There Is No Public Support For Spending Cuts

Another poll is out showing that there’s very little public support for any of the spending cuts or entitlement reforms that would have to make up any serious effort to bring Federal spending under control:

Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. Most also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support.

(…)

The Republican budget plan, drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) and approved by the House last week, calls for a major restructuring of Medicare and Medicaid, with sizable savings in future costs. Obama, in his plan, opposes the GOP’s restructuring, but he has said that future savings will be needed to keep Medicare solvent.

The Post-ABC poll finds that 78 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to chip away at the debt. On Medicaid — the government insurance program for the poor — 69 percent disapprove of cuts.

There is also broad opposition to cuts in military spending to reduce the debt, but at somewhat lower levels (56 percent).

In his speech last week, the president renewed his call to raise tax rates on family income over $250,000, and he appears to hold the high ground politically, according to the poll. At this point, 72 percent support raising taxes along those lines, with 54 percent strongly backing this approach. The proposal enjoys the support of majorities of Democrats (91 percent), independents (68 percent) and Republicans (54 percent). Only among people with annual incomes greater than $100,000 does less than a majority “strongly support” such tax increases.

An across-the-board tax increase is decidedly less popular, at least when coupled with benefit reductions. A report by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility , co-chaired by former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, recommended “shared sacrifice.” But in the poll, a slim majority — 53 percent — opposes small tax increases and minor benefit cuts for all as a way to significantly reduce the debt. Strong opposition to that kind of solution outnumbers strong support by 2 to 1.

There is broad support for keeping Medicare structured the way it has been since it was instituted in 1965: as a defined-benefit health insurance program. Just 34 percent of Americans say Medicare should be changed along the lines outlined in the Ryan budget proposal, shifting it away from a defined-benefit plan. Under that proposal, recipients would select from a group of insurance plans providing guaranteed coverage, and the government would provide a payment to the insurer, subsidizing the cost. Advocates say this approach is more sophisticated than a pure voucher plan.

This isn’t really surprising, of course. We’ve seen numerous polls over the past several months that essentially say this exact same thing, including one just yesterday. Nobody should really be surprised that people are nervous about the idea of giving up a program that they kind of like, especially when nobody has really made the case to them for why the changes need to be made. And that’s where the Republicans have failed so far. They have assumed, without any real evidence, that last November’s election results gave them some kind of mandate for massive spending cuts, when it was clear from the exit polls that the chief concern on the mind of most voters on Election Day was the economy and jobs. There’s no question that entitlement reform is necessary, but it’s going to be up to somebody to explain why it’s necessary, and to do so in a rational manner without resorting to the same idiotic partisan games that we’ve all become accustomed to.

I’m not at all optimistic.

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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Derrick says:

    There’s no question that entitlement reform is necessary, but it’s going to be up to somebody to explain why it’s necessary, and to do so in a rational manner without resorting to the same idiotic partisan games that we’ve all become accustomed to.

    I’m glad to see that America isn’t as dumb as our political media. I just find it astonishing that people will take this new deficit fetishism by the Republicans without asking where they were on this issue 3-10 years ago. This isn’t to say that we don’t have to examine our entitlements, but this D.C. panic is completely detached from the problems in America today. Get the economy going, slightly change our marginal tax status and cut a few things and any long term defecit problem gets pushed back until our kids have grandkids.

  2. Southern Hoosier says:

    If There Is No Public Support For Spending Cuts, then Comrade Obama and the Democrats should win by a landslide. I wonder how the public will feel when there is no money left to spend?

  3. sam says:

    In his speech last week, the president renewed his call to raise tax rates on family income over $250,000, and he appears to hold the high ground politically, according to the poll. At this point, 72 percent support raising taxes along those lines, with 54 percent strongly backing this approach

    Paul Ryan just caught an earful on this from his constituents: Paul Ryan Booed At Town Hall For Defending Tax Breaks For The Wealthy

  4. jukeboxgrad says:

    I just find it astonishing that people will take this new deficit fetishism by the Republicans without asking where they were on this issue 3-10 years ago.

    Exactly. Ryan himself voted for Bush’s Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, which “added $15.5 trillion (in present value terms) to our nation’s indebtedness.”

    He has never repudiated that vote, and no journalist has bothered to challenge him on this point.

  5. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Support or not, there will be cuts to all entitlement programs, either when the people realize that it needs to be done or when we run out of money. One way or the other, the cuts are coming.

  6. jukeboxgrad says:

    when we run out of money

    The rich are not running out of money anytime soon. They’re just doing the best they can to make sure the government runs out of money. Trouble is, the non-rich eventually catch on.

  7. Southern Hoosier says:

    jukeboxgrad says: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 17:38

    when we run out of money

    The rich are not running out of money anytime soon. They’re just doing the best they can to make sure the government runs out of money. Trouble is, the non-rich eventually catch on.

    Your right the government will never run out of money. They will just raise the debt ceiling and borrow more or simply print more.

  8. jukeboxgrad says:

    They will just raise the debt ceiling and borrow more or simply print more.

    History shows that this is what the government will do if the GOP is in charge. About 3/4 of our debt was created under these three presidents: Reagan, Bush and Bush. Reagan tripled it, and GWB doubled it.

    It’s clear that we want our government to do certain things we consider important. The only question is whether we will pay for it, or our kids. When the GOP approves a budget that cuts taxes while continuing to add debt for another twenty years, that indicates they prefer the latter. Any why not? After all, our kids have no vote.

    So this is just more of what we have already seen from the 3 GOP presidents who created most of our debt. Here’s the philosphy: tax cuts for the rich is a top priority, even if the group that gets the bill is our kids.

  9. Axel Edgren says:

    So let us see now whether republicans will heed their words regarding “ObamaCare” (which *was* passed with weak approval or even light disapproval at the time) and *abstain* from trying to Cram Legislation Down the People’s Throat (TM).

    Spoiler: they won’t be consistent because they are reptilian and lack every quality any reliable human needs.

    They should take up my philosophy: on every issue and regarding every problem there are better solutions and worse solutions. If the majority wants a worse solution, either educate them or circumvent them. If the majority wants something that is fair and economically intelligent, then the vox populi should rule.

    If everyone could just admit that the majority are not in the right every time, they wouldn’t have to act as hypocrites. Democrats and republicans constantly have to switch between “Voters are salt-of-the-earth people! Respect Main Street and Joe Q!” and “Voters are sheep and rubes who don’t know what is good for them and the country!”.

    This is because they are lazy and cowardly. They should be like me and approach every issue on a case-by-case basis? Am I right? Think about it: of course I am.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    One way or the other, the cuts are coming.

    As are the tax increases…

  11. MM says:

    Well, oddly enough most people aren’t 50+ year olds and don’t make 6 or 7 figures and hang out inside the beltway, coming up with Very Serious austerity measures that will effect their roofers and their plumbers but will never effect them.

    If we’re so broke that everyone has to suffer, make everyone suffer.

    Immediate means testing of Medicare and Social Security.

    Remove the FICA caps starting in 2012

    Raise the early retirement age to 68 for anyone under 60. Raise the regular retirement age to 70.

    Immediate 50% RIF from all foreign military installations outside Afghanistan, and Iraq, with an 18 month drawdown from both.

    6 month transition from TSA to airlines handling security.

    18 month dissolution of the DEA and Dept of Education.

    Oh wait, those are all wildly unpopular or could be used by one’s opponents to score political points.