Public’s Dos and Don’ts on Handling the Fiscal Showdown

The debate on how to handle the so-called fiscal showdown is the focus of attention in Congress these days. Recent polls have given the public a chance to weigh in on its priorities in this debate. As an extensive, just-released Pew Research Center poll makes clear, the key priorities for the public can be summed up as:

  • Raise tax rates on those who can afford it.
  • Don’t raise the Medicare or Social Security eligibility ages.
  • Don’t cut spending in critical areas such as education, transportation, and aid to the poor.

In the Pew poll, an overwhelming majority (69 percent to 28 percent) said we should raise the income tax rate on those making $250,000 or more to help close the deficit. The public also endorsed raising the tax rate on investment income by 52 percent to 43 percent.

Figure 1

The same poll showed the public opposed raising the Medicare eligibility age (56 percent to 41 percent) or the Social Security eligibility age (56 percent to 42 percent).

Figure 2

Finally, the public massively opposed reducing federal funding for education to reduce the deficit by a margin of 77 percent to 21 percent. They also opposed reducing federal funding for roads and transportation (67 percent to 30 percent) and opposed reducing federal funding for low-income assistance programs (58 percent to 38 percent).

Figure 3

The solution to the fiscal showdown is not yet clear. But the public’s priorities on that solution are. Let’s hope policymakers are paying attention.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.