RSS
Do Americans really want to trim the budget deficit?
A new poll finds that most people want to cut spending to reduce the deficit — without giving up any expensive programs
 
How can we trim the deficit?
How can we trim the deficit?
Corbis

Americans want to reduce the federal deficit — the trouble is, they can't agree on how to do it. According to a new Economist/YouGov poll, people would much rather balance the budget by cutting spending (62 percent) than by raising taxes (5 percent). But there is very little agreement on what programs to cut. Everyone likes the idea of bringing down the deficit, but will we ever come to a consensus on how to do it?

Nobody likes tax hikes, but they're the only solution: It's easy to say you want to balance the budget by cutting spending, says Annie Lowrey in The Washington Independent. But "the most expendable programs, according to poll takers, were mass transit, housing, agriculture, environment, and foreign aid," which together only account for 3 percent of the federal budget. Tax hikes are the only realistic solution.
"The futility of budget cuts"

The answer is to cut everything: "The last thing we need right now is more tax hikes," says Larry Kudlow in National Review. They'll kill the economic recovery. "We need emergency-style, sharp-edged, across-the-board spending cuts everywhere in the federal government." Entitlement programs, agencies, worker pay — "you name it, slash it all."
"Volcker’s VAT plan is nuts"

This is a very American problem: If there's any "unified desire to the American people as a cohesive entity," says Peter Suderman in Reason, it's that they want "an impossible combination of low taxes and comforting government-guaranteed entitlements." People don't really know what they'll have to give up to balance the budget, because they don't know where their tax money really goes. As a result, reducing the deficit "will be extremely difficult."
"What Americans think about the budget"

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week