This Week’s (Fiscal) Sign of the Apocalypse

When I first came to Washington in 2008, I was told that the American people are instinctively conservative, but functionally liberal, which was why a public that wanted budget cuts refused to touch the major costs in the federal government. This is a sentiment I have heard many times since, but back then it was a new way of thinking about selling political policy to the public.

Well, a new poll shows this hasn’t changed in the last four years, at least not for Obama voters. From Suzy Khimm at The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog:

Organized labor and progressive activists have been ramping up their warnings against major entitlement cuts as part of a budget deal. That, in turn, has prompted centrist deficit hawks to go on the defensive, arguing that there’s far more appetite among ordinary voters for cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlement programs than the party’s liberal base would like to believe.

Third Way has released a new post-election poll showing that the vast majority of 800 Obama voters (83 percent) want deficit reduction to be a priority. The poll also showed that the majority (53 percent) thought that Social Security and Medicare were in “major” financial trouble. And 79 percent of Obama voters would prefer that “the President and Congress make changes to fix Social Security and: Medicare,” rather than do nothing.

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Jim Kessler of the Third Way believes the poll upends the notion on the left that it would be a “betrayal” to touch entitlements. “According to this poll, these groups do not speak for the people who elected the President,” Kessler says.

But does that mean that Obama voters would be willing to accept the tough cuts to entitlements, and to make that a priority for the new year? Not necessarily. Polls have repeatedly shown that voters want to restrain spending but balk when it comes to benefit cuts to popular entitlement programs.

Khimm sums it up:

So while Obama supporters may support “fixing” entitlement programs in the abstract to improve their finances, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll support the proposals that lawmakers have put forward to do that, most of which entail spending cuts, benefit reductions, and raising the qualifying age for entitlements.

Unfortunately, Obama supporters are not limited to wanting to deal with our long-term spending problems as long as it doesn’t affect them. As Rush Limbaugh noted on his show yesterday, they also lack knowledge on the other side of the deficit problem — taxes:

But the politics of that is is an interesting bit of data here that has been put out by a group called Just Facts Daily….they did some preelection polling.:  And one of the polls that they commissioned preelection found the following.

“Ninety percent of people who are planning to vote for Barack Obama falsely believe that the middle class pays a greater portion of their income in federal taxes than the upper 1% of income earners.” Now, we’re not talking about dollars, we’re talking rates.:  Ninety percent of the people — you talk about losing an issue and losing an argument.…And it doesn’t take long before people actually start believing that the rich are paying a lower tax rate, never mind the fact that the top 1% of taxpayers pays 40% of all federal income taxes and climbing, top 1% pays 40% of everything.

The poll, which can be found here, shows that Romney supporters also lack significant knowledge of public policy issues. And in the end, even many Republicans don’t want to touch Social Security or Medicare, or their preferred tax loopholes, any time soon, despite the necessity of doing so. So it looks like the big government factions in both parties have won — we have a public that knows changes are needed, but is so dependent on government largesse and favorable tax treatment that it refuses to actually implement necessary changes.

And liberals wonder why conservatives fear for the nation’s future.

Dustin Siggins is the online content coordinator and blogger for Tea Party Patriots, a national grassroots coalition with more than 3,500 local chapters. He is also a co-founder of and a frequent contributor to American Spectator’s blog,, and He is the co-author of a forthcoming book on the national debt with William Beach of The Heritage Foundation. The opinions expressed are his own.

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