95% of the Public Supports Spending Cuts?

Greg Sargent, the Washington Post’s in-house left-wing activist, has a hilarious post up analyzing the latest WaPo poll. (The post was originally entitled, “The pubic agrees with Dems, but they don’t know it,” although eventually someone caught on and fixed the typo.)
Everybody has typos; what’s more enduringly amusing is Sargent’s effort at spin:

A big majority, 64 percent, thinks the best way to reduce the federal budget deficit is through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, while only 31 percent think the best way is through only spending cuts. The former position is the one held by most Dems, while the latter is the one held by many Republicans.
…Democrats can plausibly conclude that the public agrees with them at least as much as with Republicans on how to handle our fiscal matters. Yet Dems are not proceeding as if this is the case.

(Italics in original; bold added). If you are keeping score at home, you just heard a left-wing activist admit that 95% of the public believes spending cuts are the best way to reduce the deficit, whether or not that plan also includes tax hikes. Going to the poll itself, only 3% believe the best way to cut the deficit is simply raising taxes. And what’s more, that’s the public – not likely voters or even registered voters, but all adults. Which is one reason why the entire poll is garbage (“all adults” don’t vote for issues; voters vote for candidates). Another, of course, is that Sargent is, as usual, mouthing talking points here in claiming that the Democrats want serious spending cuts (this narrative doesn’t even last the whole piece, as later on he cites support for “the Democratic argument that budget cuts will cause job loss,” which is more like what Democrats usually argue when these issues come to a head. But notice that the Post didn’t ask whether tax hikes would cost jobs, the answer to that one being painfully obvious). And as noted, even with all the poll’s flaws, there’s only 3% public support for closing the budget gap by soaking the taxpayer.
As I’ve explained previously, the real argument worth having isn’t about the deficit at all, it’s about what the ratio of public spending should be to private sector income, with the deficit being only a symptom of the problem of public spending crowding out the private sector. Sargent is trying to frame the debate as one about closing the deficit in a way that reduces the focus on spending cuts, and using an essentially worthless poll to do so. But when even that poll shows respondents by a 95-3 margin saying you have to cut spending to cut the deficit, the Democrats should think long and hard about choosing that hill to die on.

24 thoughts on “95% of the Public Supports Spending Cuts?”

  1. No Crank, it’s all bullshit. Everyone wants cuts, as long as it doesn’t affect THEM. And until we talk about, and actually REDUCE the defense budget to something realistic, there won’t be anything for it to defend.

  2. Well, you’re not going to get poll results like this if you name specific programs you want to see cut. For instance, Harry Reid, the most powerful Democrat in Congress, won’t agree to cut the Cowboy Poetry budget, and surely nobody else would want to see that program cut, right?
    Talk about being on the wrong side of public opinion.
    Cowboy Poetry.

  3. There are few politicians that will be willing to have a realistic discussion over cutting the budget. Non-military discretionary spending is an inordinately small portion of the budget. Talking about cutting stuff like Cowboy Poetry and all is fine and dandy but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the long-run. Heck, it doesn’t actully amount to a bean. As long as the military budget is off the table in any substantial manner the discussion on budget cutting is barely worth having.

  4. Good point, Crank. The problem isn’t government spending, it’s the under-compensation of labor by the private sector.

  5. Since so many readers of this blog want to slash military spending, I’ll make a practical suggestion: Cut military salaries to perhaps a quarter of present levels, and re-institute the draft. No deferments for education or anything else, of course. Follow Wellington’s observation concerning the scum of the earth.
    But for those serious about economic revitalization, greatly cut all government spending–small items as well as large–only showing a cautious gradual approach with regard to entitlements, and keeping in mind government’s first responsibility is protection of the nation from the effects of foreign hostility.

