See the very essence of the US government’s financial problems (clue: it’s us)

Political activists have given a thousand explanations for the deficit.  The guilt parties named include both parties and every political institution.  One group usually escapes blame, esp since our Republic puts them in control:  us, the American public.  The political blame game resembles porn — both play to their audience’s fantasies, ignoring reality.  When we’re ready to assume responsibility for the Republic, then America will be back on track to success. 

Today we have yet more evidence about the core problem facing America, and why the easy rhetoric of the Tea Party Movement has gained so many followers.  This is a summary of a Democracy Corps survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner of 1,016 2008 voters, March 15-18, 2010, co-sponsored with Tulane University.  The results are consistent with the large number of previous surveys of public attitudes.  Excerpt from “A Crisis with No Easy Fixes“, Democracy Corps, 31 March 2010 — The article has links to the full data from the survey; red emphasis added.

Voters are deeply concerned about the deficit. Three-quarters report that they discuss it with their friends or family a lot or some and more than nine in 10 voters call the deficit either a crisis or a major problem, rivaling the concern over the current employment situation.

… Despite these concerns, voters are reluctant to attack the deficit through tax increases or spending cuts on entitlements. In this economy, voters are wary of raising taxes, even if the revenue raised goes to something they deem important, like paying down the deficit. A majority (51%) say that even though the deficit is a big problem, we should not raise taxes to bring it down, while only 43 % say that we might have to raise taxes to reduce the deficit. This rejection is even more acute among the least educated and lowest income voters, who are being disproportionately hurt by the recession and as such are even more strident in their rejection of a new tax to pay down the deficit.

And by an even wider 2:1 margin, voters reject cuts in Social Security, Medicare or defense spending to bring the deficit down (61 to 30%). With nearly three-quarters of the federal budget devoted to these items, exempting them from cuts leaves little room to make realistic progress on deficit reduction. This rejection of spending cuts runs across the political spectrum, with even the most conservative wing of the Republican Party — voters who generally fancy themselves as “deficit hawks” — roundly rejecting the idea of cutting spending to pay down the deficit.

Nearly half of voters think the deficit can be reduced without real cost to entitlements, with 48% believing there is enough waste and inefficiency in government spending for the deficit to be reduced through spending cuts while keeping health care, Social Security, unemployment benefits and other services from being hurt. But 43% believe the opposite, that any cuts will hurt these programs. There is a real difference on this among the more marginalized segments of the voting public – those who voted in 2008 but are likely to drop off in the 2010 midterms. For this group, 47% think spending cuts will hurt entitlements while 39% think there is enough waste to make cuts without any pain.

When asked as a forced choice, voters overwhelmingly pick spending cuts over tax increases as the most effective way to reduce the deficit (71 to 18%). But isolating those spending cuts is not easy. When choosing between spending the remaining two-thirds of the stimulus package yet to be spent as planned to create jobs, or to cancel that money to reduce the budget deficit, a majority, 52%, prefer spending the stimulus as planned. With unemployment remaining near 10 percent, voters understandably want to continue to spend the stimulus to create jobs now.

Other articles about the deficit

  1.  “Entitlement Spending and the Long-Term Budget Outlook“, Douglas W. Elmendorf (bio), Director of the Congressional Budget Office, 10 November 2009
  2. President Obama Largely Inherited Today’s Huge Deficits“, Kathy Ruffing and James R. Horney, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 6 December 2009 — “Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers”
  3. How to Spot a Deficit Peacock – 4 Ways to Tell When Someone Isn’t Serious About the Deficit“, Michael Linden, Center for American Progress, 20 January 2010
  4. Obvious, but worth repeating:  “Conservatives Don’t Care About the Deficit“, Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress, 29 January 2010
  5. Why Inflation Won’t Solve Our Debt Problems, blog of the New York Times, 18 February 2010
  6. Analysis of the Federal deficit from the go-to people for analysis of economic statistics:  “Impulse Control – Decomposing the deficit: structural, cyclical, and the fiscal impulse“, The Liscio Report, 13 March 2010
  7. California voters have similar delusions:  “Dear Voters: Find Another $6 Billion“, John Myers, KQED, 24 March 2010 — Fantasies about the budget deficit.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

Posts on the FM site about the government’s finances:

  1. Forecasts – Why wait? Read tomorrow’s news … today! (part 3), 17 July 2006
  2. The most important story in this week’s newspapers, 22 May 2008
  3. Debt – the core problem of this financial crisis, which also explains how we got in this mess, 22 October 2008
  4. A certain casualty of the recession: the US Government’s solvency, 25 November 2008
  5. We have been warned. Death of the post-WWII geopolitical regime, 28 November 2008
  6. Beginning of the end of the Republic’s solvency. Soon come the first steps to a reformed regime – or a new regime., 14 August 2009
  7. Update on our government’s deteriorating solvency, 1 October 2009
  8. Another crack in Republic’s foundations: not the size of the debt, but when it’s due, 30 October 2009
  9. A look at our government’s debt – rising because we like to spend, 29 December 2009


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