Californians object to increasing taxes in order to pare the state's massive budget deficit, and instead favor closing the breach through spending cuts. But they oppose cuts—and even prefer more spending—on programs that make up 85% of the state's general fund obligations, a new Los Angeles Times/USC Poll has found.
That paradox rests on Californians' firm belief that the state's deficit—estimated last week at nearly $25 billion over the next 18 months—can be squared through trimming waste and inefficiencies rather than cutting the programs they hold dear. Despite tens of billions that have been cut from the state budget in recent years, just a quarter of California voters believed that state services would have to be curtailed to close the deficit.Yikes. In other words, Californians all recognize the danger of ballooning deficits and debt, but don't actually want to sacrifice any of their own benefits (or pay higher taxes) in order to solve the problem. Unfortunately, these strange delusions are not unique to California, but in fact run nationwide, according to a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
After being read a paragraph outlining some of the suggestions to reduce deficits over the next 10 years, as laid out by the chairmen of Obama’s bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, just 25 percent of respondents said the plan was a good idea.
Highlighting just how difficult this issue is:
- 70 percent say they’re uncomfortable cutting spending on Medicare, Social Security, and defense spending.
- 59 percent say they’re uncomfortable raising taxes on gas, limiting home mortgage deductions, and changing corporate tax rates.
- 57 percent say they’re uncomfortable raising the retirement age to 69 – over the next 60 years. The retirement age is currently 67.
Those who say they’re most uncomfortable with these suggestions — those who are against all three — make up a group of strange bedfellows who are rarely aligned on policy matters: core Republicans and Tea Partiers as well as blacks, Latinos, union members, and suburban women.
We live in strange times indeed when "Tea Partiers" and core Republicans oppose spending cuts, while liberal Democrats (and the rich) are in favor of them. The results of the latter study are so bizarre as to cast doubt as to the viability of ANY deficit reduction plan. Any spending cut or tax hike will apparently be vigorously opposed, but we all want our deficits to shrink. Alright, then.Among the most comfortable with these proposals (meaning they are for at least two of these three) are urban and suburban men with college degrees, Northeasterners, households making more than $75,000 a year, and liberal Democrats.
A significant part of the problem derives from the ongoing rhetoric (championed especially by Republicans and Tea Partiers, but not unique to any party or group) that we need to "trim the fat" and cut the "wasteful, inefficient spending" in Washington. While inefficiency absolutely exists in government programs at both the local and federal level, it alone is not to blame for our runaway deficits--it's a red herring at best.
The fact is, our entitlement (and defense) spending programs go far beyond what Americans are actually willing to pay--we're good at asking the government to solve our problems, but absolutely brutal at actually sacrificing out of our own pocket when asked. That's why so few Americans signed up for the military post-9/11, a dramatic change from the flood of enlistments during the World War II era. Our growing debt is a difficult issue, but if we are going to solve our problems, the fixing starts not in Washington, but with us. Ultimately, politicians are simply a reflection of what we tell them to be; in this regard, they are representatives in the truest sense.
[Los Angeles Times]