Thursday, December 13, 2012

Americans side overwhelmingly with Obama and the Democrats on fiscal policy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've got this, Speaker. You lose.

Reflecting the right-leaning, Republican-friendly, split-the-difference views of the Beltway media generally, NBC is pumping up a new poll that suggests Americans are hungry for compromise:  

An overwhelming majority of Americans want Congress and the Obama White House to reach a deal featuring both tax increases and spending cuts to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, according to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Oh really. So Americans just want each side to give in and meet halfway, because apparently each side is equally right/wrong and perfection can be found right in the middle alongside the Beltway media and its indisputable wisdom? 

Uh, no:

Over the course of the past two weeks, The Huffington Post has sponsored a series of surveys conducted by YouGov to find out what people think about the offers made by the White House and congressional Republicans, as well as how they feel about some deficit reduction ideas that aren't on the table.

These recent surveys, along with other publicly available polling, reveal a preference for a deal that would, among other elements, raise taxes on the wealthy, avoid changes to Social Security or Medicare that would hit beneficiaries now or in the future, and make some cost-saving entitlement reforms that aren't on the table, such as the hugely popular option to allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper prescription drugs.

The centerpiece of the public's fiscal cliff plan would almost certainly be letting the Bush tax cuts expire for wealthy Americans. Multiple surveys have found that, by huge margins, Americans favored raising taxes on household income over $250,000 a year. Surveys have also found Americans in favor of increasing taxes on capital gains.

The latest HuffPost/YouGov surveys found that people were also clear about what they don't want in a deal. Americans across the political spectrum opposed even minor cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits, saying by a 52 percent to 25 percent margin that such benefit cuts even for those now under age 55 ought to be off the table. More specifically, Americans opposed changing the way the Social Security cost-of-living increase is calculated or raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 for future beneficiaries.

In other words, Americans abstractly want compromise and seem to understand that a deal to get the country's fiscal house in order requires both more revenue and less spending, but when it comes to the details, they side overwhelmingly with the Democrats and against pretty much everything the entire Republican agenda.

In fact, the majority of Americans would appear to be to the left of President Obama insofar as they object strongly to cuts to key entitlement programs as well as to an increase of the Medicare eligibility age (which Obama may have on the table).

What are the lessons to be learned here? Obama has even more leverage than you think and the media are full of shit.

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