  6. Dai, you reinstitute the draft, you are going to see our brave folk in Congress take a very long and hard look before committing our men and women to combat. Plus, the US, until 1945, traditionally scaled down after wartime, and only geared up when we had to. Maybe that made it tougher, but maybe, just maybe, they were smart. Because then we could afford to deploy when we had to. Now, the military won’t cut the budget, not because it’s risky, but because it’s really the biggest damn earmark project in the world.
    And Dai, the government’s first responsibility is stated, it’s clear, it’s to preserve protect and defend the Constitution. Al Qaeda, which should yes, be hunted down to death, is not threatening that. And a fifty gazillion dollar military budget doesn’t find them either.

  7. wow its fascinating listening to people in complete denial-58% of the federal operating budget currently is entitlement spending, that number goes to 72% or so in the next 10 years. We have a projected future shortfall of up to $105 trillion dollars due to entitlement spending. And all we are hearing is about cutting defense-absolutely clueless. You could cut the ENTIRE defense budget this year and still have like a nearly 700 billion dollar deficit. States and cities are not going bankrupt because of defense spending are they? no they are going bankrupt because of social spending, entitlements and ridiculous employee salaries, benefits and retirement outlays.

  8. dch,
    No, they are going bankrupt because the rich no longer pay their fair share.
    Also, when people tried to do something about out of control “entitlement” spending (i.e. health care reform), they were shouted down (cluelessly) as both commies and fascists. Good luck solving that problem in the current political atmosphere.

  9. I’m sick of both parties. The Democrats aren’t serious about reducing the debt. Obama has recommendations from his commission on debt, but hasn’t done anything with it. Apparently, he’s leaving that up to Pelosi and Reid, which amounts to the same thing.
    Then you have the Republicans, who now control the House, and they pass a bill aimed at only a pittance of discretionary spending and worse yet, short-term spending cuts which aren’t a great idea with this economic downturn. They are so interested in seeing this passed that they tie the spending cuts to abortion, of all things, which they must know guarantees its failure. I can only conclude that they want the dems to veto it as a setup to 2012.
    My only hope lies with the Gang of Six. At this point, just about any broad-based reduction in long-term entitlement and defense spending would be better than doing nothing.
    As for economic growth, I’m all for reforming the tax code, cutting business taxes and capital gains, but you need revenue from somewhere else. Raising personal income taxes on the very wealthy would be a great trade-off in my book. Package it with the serious long-term spending cuts, and it might just get done.

  10. Berto the bottom 50% of tax payers pay less than 3% of federal income taxes. In the last 30 plus years as tax rates have gone down the tax revenues and percentage paid by ” the rich” has skyrocketed. The percentage went from around 17% in 1980 to around 39% currently.
    The obumbler Admin has admitted that they have been double counting 500 billion dollars in savings from obumbler care and they have admitted that it is at least 383 billion dolars more expensive than they told everyone. Let me repeat that again within 1 year of the passing of Obamacare against the wishes of the American people, the obama Administration, not Republicans, Fox News or whatever boogieman du jour have admitted that Obamacare is a budget busting moneypit-that is at least 900 billion dolars more expensive in its 1st 10 years than they saind it was. That is what they have admitted. The actual number is closer to 2 trillion dollars. if you think the way to solve a budget and entitlement problem is to create even more entitlment programs with more spending, I nor any person on the Planet Earth can help you.

  11. 1. Military spending is dwarfed by entitlement spending. It is also, IIRC, close to the postwar low as a % of GDP. As it happens, the last two defense secretaries have put quite a lot of effort into battling with the DoD bureaucracy to cut unnecssary costs. I’ll believe there’s seriousness about cutting domestic spending when the domestic side gets something like BRAC.
    2. The people complaining about the defense budget are, by and large, the same ones who complained when the Army and Marines didn’t have enough armored vehicles in the pipeline when the Iraq War started, etc., even after spending the prior decade agitating for a “peace dividend.” We spend money on advance procurements because the day will come when we need them.
    3. The only way to slash the defense budget short-term – given the complexity of canceling existing orders for weapons systems – is to reduce the number of soldiers or their compensation. That has bad effects on combat readiness.
    4. At the end of the day, arguments about the defense budget are never about the budget. Nobody ever has useful suggestions for serious reductions in spending that aren’t driven by their national security agenda of reducing American power and its use in the world, and/or an effort to distract from excessive government at home.

