Political Animal


July 19, 2011 8:35 AM The public wants and expects new revenue

By Steve Benen

The new CBS News poll includes two interesting results, one more encouraging than the other.

The first is the top-line question of whether the public wants to see the debt ceiling increased or not. Unfortunately, public confusion is proving to be a tough nut to crack, and opponents of an increase still outnumber supporters. That said, it’s worth noting that the percentage of Americans who want to see the limit raised has nearly doubled over the last month, from 24% to 46%.

But since most Americans don’t even know what the debt ceiling is, this is arguably the more important result.

Most Americans think any agreement on the budget and debt ceiling should include a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, according to a new poll from CBS News.

The survey, conducted from July 15-17, suggests that Americans side with President Obama on what a deal to raise the debt ceiling should include: the president has repeatedly called for tax increases for wealthy Americans, as well the elimination of tax loopholes that benefit corporate interests, to go along with spending cuts as part of a “balanced approach” to lower the government’s deficit.

According to the poll, 66 percent of Americans believe that the deal to raise the debt ceiling should include both spending cuts and tax increases. Only 28 percent said they thought the deal should contain spending cuts exclusively, and a mere three percent wanted it to include tax increases only.

Last week, President Obama told reporters the public is already “sold” on the need for a balanced approach to debt reduction, causing House Speaker John Boehner and the right to push back, insisting that Americans agree with their spending-cuts-only approach.

It was a bizarre line for Republicans to complain about, since their position isn’t popular at all.

Referencing a collection of polls Greg Sargent pulled together last week, we now have five recent national polls asking the public for their preference: do they want a debt-reduction plan that only relies on cuts or do they want a combination of cuts and increased revenue (the only-revenue approach tends to poll under 5%). The results are entirely one-sided as my new chart helps show:

The blue columns show public support for a balanced debt-reduction plan including cuts and revenue; the red columns show support for reducing the debt exclusively through spending cuts. Republican lawmakers genuinely seem to believe that their approach, the red columns, is the popular way to go. In fact, they’re so invested in this, they just might crash the economy on purpose unless the GOP gets exactly what it wants.

Whether Republicans realize it or not, they’re losing this debate, pushing the nation to the brink with a policy Americans don’t like.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Ladyhawke on July 19, 2011 8:44 AM:

    I wonder what the results would be if the pollsters simply asked the American people if the United States should pay its bills. That's pretty much what President Obama said in response to a question from a reporter about people being against raising the debt limit. They obviously don't understand the question.

  • c u n d gulag on July 19, 2011 8:47 AM:

    "Republican lawmakers genuinely seem to believe that their approach, the red columns, is the popular way to go."

    Well, they're trying to do their best to make it 'the ONLY' way to go.

    Jeez, if Gallup isn't good enough for them, maybe a Rasmussen one will convince them.

    Their polls are so heavily skewed, that if they showed the red higher, no one would be surprised.

    But, if the blue's higher in a Rasmussent poll, then Republicans really need to take notice.

  • c u n d gulag on July 19, 2011 8:51 AM:

    I had another run-in CAPTCHA just now.

    Why don't you take a poll about CAPTCHA?

    Afraid of the results, or you know them and don't care?

    CAPTCHA's about as popular as genital herpes, and SS and Medicare cuts to Grammy and Gramps.

  • Josef K on July 19, 2011 8:57 AM:

    Whether Republicans realize it or not, theyíre losing this debate, pushing the nation to the brink with a policy Americans donít like.

    I think its more a matter of whether or not the Republicans even care about the outcome of their policy. They're as much a religious order (albeit one serving purely secular notions) as a political party, and since when do the devout care about the unbelievers?

  • Mr. Serf Man on July 19, 2011 8:58 AM:

    In the big picture it really doesn't matter what the polls say. The media is so owned by the plutocrats, that all we get is a he said she said "fair and balanced both sides are to blame bullshit. Seriously; watching all 3 MSM channels simultaneously at the Gym reveals maybe 45 seconds to a minute and a half devoted to the potential destruction of our economy...
    And then there's the selected street interviews Mr. and Mrs Joe sixpack hasn't got a clue up next where is Casey Anthony.
    We are doomed.

  • DAY on July 19, 2011 9:02 AM:

    Hey, what's up with this obsession of polling the populace on arcane matters of governance?

    They can't name their senators, distinguish the Declaration from the Constitution, or name the three branches of government.

    It is why we have a REPRESENTATIVE democracy!

    -Maybe not such a good idea, after all, since the current GOP seems to be an accurate representation of their constituents!

  • T2 on July 19, 2011 9:02 AM:

    I may be going out on a limb here......but I don't think the people who tell the Republican Party what to do or say really care about what the American people want.

