Great news: 78% of Americans oppose cutting spending on Medicare

No problem. If we hike up taxes on the rich by, oh, 3,000-4,000 percent, we should be able to cover the cost for decades to come.

I hate to borrow a page from Obama by whining about “false choices,” but would it be too much to ask the media when polling this issue to remind voters of what their choices actually are? At this point, asking them whether they support entitlement reform to reduce the debt is almost like asking them whether they support the invasion of Iraq. Reality is what it is; they can wish all they want for an alternate one, but that won’t get us any closer to it.

But then, the point of polls like this isn’t to find a consensus way forward. It’s to remind the GOP that they might very well be on a suicide mission:

The poll, conducted for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that 65 percent of Americans oppose changing Medicare to a system in which the government would give seniors vouchers with which to buy private insurance. Opposition was essentially the same in a Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health survey when the idea came up 15 years ago.

The Republican budget plan includes what’s been widely described in news reports as a voucher or voucher-like system, though its author, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has maintained that it’s not a voucher system, because subsidies would go directly to insurance companies, from which seniors could pick from a menu of plans.

The language may matter, in that even most Republicans, 56 percent, oppose Medicare vouchers, as do more than seven in 10 Democrats. And opposition soars to 84 percent of all Americans, including nearly three-quarters of Republicans, if government payments failed to meet the full cost of seniors’ insurance coverage.

The other news here is that there’s wide, even bipartisan, support for the sort of tax hikes on the rich that won’t close the deficit gap and may very well hinder economic growth but will also probably be necessary for any meaningful Gang-of-Six-type deficit reduction compromise. Fully 91 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents, and even 54 percent of Republicans support tax hikes on households that earn $250,000 or more. (Other recent polls show overall support for those hikes at or around 60 percent.) If — if — a plan makes it to the House and Senate floor with sharp spending cuts and modest tax increases, public support for the latter might make them grudgingly willing to tolerate the former. (Note how the gap closes in the bar graph above for a deal of that sort.) If not, then they’re going to have follow Tom Coburn off the cliff by being “willing to sacrifice our political careers in order to do the best thing for the country.” Step on the pedal, Tom.