  12. Crank, I think you know I’m the Democrat here who has spoken to death about cutting the entitlement spending. BTW, entitlement is code for the third rail: Social Security. Raise the damn age to 80 already. And make the speeches which will properly shame the selfish bastards who claim it’s their turn to retire. Fine. Retire. Just don’t expect my children and grandchildren to pay for it.
    But Crank, there really does have to be a major long term assessment in military spending. Because too much is expected by what has proven to be our most idealistic, intelligent cohort today. Look at Libya. I just love those brave souls in the Arab League. Yeah, they approve a no fly zone now in Libya. As long as we, and maybe some Nato (translation Royal Air Force) folks put their asses on the line. How about all those Arab League countries who bought all those F16s and F15s fly them themselves? No, they want us to do it. And pay for it too no doubt.

  13. “In the last 30 plus years as tax rates have gone down the tax revenues and percentage paid by ” the rich” has skyrocketed.”
    That’s because corporations, which once paid 40% of the tax base, now pay about 14%.
    The current tax rates for the rich are the lowest they’ve been in 60+ years.
    Agreed that nothing will be done about defense spending. Recall the shoulder shrugging when the rampant corruption by Iraq war and reconstruction contractors was reported.
    “…an effort to distract from excessive government at home.”
    Note the Tea Party-led push for more government intrusion on a woman’s right to choose. That the media still call the Tea Party “small-government” just shows how complicit they are in the astro-turfed hoax.

  14. One think I noticed on Bill Maher friday. The Tea Partyian kept taling about why tax and penalize Exxon Mobil since they are successful. That’s part of the Tea Party crap, because Ladies and Germs, Exxon Mobil, like Nestle, like BP, are MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS. They don’t give a flying f….well, you know about the US, or any other country. To them we are all banana republics, that exist only to feed their hungry appetite.

  15. Daryl could probably use a humor enhancement, at least when reading my entries.
    However, military spending isn’t a problem but a response to world conditions. Could it be more efficient? Of course. Could reducing it solve long-term deficit problems? Not a hope. Unless we are willing to accept hostage-taking and assassinations of Americans we need harsh military actions. Weakening the military will bring only trouble to the US. Less-than-optimum military operations simply encourage the baddies to try harder.

  16. “It is also, IIRC, close to the postwar low as a % of GDP.”
    Percent of GDP is the wrong way to gauge military spending. We have the strongest military by orders of magnitude compared to the rest of the world. We should keep a large advantage, but dialing it back some isn’t going to materially affect our security. In other words, it’s on the table like everything else.

  17. Tell you what Dai, I’ll keep the humor, you remember my posts. Our military is not, at present, set up for what is happening in the world. We are set up to stop a land invasion by the Warsaw Pact in Europe, to be a tripwire, meaning if North Korea crosses the DMZ, we are supposed to be so angry we send in the rest of the troops to slug it out, and we have loads of nuclear submarines to launch missile strikes against the Soviet Union.

  18. Daryl,
    Explain your problem with Social Security.
    Is it the current $2.6 trillion surplus?
    That it does not at all affect the current deficit?
    That it might have a funding problem in 35 years or so if we continue to only tax partial earnings?
    That it slashed the 50+% poverty rate in seniors?
    This country has a huge problem with unemployment/ underemployment, and raising the retirement age to 80 is only going to exacerbate that problem.
    The “Entitlement” problem is with MediCare and MedicAid, caused by sky-rocketing health care costs. Control health care costs, and our entitlement problems become nothing more than a mere bump in the road.
    I hate to agree with dch, but ObamaCare isn’t going to solve the problem. Single-payer (or a public option) will put downward pressure on HC costs, but there are too many Americans who’ve been convinced we can’t do what every other industrialized nation on earth does because “shut-up, we’re number one, that’s why”, or some other such nonsense.

