Public Opposes Spending Offsets For Disaster Aid

The public isn’t too supportive of the Republican idea that disaster relief ought to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere:

When it comes to disasters, Americans have one word of advice for the federal government: spend.

A Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday found 59 percent of the public doesn’t believe disaster aid should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. That includes 52 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 69 percent of Democrats.

Only 29 percent of the public wants federal disaster aid to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Get a clue, Republicans.

Update: Greg Sargent notes that even Tea Party supporters don’t support offsets:

The partisan breakdown of these numbers is striking. Republicans say disaster spending does not need to be offset by 52-36. Even Republicans who agree with the Tea Party say the same thing by 49-42.

This mirrors another recent Post poll, which found that a majority of Republicans, 54 percent, disapprove of the spending cuts being imposed by sequestration, while only 39 percent of them approve.

Look, the story here is the same as always: Americans regularly tell pollsters that they favor federal spending cuts and oppose government spending in the abstract. But when the talk turns to specifics, they suddenly take a more balanced view, one that quickly jettisons the notion of austerity for its own sake. This is often true even of Republicans.

FILED UNDER: Deficit and Debt, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Only 29 percent of the public wants federal disaster aid to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. is willing to have their ox gored after a disaster.

    As to the GOP getting a clue? They still think the sequester is a great way to deal with the budget, and that best the way to end the deficit is to hold the debt ceiling at it’s current level. They think the best way to court the Hispanic vote is to tell them to leave the country. They still think cutting taxes will increase revenue. They still think….

    Wait a minute. I think I have found the problem. They don’t think.

  2. Sam Malone says:

    I’m all in favor of reforming how we address disaster relief…but Coburn and Inhofe are nuts.
    Well…Coburn is nuts.
    Inhofe is clinically insane.

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    Only 29 percent of the public wants federal disaster aid to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

    There’s that 27% Crazification Factor again (within the margin of error, of course).

  4. john personna says:

    Related:

    Fewer Americans Identify as Economic Conservatives in 2013

    You know I’m a big believer in pendulums. Will the middle move far enough to make me a conservative? heh.

  5. Well duh. If you phrase it as a choice between spending cuts and a free lunch, the fact most people pick the free lunch is hardly suprising. If the choice was whether to finance disaster relief with spending offsets or tax increases, I wonder if you’d get the same response.

  6. legion says:

    Well, unexpected disasters _should_ cause unexpected expenses. Private individuals can get insurance for such things, and governments can take on debt. This is just an excuse to a) cut spending on things nobody actually wants to cut, but with a bit of distraction and b) cause pain to poor people. You’ll notice it’s only ever services to the poor these so-called “champions of the common people” want to cut – never tax breaks for the wealthy or corporate welfare that’s on the block.

  7. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “If you phrase it as a choice between spending cuts and a free lunch, the fact most people pick the free lunch is hardly suprising”

    Or, conceivably, most Americans are not libertarians, and therefore they understand that helping those who have been seriously injured by acts beyond their control is a basic function of all civilization.

    And then there are the libertarians, who see a man bleeding to death on the side of the road and won’t give him a bandaid because they don’t like moochers.

  8. Moosebreath says:

    @legion:

    Exactly. For all the Republican pointing at the “never let a crisis go to waste” comment early in Obama’s term, this is a perfect example of it — using the tornado as an excuse to cut programs they would never be able to get the votes for otherwise.

  9. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    That is actually nonsensical. It relies on a false notion, that we are operating under a balanced budget constraint, or that a present value dollar spent always has a same-value future obligation.

    Brad DeLong did a good bit on why a present dollar is probably has a reduced value obligation in the future:

    A Note On Self-Defeating Austerity And Current Levels Of Interest Rates

    (A handy de-capitalization tool is here)

  10. john personna says:

    (Stormy basically makes use of the “household budget fallacy.”)

  11. anjin-san says:

    And conservatives wonder why they are despised. If I want to follow my perfectly normal impulse to help fellow citizens who have been through disaster and tragedy, I have to be willing to ante up with part of the social security I have been paying into for 35 years…

  12. anjin-san says:

    It’s worth noting that our own house libertarian Doug Mataconis, said something along the lines of “the federal government should not get involved every time someones house falls down” after the Joplin disaster (in which A LOT of houses fell down).

