Poll: 71% of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling

posted at 12:55 pm on January 13, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Has the mainstream gone Tea Party, or the Tea Party gone mainstream?  Despite warnings from the White House of the “deeply irresponsible” nature of “play[ing] chicken” with the national debt-limit ceiling, a Reuters poll of adults shows almost three-quarters of Americans opposed to further increases in the statutory borrowing cap.  But consensus gets smaller on what to cut instead (via Quite Normal):

Some 71 percent of those surveyed oppose increasing the borrowing authority, the focus of a brewing political battle over federal spending. Only 18 percent support an increase.

The poll underscores the tough task ahead for U.S. lawmakers as the debt nears its current ceiling of $14.3 trillion. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week warned that a failure to raise the borrowing limit in the coming months could lead to “catastrophic economic consequences”.

Republicans, who won control of the House of Representatives in November on a promise to scale back government, hope to pair any debt-ceiling hike with a commitment from President Barack Obama to reduce long-term spending.

The topline result is staggering.  It shows that the Tea Party’s aversion to further borrowing and spending has hit a resonant chord with Americans, and today’s warnings on bond ratings will only intensify it.  Right now, the White House stands with just 18% of the public, and likely an even smaller percentage of likely voters in the next cycle.

But if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, cuts have to come immediately to stave off a default, which could create a global financial collapse.  Where do people see the potential for enough cuts to avoid further borrowing?  Those results are also somewhat surprising, and a little contradictory:

  • Education – 24%
  • Military – 53%
  • Environmental enforcement – 45%
  • Financial regulation enforcement – 53%
  • Social Security – 20%
  • Medicare – 23%
  • Foreign aid – 73%
  • Tax collection efforts – 65%

That’s interesting, but not very realistic.  Foreign aid and the cost of tax collection are not very large parts of the budget.  Even eliminating them all would hardly put a dent in deficit spending, which is what drives the need to raise the debt limit.  The same is true for environmental and financial regulatory enforcement, although scaling it back would create an economic boom that would raise revenues appreciably to help close the gap some.  The Pentagon spends around $700 billion, and probably has room for substantial reduction if we rethink our global position, but the deficit is $1.3 trillion, or almost two Pentagons.

In order to really get at the heart of federal spending, entitlements need to be on the table, and right now. We need to start scaling them back to safety-net size rather than comprehensive entitlements.  Federal pension systems have to be transformed into defined-contribution rather than defined-benefit plans.  It won’t be popular, but structurally, that’s the only approach to the budget that gets us back to fiscal balance.


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Better check your math there, PappyD. In order for a 10% budget cut to close a deficit of $1.3T, the federal budget would have to be $13T.

But that would keep us under the current debt ceiling, thus obviating the need to raise the debt ceiling.

humdinger on January 13, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Count me in with the 71%

Dr Evil on January 13, 2011 at 3:06 PM

All power springs from economic power. While America decays, plays, and sucks its thumb, China invests. Everywhere. There is nothing unprincipled in this. It is just intelligent commerce.

Do not underestimate these people. They are smart, disciplined, studious, practical – as well as nationalistic and very racially conscious.

Note that China has that perfect government, an intelligent dictatorship concerned with advancing the country. The American government consists of self-interested lobbies and Wall Street looters. China is run by engineers, America by lawyers. Watch.

The US is midway through an inexorable suicide. If a country does not manufacture things, it does not have an economy, and manufacturing has fled American shores. Ship-building, steel, consumer electronics, railroads: gone. You may think your HP laptop is an American product, but in all likelihood every component was made overseas and it was assembled in Taiwan.

We are finished, and raising, or not raising the debt ceiling makes absolutely no difference. It just means either an immediate dramatic shock to the economy or long term hyperinflation until the dollar becomes completely worthless.

Take your choice.

PatriotRider on January 13, 2011 at 3:08 PM

In order to really get at the heart of federal spending, entitlements need to be on the table, and right now. We need to start scaling them back to safety-net size rather than comprehensive entitlements.

Do not raise the debt limit.

Repeal Obamacare. Cut everything else (starting w/Congressional pensions & salaries). Medicare, Medicaid, admin staff & REMFs in DoD, EPA, all of it. I’m a paralyzed veteran. 100% disabled with a service-connected injury. Cut our pensions in half; we’ll survive. America’s survival is #1.

Cut. Everything. Right. Effing. Now.

OhioCoastie on January 13, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Do not raise the debt limit.

