Jonathan Weisman’s Wall Street Journal writeup of the lastest WSJ/NBC poll was given the headline “Voters Back Tough Steps to Reduce Budget Deficit”. I would have said “Voters Want to Soak the Rich.” The following is an exhaustive list of deficit reducing measures the public deemed acceptable:
That’s lower Medicare benefits for the rich, higher Social Security taxes for the rich, higher income taxes for the rich, higher corporate income tax, and lower Medicare payment rates. That’s pretty much an aggressively leveling agenda. Broad tax increases are deemed unacceptable, as are broad reductions in retirement program spending (even when formulated as changes to the retirement age), as are cuts to defense and cuts to federal education spending. That’s what the public wants. It’s not the soundest policy agenda in the world, but insofar as there’s no prospect of reaching a deal this year on a long-term budget fix nor is there any reason to think reaching a deal this year on a long-term budget fix would be desirable I don’t see why a practical politician would do anything other than talk about these measures.
At some point, bond market conditions may make it highly desirable to reach a political deal on a long-term budget fix and at that point people can start negotiating. But that day’s not today, and until it comes it’s all just politics.