If you want to see why American politics are so dysfunctional, just take a look at American voters. In a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, there is a broad consensus that Barack Obama and Republicans should reach a compromise to fix the fiscal cliff. Only a third believe that Obama has a mandate to insist on his own policies as an exclusive response to the crisis. And, oh, by the way … spending cuts are unacceptable.
In other news, next week Santa Claus will come to deliver a solution, in partnership with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny:
Most Americans want President Obama and congressional Republicans to compromise on a budget agreement, though they, too, are unhappy about the options that would avert the “fiscal cliff,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The strong support for compromise belies widespread public opposition to big spending cuts that are likely to be part of any deal.
Most Americans oppose slashing spending on Medicaid and the military, as well as raising the age for Medicare eligibility and slowing the increase of Social Security benefits, all of which appear to be on the table in negotiations. Majorities call each of these items “unacceptable.”
Er, what? Do people believe that we can fix the problem by tax hikes alone? That would at least explain these results, but the answer is no. Only 4% believe that we can fix the problem with tax hikes alone; only 29% think we can fix it with spending cuts alone. Almost two-thirds (65%) think we need a combination of both, and a plurality (47%) think we need to cut more spending than raise taxes, while only 41% think we should do both equally and just 10% think we need more tax hikes than spending cuts.
And yet, large majorities oppose reforming the programs that actually drive the deficits that have created the fiscal cliff. Six in ten oppose raising Medicare eligibility to 67; the same percentage opposes a move to chained CPI to slow down cost-of-living increases. These are two of the mildest reforms on the table. Talk about magical thinking. Where else are we supposed to cut? Oh, yeah — the Pentagon, whose entire budget only comprises about 65% of the entire annual deficit — and even there, 55% believe further cuts are unacceptable. Every choice of cuts and reform is deemed “unacceptable” by a majority in this poll.
And here’s more magical thinking: despite the incoherence of the electorate on the fiscal cliff, 52% believe it very or somewhat likely that Obama and Boehner will reach a fiscal-cliff deal in time. That will be true only if they’re more educated on the issues and options we face than the voters are, and it would be almost impossible not to be.