Americans Support Cutting The Deficit, But Not Cutting Specific Programs

Nearly 70 percent of Americans now say that cutting the deficit is an important goal for 2012, with 84 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats, and 64 percent of Independents rating it as their top priority. There’s a major problem, though: when asked about specific programs, wide majorities almost always favor either increasing spending or maintaining the current level, according to the Pew Research Center.

On education, for instance, 62 percent favor increases and 25 percent favor maintaining the current level. More than 90 percent favor either an increased level or the current level of spending on veteran’s benefits; and more than 80 percent favor increasing levels or maintaining the current level on college financial aid, public school spending, Medicare, and Social Security. The only program that even gains a plurality of support for reduced spending levels is aid to the world’s needy, as the following chart from Pew shows:

Of course, cutting aid to the world’s needy would do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit. Though Americans think it represents anywhere from 10 percent to one-third of the federal budget, in reality, it makes up less than one percent of federal spending.

By contrast, Americans actually do support one way to reduce the federal deficit: raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. (HT: Sarah Kliff)