    During the Sandy disaster, which was a bit closer to home for him, I asked him if he still felt the same way. He did not give a reply that I saw. I am still wondering about it.

  13. @john personna:

    Okay, so we’ll add a third option to pay for disaster relief by devaluing the dollar.

  14. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    That is a slight more in tune answer, but if you understand what you are saying, a cheat.

    What is your inflation target and why?

    (0% inflation is both impossible and sub-optimal given a growing population.)

  15. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    (Stormy basically makes use of the “household budget fallacy.”)

    Even the household analogy fails. When a member of the average household suffers a severe, costly accident, the rest of the household doesn’t stop eating or paying rent-they go into debt, then start paying back later.

    The whole off set thing is a false flag for the “off setters” to advocate for cutting spending they don’t like.

    And no, Coburn and Inhofe aren’t crazy or stupid-they’re evil. Let’s not let them off the hook.

  16. @wr:

    And then there are the libertarians, who see a man bleeding to death on the side of the road and won’t give him a bandaid because they don’t like moochers.

    No, it’s more a recognition that we have to go get that bandaid somewhere, it doesn’t just materialize out of the aether in response to our desire to help. We can either: 1) give him one of our bandaids, 2) go buy a bandaid, or 3) take someone else’s bandaid. The fact that option 3 is generally the most popular isn’t particularly surprising. It’s easy to “help” when you personally bear none of the costs of doing so.

  17. @wr:

    Or, conceivably, most Americans are not libertarians, and therefore they understand that helping those who have been seriously injured by acts beyond their control is a basic function of all civilization.

    Excuse me, where did I say we shouldn’t help? Pointing out there is a cost to helping isn’t saying we shouldn’t help, it’s merely saying we need to be adults about it and decide where the resources used for this help are going to come from.

  18. stonetools says:

    @anjin-san:

    It’s worth noting that our own house libertarian Doug Mataconis, said something along the lines of “the federal government should not get involved every time someones house falls down” after the Joplin disaster (in which A LOT of houses fell down).

    Dunno how any pure, Ayn Rand type libertarian could be for government disaster relief of any kind. Shouldn’t we trust to the all-conquering magic of the free market?

    Supports my theory that there is no such thing as a true libertarian-only conservative Republicans who like to smoke pot and/or who don’t hate gays.

  19. Caj says:

    Offsets my eye! If a disaster hits that’s the last thing that should be even discussed! People lives are far more important and clearing up the area to get people back in their homes if possible. Some of these politicians really make me sick. If it were their street and home destroyed or family members homes they’d be out there crying. Where’s the government? I need help! What’s taking so long! Dear God, it’s all about money, even in a time of disaster, it really is disgusting

  20. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “It’s easy to “help” when you personally bear none of the costs of doing so. ”

    Of course I bear some of the costs. We all do. We pay for disaster relief out of our taxes. We each pay a little bit, because that’s what it means to live as a civilization. Your loathing of all communal effort is nothing but a sad, adolescent self-infatuation — which is, of course, the sole intellectual underpinning of all libertarianism.

  21. anjin-san says:

    @ Stormy Dragon:

    “It’s easy to “help” when you personally bear none of the costs of doing so. ”

    I write a fairly large check to the IRS every year. How exactly am I “bearing none of the cost”?

  22. @wr:

    We pay for disaster relief out of our taxes.

    Hence the “do we want to raise taxes to pay for this disaster relief, or transfer the money from the other things we spend taxes on” question that is apparently ridiculous to ask.

  23. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Your question is not ridiculous in all times and in all places.

    It is only questionable in these circumstances.

    If you accept DeLong’s math, there is a bonus effect right now.

    The problem with the simple morality play is that it doesn’t try to understand or grapple with the effects of growth over time. What if we have many more workers making much more money 20 years from now? Wouldn’t that actually mean they’d feel a lower net hardship than tax now?

  24. john personna says:

    (There is a lot of guesswork, but one of the things we do in fact know is that incomes grow over time, and working population grows over time.)

  25. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Hence the “do we want to raise taxes to pay for this disaster relief, or transfer the money from the other things we spend taxes on” question that is apparently ridiculous to ask. ”

    Not only ridiculous, but truly vile.

