The Public on How to Do (and Not Do) Deficit Reduction

It really is quite remarkable, even by the standards of today’s conservatives, how far their plans for reducing the deficit are from the public’s. Conservatives don’t want to raise taxes in any way, especially on the rich and corporations. They don’t want to touch the military. And they think it’s a dandy idea to take a meat axe to domestic spending programs and Social Security. The public is exactly the opposite, as a recent Pew Center poll shows.

So what does the public approve of for reducing the deficit? They approve of reducing U.S. assistance to foreign countries (72 percent), raising the cap for Social Security contributions (67 percent), raising income taxes on the rich (66 percent), reducing military commitments overseas (65 percent), and limiting tax deductions for large corporations (62 percent). That sure doesn’t sound like the conservative agenda.

On the other hand, the public disapproves of the following steps for reducing the deficit: taxing employer-provided health insurance (73 percent), reducing funding to states for roads and education (73 percent), gradually raising the Social Security retirement age (59 percent), reducing Social Security for higher-income Americans (54 percent), and reducing funding to help lower-income Americans. These steps have considerable overlap with the conservative agenda.

Conservatives have it exactly backwards on deficit reduction. They don’t want to do what the public supports. And they want to do what the public doesn’t support. Completely backwards, but at this point hardly surprising.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis, go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.