  • Mimi on July 19, 2011 9:03 AM:

    Your chart key says "only tax cuts" - think you mean "spending cuts"

  • j on July 19, 2011 9:03 AM:

    In spite of all that the republicans keep saying -IT IS A REVENUE PROBLEM.
    while people are losing jobs, they are not paying taxes, which of course is revenue& while the repubs appear unwilling
    to tax the rich - revenue, it does not take a geniuns to figure.

  • Rip on July 19, 2011 9:06 AM:

    For Republicans, "the people" are only those likely to vote for them, so what the broader public wants is not relevant. They rely on the fact that swing voters have short memories and can be persuaded that this was all Obama's fault in the long run. They also know that the "cutting off the credit card" meme is simpler to understand than the reality of not raising the debt limit.

    Despite their recklessness, Republicans lead the Democrats in generic congressional vote polling, so despite waht the public may say they want, they don't seem prepared to punish the Republicans for not giving it to them.

  • N.Wells on July 19, 2011 9:12 AM:

    **That's all very well, but when you ignore the blue column, which clearly consists of Democrats and other traitors who don't count, the red column is obviously larger.** (My attempt at inferring the republican mindset.)

    Since a drop in bond rating would force a whole lot of large bond holders to sell, which would cause a drop in bond prices, surely there's no chance that the financial markets will hang on until August 2nd the bond rating is actually downgraded before panicking? They've been surprisingly calm, but I'd expect that the motivation to sell off before everyone else starts selling off would mean that quite a few must surely be getting very close to their panic points.

  • Danny on July 19, 2011 9:15 AM:

    Slightly OT, but I thought I'd pass along a conservative perspective on the debt chrisis, from John Derbyshire @ The Corner / NRO. I'd just love to see republicans take this message to the american people. You'd never guess that seniors carried republicans to their '10 triumf, would you?

    Now the extravagance is about to be curtailed. As when a firm goes bankrupt, some creditors will get paid, some wonít. Itís a matter of priorities.

    So who gets paid and who gets stiffed? Thatís what this is going to come down to, nolens volens.

    I say stiff the geezers. Not many of us are productive, anyway. Sure, a few of us did great things in the past ó worked hard, took chances, fought in wars ó but thatís water under the bridge.

    You're just such a swell human being, John, and great for you that you have a bank account runneth over from a life of shrilling for big corporations. Let's stick it to the parasites who didn't prepare for their old age as good as you, shall we?

  • N.Wells on July 19, 2011 9:17 AM:

    Phooey, shoulda read the earlier thread first.

  • R. Porrofatto on July 19, 2011 9:33 AM:

    The problem with polls like this is that most people haven't a clue what the debt ceiling is, and when and how it was raised in the past. The question asked in the CBS poll is of the "some people say..." variety:

    Congress will soon decide whether or not to raise the federal debt ceiling, which is the legal limit on how much the federal government can borrow to pay for the budget deficit. Some people say the debt ceiling should be raised, because otherwise the country could default on its loans, causing severe problems for the U.S. economy. Other people say the debt ceiling should not be raised because the country owes too much money already, and raising it will cause long term economic problems. In general, do you think Congress should or should not raise the federal debt ceiling?

    It would be interesting to see the response if the question included just one more bit if information: "The debt ceiling has been raised 39 times in the past. It was raised 7 times during the Bush administration alone, and it was not a contentious issue used as leverage by either party in budget negotiations.

    That said, the answers to these questions were interesting:

    Do you think Barack Obama is really trying to find a solution to the standoff about the debt ceiling with the Republicans in Congress, or not?
    Really trying 60% (total)

    Do you think the Republicans in Congress are really trying to find a solution to the standoff about the debt ceiling with Barack Obama, or not?
    Not really trying 62%

    In the current negotiations about the debt ceiling, which do you think the Republicansin Congress should do--compromise some of their positions in order to come to an agreement,or stick to their positions even if it means not coming to an agreement? Compromise 85%

    [What should Dems do? Compromise 78%]

  • Ron Byers on July 19, 2011 9:45 AM:

    We have a winner, over 80% of Americans want compromise on the debt ceiling increase. The only Americans who don't are Congressional Republicans and Grover Norquist. Maybe a change is needed in 2012.

  • Jon on July 19, 2011 10:26 AM:

    The GOP isn't worried; the press is spinning it that both the GOP and Dems are equally to blame.

  • tamiasmin on July 19, 2011 3:29 PM:

    Slow as I am, I've finally figured it out! The reason there's been no action in Congress on job creation is that employed workers pay taxes, which increases revenue, which must then be offset by firing other workers. So why bother?

    On the other hand, eliminating jobs cuts taxes, which increases revenue, which requires further offse...

    Uh, I'm still working on this.