Nothing new here, which is the most depressing part. Scroll halfway down the page at Pew and you’ll find a table tracking shifts in public opinion on various programs over the last four years. There are noticeable jumps in support for cuts from 2009 to 2011 as America got a snoutful of Obamanomics, but we’ve leveled off since then — and in not a single category of the 17 tested is there 50 percent in favor of decreasing spending. In fact, in only three of those 17 categories (foreign aid, unemployment aid, and the State Department) is there more support for decreasing spending than increasing it.
The most hopeful graph at the link is one purporting to show that the public’s become “more austere” because the big lead that fans of raising spending used to have over fans of cutting spending is now a bit smaller. Alternate headline: “Blogger’s Friday-night drinking to start early.”
As you see, apart from foreign aid, support for cuts never reaches 35 percent. Even in the case of foreign aid, you have a slight plurality in favor of at least preserving the status quo rather than cutting. There’s not much hope in partisan differences either. Of the 17 categories, Democrats prefer cuts to increased spending in just two; independents in just three; and Republicans in nine — although even GOPers support increased spending for, gulp, Medicare and Social Security. I realize I’m making too much of this; when you ask people whether they want to cut a program without emphasizing countervailing considerations like deficits, obviously they’re going to be reluctant. These questions at their core are really just gut checks on how valuable the public views each program or agency to be. They see comparatively little value in diplomacy, which is why foreign aid and State get low ratings, and much more in veterans’ benefits. And yet, after four years of hot political rhetoric about exploding debt and a fiscal crisis on the horizon, you would think that the numbers for increasing spending, at least, would be minuscule. They’re not.
By way of partially explaining why, I’ll leave you with these two tweets.
— Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) February 22, 2013
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) February 22, 2013