Even if polling did say voters are more concerned about the deficit than about the jobs situation, I think it would take a foolish politician to listen to them. Voters respond positively to rising incomes, which will only happen if the labor market tightens. But remarkably, it’s somehow become conventional wisdom in DC that the public wants action on the deficit even in the absence of any clear polling that this is the case.
For example, CBS News asked people (PDF) “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” Gulf oil spill came second. Then the deficit tied with health care for fourth. Number one? Jobs:
Does that mean the public has fully embraced Keynesian economics and would welcome a higher short-term deficit? Probably not. But the point is that if you want to tell people you’re going full steam ahead on jobs, that seems to be about what people want to hear. Substantively, skimping on short-term stimulus doesn’t reduce the growth rate of health costs nor does it slow the aging of the population, so you’re not achieving anything on long-term fiscal challenges.