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Listen to the People!

Not that I expect anyone engaged in practical politics to say this, but part of what’s so insane about the right’s opportunistic embrace of plebiscitary democracy as a reason to oppose the Affordable Care Act is that elected officials just can’t govern the country the way “the people” tell pollsters they want it to be governed. The public, you see, has a lot of seriously mistaken beliefs about public policy.

So for example, the latest Democracy Corps poll reveals that the public is very upset about the deficit and badly wants it reduced but also opposes all possible deficit reduction measures:

In this economy, voters are wary of raising taxes, even if the revenue raised goes to something they deem important, like paying down the deficit. A majority (51 percent) say that even though the deficit is a big problem, we should not raise taxes to bring it down, while only 43 percent say that we might have to raise taxes to reduce the deficit. This rejection is even more acute among the least educated and lowest income voters, who are being disproportionately hurt by the recession and as such are even more strident in their rejection of a new tax to pay down the deficit.

And by an even wider 2:1 margin, voters reject cuts in Social Security, Medicare or defense spending to bring the deficit down (61 to 30 percent). With nearly three-quarters of the federal budget devoted to these items, exempting them from cuts leaves little room to make realistic progress on deficit reduction. […]

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Nearly half of voters think the deficit can be reduced without real cost to entitlements, with 48 percent believing there is enough waste and inefficiency in government spending for the deficit to be reduced through spending cuts while keeping health care, Social Security, unemployment benefits and other services from being hurt.

In the real world, obviously if it were possible to do anything remotely like this, you just wouldn’t see Barack Obama putting forth budgets with the kind of projected deficits you see. But the public doesn’t understand this issue at all.