  19. Also, a hardy golf-clap to Crank for reminding us that anyone who criticized W’s Medicare Part D give away to Big Pharma–which exploded entitlement costs–was just suffering from Bush-derangement syndrome.

  20. Berto, as a certified card carrying Baby Boomer, I can tell you that as my generation ages, and is now at the beginning of getting out payments in a program that really was not meant to just pay out to anyone who wants to “retire.” And as my wave comes through, and lives longer (it’s gone from 66 a generation ago to 80 now), the payout, with fewer people able to pay in (burger flipping just doesn’t pay that much) is a monetary nuke ready to go off. It’s the gift that will keep on giving. It’s going to be a disaster.
    And the French have mandatory retirement so young folks can move in. In other words, we will live longer, live healthier, have all the accumulated experience and wisdom which we then cannot tap in the same job. Plus, if we want to remain a capitalist society, then we have to GROW, not stagnate. I may be a liberal, but I’m not a socialist (I don’t consider a medical public option socialism, but simply feel that health care is a right, not a privilege).
    You see, I don’t believe in voluntary retirement.

  21. Wait a minute. According to Reagan, Laffer, Glider, et al., we started down this tax cut uber alles path because tax cuts would generate gretaer revenue AND reduce the deficit.
    I guess the data demonstrating bith assertions to be utterly fraudulent means that we have to adopt Dick Cheney’s deficits don’t matter theory.
    Of course, there is waste in government programs and serious reform of entitlement prograsm are long overdue. I’m waiting for the House GOP to tell us precisely what they want to cut and by how much — raise the retirment age, increase payments for those covered by Medicare, eliminate the mortgage interest deduction. Then, we can have a poll, call it an election and see what the results are. Any remaining tea baggers can go to Concord, New Hampshire and fire the next “shot heard ’round the world.”

  22. “In other words, we will live longer, live healthier, have all the accumulated experience and wisdom which we then cannot tap in the same job.”
    Not sure where you got the idea that those who meet the age requirement for Social Security are forced into retirement, but it’s not true. Feel free to work past your centennial year. If you’re that worried about non-existent funding problems with Social Security, I’m sure you can refuse your benefit payments too.
    It isn’t going to be a “disaster” because of the Greenspan Commission, which enabled the program to build enormous surpluses in its trust fund. As for future shortfalls (which are still more than 25 years away), while true that rising income inequality has reduced the revenue the program can collect on the payroll tax, removing the cap (currently about $106K), makes the projected shortfall disappear as well.
    “…with fewer people able to pay in (burger flipping just doesn’t pay that much)…”
    The lack of good jobs is a separate problem, and I don’t see how messing with Social Security addresses it.
    The ability of a capitalist society to grow (and not stagnate), is a good reason to spend tax dollars on facilities and infrastructure instead of defense, which has shown lower economic multipliers and provides less economic activity for the US in comparison.

  23. Berto, I agree about where to invest. My issue is that everyone thinks they bought into the system, and not they get to take it out, and for far longer than was intended. That is why it’s a monetary nuke. And a shortfall 25 years away is a shortfall nonetheless. Even though our politicians seem to think a month away is too long to contemplate.

  24. “…a shortfall 25 years away is a shortfall nonetheless.”
    -Why such a hard-on to change SS, when their are countless other government programs with shortfalls much sooner (today)? Even when only looking at entitlements, the ticking time-bombs are MediCare and MedicAid, not SS.
    -Why look at the outlay side before looking at the income side? Why should those making less than $100K pay FiCA on 100% of their income, while those making > $1 million pay FiCA on (at most) 10% of their income?

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