Do voters agree with Dems’ “we don’t have a spending problem” talking point?

posted at 8:01 pm on February 14, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

Another high-profile Democrat was at it today. This is clearly a strategy to impose the party’s deep denial on society at large. Via Guy Benson, here’s Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). Add him to Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama.

First of all, I want to disagree with those who say we have a spending problem. Everyone keeps saying we have a spending problem. And when they talk about that, it’s like there’s an assumption that somehow we as a nation are broke. We can’t afford these things any longer. We’re too broke to invest in education and housing and things like that. Well look at it this way, we’re the richest nation in the history of the world. We are now the richest nation in the world. We have the highest per capita income of any major nation. That kind of begs the question, doesn’t it? If we’re so rich, why are we so broke? Is it a spending problem? No.”

Well, there you go. We’re America. Problem solved! This, I think, is an attempt to martial belief in American exceptionalism to avoid making any of the necessary adjustments to the federal government’s bloated budgets and dangerous debts. Not a bad thought. I’ve often wondered if the very admirable inclination to believe that America is special might also work as a deterrent to necessary action. It’s pleasant and reassuring to believe, “Hey, we’re America. We can’t end up where Greece, or to a lesser degree, stagnant Japan has, because we just can’t.”

But voters don’t seem to be sinking into that warm bath just yet:

During recent budget negotiations, Obama reportedly said he doesn’t believe the government has a spending problem. Most voters — 83 percent — disagree. That includes most Republicans (97 percent), independents (87 percent) and Democrats (69 percent).

In addition, out of 13 issues tested, more voters are “extremely” concerned about government spending than any other issue. Moreover, nearly all voters are either extremely (32 percent) or very concerned (52 percent) about spending.

And, then there’s this:

By massive margins, voters say they would rather see the government cut spending than increase it as a way to boost the nation’s economy, according to a Fox News poll that showed, in hindsight, voters largely saying the 2009 stimulus did not work.

The poll showed that, by a 60-34 percent margin, voters say President Obama’s $800 billion strategy for pulling the American economy out of its one-and-a-half year long recession did not deliver on its promise. While more than half of Democrats said they thought the stimulus worked, 87 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Independents said they thought it did not.
Opposition to another round of stimulus runs two-to-one, according to the poll. This could be because 73 percent of voters polled say cutting government spending would be more likely to help strengthen the nation’s economy — as opposed to just 15 percent who believe increasing spending would do the trick.

Even a majority of Democrats think spending cuts would be good for the economy. Another victory for the conservative point of view in this week’s Rasmussen Poll:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 55% of Likely U.S. Voters think cutting government spending would do more to help the economy than increasing government spending on infrastructure, clean energy and education projects. Thirty-six percent (36%) believe increased spending in those areas would help the economy more.

But in a perfect example of how unanimity on spending cuts falls apart once you start naming cuts, there’s this result from a Quinnipiac survey:

Quinnipiac

In the same poll, though, voters express far more confidence in Republicans to make cuts than Obama and Democrats, 48-39.

Throughout the election, voters (even young people) ranked the growing debt as their second or third concern behind the economy. Ignoring that is so patently irresponsible, I can’t help but think even Republicans can make hay out of it. It’s another reason, when it comes to the filibuster, I’m in the let that sucker ride camp.

Guy again:

Republicans should jump all over this with aggressive counter-messaging: Basically, “if they can’t even see the problem, how can they be trusted to fix it?” Run ads featuring a short montage of all these Democrats serially denying a problem that 83 percent of the public recognizes as real. Embed the dizzying national debt clock at the bottom of the screen. Point out that the debt was $8.6 trillion when Democrats took over Congress in 2007, and that it’s approaching $16.6 trillion today. The president is already in a precarious position on deficit-related issues. Why not turn up the heat by exploiting that vulnerability and laying the groundwork for a central theme of the 2014 campaign? It’s good politics and good policy.


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