and the president and many of his Republican brethren clearly value tax cuts for the wealthy and a deregulated free market system as more important than health care coverage for millions of low-income Americans; and they put the enrichment of defense contractors and building a border wall ahead of Meals on Wheels, after school programs and medical research.
Oregonians don't share these values.
DHM Research recently asked Oregon voters about the values they want their elected leaders to consider when putting together the state budget. Of highest importance was "protecting the most vulnerable, including children and seniors in poverty." In another recent survey for the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA), respondents rated the importance of providing state funding for each of seven services. The highest very important ratings, after "public K-12 education" (78 percent) and "public safety" (58%), were "social services for low-income seniors" (55 percent) and "affordable healthcare for low-income individuals" (54 percent).
Concern about the wellbeing of vulnerable populations cuts across demographic groups in Oregon. Both Democrats (98 percent) and Republicans (86 percent) rate "social services for low-income seniors" important, though fewer Republicans (39 percent) view it as very important compared to Democrats (67 percent) and Non-affiliated/Others (56 percent). There's no urban and rural divide on social services either: at least 87 percent of Oregonians in Tri-County, Willamette Valley, and Rest-of-State areas view them as important.
Findings were similar for "affordable healthcare for low-income individuals." Like Democrats (96 percent) and Non-affiliated/Others (86 percent), a majority of Republicans (71 percent) said this affordable healthcare service is important. But Republicans do have a larger flip-side: about a quarter (27 percent) feel affordable healthcare for low-income individuals is not important, which is significantly higher than 5 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of Non-affiliated/Others. As with social services, there were no differences by area of the
Other items in the president's budget are similarly out of tune with the values of Oregonians. Cutting money to help assure a clean environment is one.
In the 2013 Oregon Values and Beliefs Survey, when Oregonians were asked what they personally value about living in the state, references to the environment and issues related to the quality of the environment, such as environmental friendliness, recycling, beauty/scenery, clean air and water, and nature, dominated the top responses across all political affiliations. Also in the 2013 study, from a list of 20 different public services with clear implications for taxation, 74 percent of all Oregonians felt that protection of water and air quality is very or somewhat important, with 44 percent who said it is very important. Only K-12 education and public safety ranked higher.
More recently, according to a DHM Research survey conducted in February, 64 percent of Oregon residents think Oregon should maintain funding for environmental protection at current levels or increase it. In this case the president has his party behind him: 60 percent of Oregon Republicans feel the state should decrease spending on environmental protections, compared to only 5 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Non-affiliated/Others. In terms of location within the state, a majority in all areas want spending to remain at the current level or be increased.
One more point of difference between the President and most Oregonians: Trump's lack of support for public broadcasting is out of synch with feeling in our state. Almost eighty percent (79 percent) of Oregonians agree that "public broadcasting should get public funding to continue providing quality programming, education and news." This view includes a strong majority of Republicans and makes sense in light of the plurality of Oregonians who feel public broadcast programming is largely neutral and is the most neutral news source providing the most independent reporting.
Comparing the values reflected in the President's budget against the importance Oregonians give to the protection of vulnerable populations and the environment, and the value they assign to public broadcasting, one is left to imagine the president's retort to any protestations from Oregonians: "If they'd rather die they'd better do it and decrease the surplus population." President Scrooge? Bah humbug.
Adam Davis, who has been conducting opinion research in Oregon for 40 years, is a founding principal in DHM Research, a nonpartisan firm specializing in assisting with public policy making and communications. Visit www.dhmresearch.com