Repeal Obamacare. Cut everything else (starting w/Congressional pensions & salaries). Medicare, Medicaid, admin staff & REMFs in DoD, EPA, all of it. I’m a paralyzed veteran. 100% disabled with a service-connected injury. Cut our pensions in half; we’ll survive. America’s survival is #1.

Cut. Everything. Right. Effing. Now.

OhioCoastie on January 13, 2011 at 3:09 PM

I appreciate your sincere sentiment but the reality of the situation is taking a look at the grander picture.

America is the world’s greatest debtor nation, China the greatest creditor. We cannot possibly repay what we owe, so we must either default or inflate. If another choice exists, I am unaware of it. And yet the government spends, spends, spends, and borrows, borrows, borrows. No one is in charge. No one cares. All line their own pockets.

Rationally, this would seem a good time to let go of unaffordable luxuries. But no. The US continues to buy things it can’t pay for, to play roles it can no longer maintain, because it pains the national vanity no longer to be the biggest kid on the block.

The millstone around the American neck is the Pentagon. The direct cost alone of feeding the military contractors is almost mortal to a sinking economy: $720 billion this year, plus another $120 billion requested for the unending wars, plus huge black programs, the Veterans Administration, and so on.

China, Russia, the Muslim world, Latin America and all the rest who detest the US must be enjoying the spectacle. Spend on, spend on, oh round-eyed fools….

Vanity. We do it because we think it our birthright to rule the world. The monkey cannot let go.

PatriotRider on January 13, 2011 at 3:25 PM

You stop spending for luxuries when you run out of credit and are in debt to your eyeballs: you slim down to the basics and start getting rid of your debt.

EPA? A luxury and job killer, it must go.
FCC? The industry can figure out who will broadcast on what frequency and then figure out how to broadcast more per frequency, like they did with cell phones. Kill this sclerotic dept.
Agriculture? A cash kick-back scheme to large companies, it must go.
Education? We are worse off than when it was instituted, it must go.
Energy? How many ‘energy crises’ have we had with this dept doing nada to help? It must go.
Defense? Extend downtime and maintenance time for ships, cut overseas bases not necessary for logistical war support.
Pork? Kill it. All of it.
Audit the Fed. Find out how badly they have been messing things up and start cutting their power, their size and finally the entire thing as they have devalued our currency steadily since they were established… the opposite of what they should do.
SEC? They are immune to FOIAs, sounds like secret activities going on that those in power don’t want us to see… kill it.
Foreign aid? Only to those who are supporting our war efforts or we are helping in COIN. Not one red cent for the UN.
Mecdicaid is killing the States trying to support it. Medicare is bankrupting the system. Add their budgets up, divide by 2, block grant by proportion to the States without strings, set goal for disestablishing this in 5 years and cutting our taxes.

The list goes on and on and on. Cut. Cut hard, cut deep. Americans have to do this, and it is time our government reflected us… Americans are re-learning thrift and paying off debts. Now our government MUST do this.

ajacksonian on January 13, 2011 at 3:33 PM

CapitalistObserver, it’s a given that entering into default would be a bad idea. We’ve got that.

“However, the problem is that the debt will hit the debt ceiling before spending cuts can be enacted.”

You say that as though it’s undisputed truth and present default as the only alternative, but we haven’t established that yet. Exactly why do you believe that the debt must necessarily outrace the spending cuts?

If you’re telling me that rapid cuts are unlikely then I might agree with you. Of course, fear of defaulting would be a pretty strong motivator of unlikely actions. But if you mean to say such cuts are truly impossible for Congress and the President, even if certain doom is the result, then I’d really like to understand why.

GalosGann on January 13, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Better check your math there, PappyD. In order for a 10% budget cut to close a deficit of $1.3T, the federal budget would have to be $13T.

But that would keep us under the current debt ceiling, thus obviating the need to raise the debt ceiling.

humdinger on January 13, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Yes, true … for another couple of months at least, and that would give them more time to enact more spending cuts; if the will for that existed, of course. Eventually, though, unless drastic cuts are made, i.e., much greater than 10%, the debt ceiling will have to be raised, or the Federal Govt will default. I vote for a 10% accross the board cut immediately a la PappyD, and much larger one later this year. Perhaps we could repeal Bush’s socialized medicine initiative, aka the Prescription Drug Plan, along with ObamaCare.