    We pay now. Period, without threatening to hold up payments unless we simultaneously destroy the lives of poor people across the nation.

    When the bills come in, we assess our needs and budget accordingly.

    We don’t use the suffering of one group of Americans to ensure the suffering of a group we’ve never much liked to begin with. And that’s what Coburn and the rest are doing with this “innocent” question.

    If you are the one human being asking this without trying to use a disaster as an excuse to slash benefits for those already in need, then accept my apology. But everyone else carrying this banner doesn’t give a damn about deficits — they only care about slashing the small social safety net that remains, and this is their current hobby horse for doing so.

  26. anjin-san says:

    Hence the “do we want to raise taxes to pay for this disaster relief, or transfer the money from the other things we spend taxes on”

    Fine let’s transfer the money. The largest oil companies make the greatest profits in the history of capitalism. They are doing just fine. No more corporate welfare for them, let’s take the money and help some of our fellow citizens who have suffered a disaster.

    That was easy! Not wonder so many conservatives are clamoring to do just this.

  27. @john personna:

    What if we have many more workers making much more money 20 years from now? Wouldn’t that actually mean they’d feel a lower net hardship than tax now?

    Money doesn’t have inherent value, it’s just a symbol for a fixed amount of actual resources out there. Creating more dollars doesn’t create more food, or lumber, or macadam to buy with it. And even if future workers are more productive and thus produce way more stuff than they do right now, we can’t build a house now with 2030’s surplus lumber.

  28. @anjin-san:

    The largest oil companies make the greatest profits in the history of capitalism. They are doing just fine. No more corporate welfare for them, let’s take the money and help some of our fellow citizens who have suffered a disaster.

    And liberals wonder why they are despised. If I want to follow my perfectly normal impulse to help fellow citizens who have been through disaster and tragedy, I have to be willing to ante up with part of the IRA I have been paying into for 35 years…

  29. @wr:

    Not only ridiculous, but truly vile.

    Yes yes, everyone who disagrees with you about anything is truly vile, Wrenos.

  30. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    You just argued against yourself.

    Governments borrow in nominal dollars (usually). That is very different than borrowing “food, or lumber, or macadam” to be repaid later.

    Of course, if you believe the Simon–Ehrlich wager will repeat, that would not be bad borrowing either.

  31. @john personna:

    My point is, focusing on whether it will be easy to pay back the debt in the future papers over the actual point that the real purpose of this program isn’t to get more money to Oklahoma, it’s to get more STUFF to Oklahoma. If we send more stuff to Oklahoma, no matter how we work the bookkeeping, there’s oppurtunity costs associated with doing that.

    The proper response to the Republicans not wanting to help should be arguing that we should help and that it is worth the costs of doing so. Instead all the liberals seem to by trying to generate this huge accounting smokescreen to argue that, “loaves and fishes”-like, we can somehow do disaster relief without anyone anywhere having to do with less to accomplish it.

  32. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I think the problem is that Republicans get stuck, not understanding the role of inflation in a fractional reserve banking system, with growth, over time. Perhaps that’s why they fixate on gold and real money fantasies.

    Regardless, we should understand the role of inflation as a background to the question of optimal spending and borrowing.

    If we punt and say “we can’t spend because spending equals tax” we just communicate that we don’t understand.

    For me the bottom line is that there is probably a band of deficit spending that is optimal. We want not too much, and not too little.

    Since we are half-way to austerity now, we are probably safely within that band, and putting some disaster relief on the charge card is no big deal.

  33. rudderpedals says:

    It’s hard to resist kicking the senators for hypocrisy but you can’t pin responsibility for them on the kids and other bystanders hurt in this storm. Disaster aid should be offered quickly and liberally.

  34. anjin-san says:

    @ Stormy Dragon

    I have to be willing to ante up with part of the IRA I have been paying into for 35 years…

    Are you actually saying that Chevron & Exxon’s stock prices are being propped up by corporate welfare, and without them there will be a significant stock price hit? Let’s see, Chevron had a $26.9 billion profit in 2011. Please, let’s have some detail on how they will suffer if they don’t get a free lunch courtesy of the taxpayers…