Steve Benen observes that the other thing about the CNN poll referenced below is that it shows that the public has absolutely insane ideas about balancing the budget. In particular, 67 percent of voters claim to believe that “the government should balance the budget even when the country is in a recession and is at war.” Take a look at the Congressional Budget Office’s latest report on the budget situation and consider what balancing the FY 2009 budget would entail:
As a first cut, we could return spending to its FY 2008 level (approximately at the historical average, and where we under the right-wing Bush administration) by entirely eliminating Social Security. Alternatively, we could keep Social Security as is, and entirely eliminate Medicare and Medicaid. Having done that, we would still need about $800 billion in additional tax increases. That’d be a tax hike of about twenty times the annual impact of the tax increases included in the health reform bill.
You could get this, maybe, by imposing a 10 percent Value Added Tax. But anyone who thinks that balancing the budget via a 10 percent VAT and the elimination of Social Security payments would be a popular agenda is certifiably insane. But there’s no other permutation of budget balancing that makes any more sense. For example, suppose you wanted to balance the budget entirely on the spending side. Well, the total 2009 deficit is $1.587 trillion. If we entirely eliminated discretionary spending—no electricity in the White House, no military, no FBI, no national parks, no nothing—we’d still have a $346 billion deficit.
People think they think they want a balanced budget even in a severe recession, but that’s because they obviously have no idea what balancing the FY 2009 budget would entail.