JSGreg3 on January 13, 2011 at 3:43 PM

I am not sure that most people know that SS isn’t just welfare for the “geezers” set but is pretty much another welfare program for younger people it was never designed to provide “security” to.

chickasaw42 on January 13, 2011 at 3:54 PM

How much longer are Americans going to fall for this impending catastrophe crap? Apparently, with 71% against the raising of the debt ceiling, not much longer.

JSGreg3 on January 13, 2011 at 2:25 PM

If the United States debt ceiling doesn’t keep pace with the debt we are incurring and we default, it WILL be a catastrophe. The entire system is based on everyone having faith that the fiat money system is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Once that goes out the window, it is a house of cards. You don’t fix the economy by destroying it. And it IS irresponsiblie to play chicken with the debt ceiling.

CapitalistObserver on January 13, 2011 at 2:45 PM

Yes, you are correct; however, it is equally irresponsible to keep borrowing money at this current rate. What’s going to happen if the debt ceiling is raised with no strings attached for forcing a reduction in spending? Answer: Nothing. Congress and the President will not make the tough spending cut decisions, and the next debt ceiling will be reached faster than the current one was. Spending must be reduced immeidately. The only thing that will force an immediate spending reduction is a halt of borrowing.

JSGreg3 on January 13, 2011 at 3:56 PM

Count me with the 71% as well. Cut all government 25% across the board, no exceptions in both employees and budgets. Make collective bargaining illegal for all public sector unions at all levels, even city and state. Immediately require the renegotiation of all public sector pension funds and eliminate double dipping. Eliminate the departments of agriculture, and education. Eliminate the EPA and move those responsibilities in the Interior Dept. while immediately stopping all EPA political-oriented junk science base regulation – polar bears, GHGs, etc. Eliminate Homeland Security and give it back to the FBI. Eliminate the DEA and stop the war on American citizens. Eliminate NASA GISS and restrict NASA to space exploration. Eliminate all public broadcasting, and arts funding. Close most overseas bases including Korea and all European bases. Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. Eliminate all funding including tuition loans to students for any school, college or university that bans ROTC, American history, the Pledge of Allegiance, and other anti-American activity on their campuses. Eliminate NGO tax status. Eliminate corporate welfare and public generational welfare by setting time limits for benefits. Eliminate the anchor baby provision. Term limits on congress. Eliminate a large number of the federal police that have turned this country into a police state. Require sunset provisions on all regulation past and present.

I could go on.

woodNfish on January 13, 2011 at 3:59 PM

To appreciate our situation one has only to imagine a scene out of Gulliver’s Travels. But instead of Gulliver being tied down by the little people, it’s Uncle Sam. Cloward, Piven, Ayers, Soros, and many many others have been working for a long time to bring this about. It’s death of our country by a thousand cuts while the business climate and the economy are tied down by countless ropes of regulations and taxes. Our children are fed politically correct pablum instead of being challenged to competitively strive to enhance their knowledge and skills. Instead they’re taught to be concerned with political nonsense that stifles achievement and excellence. They’re presented with an alternate version of history that has been “adjusted” to justify the politics of progressives instead of what really happened. This needs to stop. Now.

We have a lot of work to do, both nationally and locally to reverse this insidious marxist progressivism designed to tie this national giant down like Gulliver. I encourage all who read this to get involved locally. Go to PTA and school board meetings, town selectmens meetings, let your voice be heard. Write letters to the editors of your local papers. Join your local GOP and become a volunteer or even better a candidate. Help steer them to being more like the Tea Party and less RINOish. Now get to work!

shmendrick on January 13, 2011 at 4:00 PM

…repeal Obamacare. Cut everything else (starting w/Congressional pensions & salaries). Medicare, Medicaid, admin staff & REMFs in DoD, EPA, all of it. I’m a paralyzed veteran. 100% disabled with a service-connected injury. Cut our pensions in half; we’ll survive. America’s survival is #1.

Cut. Everything. Right. Effing. Now.

OhioCoastie on January 13, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Sorry buddy. Cutting the benefits of a paralyzed veteran, 100% disabled from a service related injury should never be on the table. I would support closing every government department and reducing our armed forces down to just the Coast Guard before I would ever support that. Your sacrifice to our country cannot be repaid. You have my eternal gratitude.

JSGreg3 on January 13, 2011 at 4:11 PM

In order to really get at the heart of federal spending, entitlements need to be on the table, and right now.

Ed “the Apostate” Morrissey

Momma Doc at HHS says she won’t tolerate dissent, so be careful.

