It goes by many names — crying wolf, Chicken Little, or just plain hyperbole. What happens to a politician who insists that the world will end unless his policies are implemented, only to have the globe keep on turning as usual with little impact? Barack Obama may be finding out, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll (via Jim Geraghty):
The budget cuts in Washington have not hit home in America, at least not yet.
A plurality of Americans think federal spending cuts will have no effect at all on them or their families, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll. At the same time, as many Americans think the cuts will have no effect or a positive effect on the overall economy as think the cuts will hurt the economy, the survey found. …
President Barack Obama has not yet convinced the majority that the cuts will be bad for them and their country as he has tried. He has hoped the country would rise up in anger at the spending cuts and force Republicans to agree to an alternative plan to curb the deficit that includes tax increases and fewer spending cuts.
Of course — that’s always the reason for hyperbole and demagoguery. It’s to incite people outside of rationality into action. The only real way to combat that strategy is to call its bluff, and that’s what Republicans did with the sequester. Despite the fact that the defense cuts were widely despised by the GOP (and not just the GOP), Republicans swallowed them to prove a point, which is that Obama and his Cabinet lied about the impact of what amounts to a 2.3% reduction in federal spending that has grown by nearly 15 times that amount since 2007.
Now that the world hasn’t ended because we didn’t raise taxes rather than cut spending, voters aren’t in much of a mood to try Obama’s preferred policy:
Generally, voters by 53-37 prefer to reduce the deficits by mostly cutting government programs and services rather than mostly by raising taxes. Working Americans just had a tax increase in January when Obama and the Congress decided to let a temporary cut in the payroll tax for Social Security expire.
“Voters are not in a mood to increase taxes,” said Miringoff.
I suppose it’s a Sisyphean task to remind McClatchy and Marist that the payroll-tax holiday was always supposed to be temporary, and that at least theoretically it reduced contributions to taxpayers’ own benefits, but that’s only theoretical. The PTH was a bad idea from start to finish, whose inception didn’t stimulate growth, whose expiration didn’t reduce growth, and which didn’t even start to address the long-term problems in either the tax code or the structure of entitlement programs.
On that point, though, the news isn’t all good for budget-cutters:
-by 60-33 they prefer to raise taxes than cut Social Security;
-by 57-36 they prefer to raise taxes than cut Medicare; …
-by 50-42 they prefer to raise taxes than cut Medicaid.
Higher taxes won’t keep those programs afloat, but politically it might be impossible to fix them without trading something in revenues. If the GOP can convince Democrats to overhaul the tax systems at the same time Congress addresses entitlement structure, everyone can get a win — but that’s going to take a lot of convincing on both sides of the aisle. The best news is that the bad reviews and ticket sales for Nightmare on Sequester Street should be enough to ensure we won’t get a sequel in the near future.