While there is widespread support for trimming federal spending, when it comes to the specifics of what should be cut, clarity disappears. In not one of the 19 (!) specific areas did a majority of the sample express support for a diminishing of federal spending. (The closest was the 48 percent who favored cutting “aid to the world’s needy.” So, that happened.) Somewhat amazingly, of the 19 areas Pew asked people about cutting, Americans favored increasing spending over decreasing spending in 16 of them.

What those numbers make clear is that most people live in a fantasy world where overall federal spending decreases even as spending on virtually every federal program increases. Given that “reality”, it’s uniquely possible that only through crisis — manufactured or not — will people come to grips with the fundamental paradox at the center of their thinking of what the federal government should or shouldn’t do…

But, it’s also possible that the size of the cuts — a trillion dollars is a ton of money even spread out over the next decade — and the heat of the rhetoric coming from the two parties causes the sort of crisis that forces a decent number of people to pay attention and begin to re-examine (or, more likely examine) the way they think about spending. And, if enough people start paying attention, their politicians — forever a reactive species — could well be emboldened or intimidated into doing something big(ger).