BobMbx on January 13, 2011 at 4:16 PM

If the United States debt ceiling doesn’t keep pace with the debt we are incurring and we default, it WILL be a catastrophe. The entire system is based on everyone having faith that the fiat money system is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Once that goes out the window, it is a house of cards. You don’t fix the economy by destroying it. And it IS irresponsiblie to play chicken with the debt ceiling.

CapitalistObserver on January 13, 2011 at 2:45 PM

That happened about 20 years ago. You and I both know that Uncle Sam wouldn’t be approved for a used car loan, even with 50% down. Please explain how deficits of a trillion dollars or more each year builds and supports the “full faith and credit” of the US? Keep in mind we borrow nearly 30% of the budget every year.

Tell me how Suntrust or BoA would have faith in your ability to repay a loan when your financial history shows decades of spending more than you make. Every year.

The US cerdit must be good. The world holds $14 Trillion of it.

BobMbx on January 13, 2011 at 4:22 PM

I think that maybe that 71% either does not know what it means if they don’t raise the debt ceiling, or they are simply making the point that the majority of Americans are really serious about cutting debt…however, if they did not raise the debt ceiling and we actually went into default people would not like it, not one little bit. They just don’t actually think that is a real danger.

Terrye on January 13, 2011 at 5:08 PM

Sorry buddy. Cutting the benefits of a paralyzed veteran, 100% disabled from a service related injury should never be on the table. I would support closing every government department and reducing our armed forces down to just the Coast Guard before I would ever support that. Your sacrifice to our country cannot be repaid. You have my eternal gratitude.

JSGreg3 on January 13, 2011 at 4:11 PM

I appreciate that Greg. Truly. I’d ask you to reconsider, though. We’re all in the same boat, and we’re taking on water. I didn’t join up to feast at the public trough. All federal benefits are bloated, and all of them deserve to feel the meat cleaver. Until everything’s on the table, nothing will happen.

Someone will always scream “But … but my situation is special!!1!” Uh, no. Sorry. It’s not. I’ll put up so that the progressives & RINOs shut up. The survival of the country’s at stake.

I’d rather get a kick in the nuts now than get the guillotine next year.

OhioCoastie on January 13, 2011 at 5:50 PM

OhioCoastie on January 13, 2011 at 5:50 PM

The VA spends one billion dollars per year on disability payments related to tinnitus. That is 10% for each service connected vet with tinnitus. A vet with service connected sleep apnea can garner 50% for a condition that is corrected with a CPAP. I’m a disabled vet myself, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Some VA benefits could stand cutting.

entropent on January 13, 2011 at 10:15 PM

Seems the problem here is no one is willing to let the people take charge of doing what is necessary in some sort of orderly fashion. Taxpayer Directed Budget

Politicians can’t make the tough decisions, they are too worried about getting re-elected or losing face for making tough decisions. The taxpayers have their property taken from them without just compensation for how that property ($$$$$) is to be used. The taxpayers generally represent the productive sector of our society — let the productive guide our nation’s future, not the unproductive politicians and those sucking off the teat of the politicians who are leading us down a rat hole.

drfredc on January 14, 2011 at 12:48 AM

The VA spends one billion dollars per year on disability payments related to tinnitus. That is 10% for each service connected vet with tinnitus. A vet with service connected sleep apnea can garner 50% for a condition that is corrected with a CPAP. I’m a disabled vet myself, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Some VA benefits could stand cutting.

entropent on January 13, 2011 at 10:15 PM

I retired from the Navy in 2006 after 24 years and my fellow retirees STILL can’t believe that I’m not drawing some kind of disability from the VA. They ask me … “What percentage are you drawing from disability?”

I tell them … none. Even though I have two herniated disks in my neck and to in my lower back. I feel great – I squat 350 pounds in the gym for 4 sets of 6 reps and then do 400 for deadlift once a week. My disks only bother me when I’m sitting on my ass on the couch.

Yet – if I went to the VA they’d probably give me 20% disability for those things at least – especially if I add a few other things on like reduced hearing, etc.

I think a VA guy told me once you could get a disability percentage for hemmorhoids.

It’s just silly. I was actually TOLD by a VA guy when I transitioned out of the Navy that there was no excuse for a Navy retiree NOT to draw some kind of diability. “Surely, after 20 years … you’ve got SOMETHING wrong or broken on you don’t you?”

This is the way government works folks – they don’t care about money.

HondaV65 on January 14, 2011 at 12:05 PM

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