The political ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of a debt deal

at 07:00 AM ET, 07/20/2011

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to debate the possibility of a deal to raise the debt ceiling, new polling from the Washington Post and ABC News makes clear the political highs — and lows — of a number of proposals being bandied about.

When asked for their opinions on a wide range of possible ways to bring down the national debt, raising taxes on the wealthy — in a variety of forms — is without question the clear winner.

The biggest loser? Touching entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and SocialSecurity.

More than seven in 10 respondents in the Post/ABC poll — 72 percent — said they favored the idea of raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more to help shrink the debt.

While, not surprisingly, 87 percent of Democrats supported such a move, so did 54 percent of self-identified Republicans. And, nearly six in 10 people said they would support raising taxes on oil and gas companies, including 55 percent of Republicans who agreed with the idea.

Those numbers suggest that the notion that any tax increase is anathema to the party base — a belief that seems to be guiding much of House Republicans’ negotiating strategy to date — may be misguided or, at least, overstated.

Other popular debt-reducing proposals included raising taxes on hedge funds (64 percent support) and raising taxes and/or premiums for wealthier Americans on Medicare (61 percent) and Social Security (66 percent).

While majorities were open to the idea of making more affluent Americans pay more for entitlement programs, the idea of making major changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for the general population were broadly unpopular.

Seventy-two percent of people opposed cutting spending on Medicaid as a means of debt reduction, while 54 percent disagreed with the idea of raising the retirement age for Medicare from 65 years old to 67. Fifty-three percent didn’t like the idea of making changes to Social Security so that benefits increased at a slower rate. (Narrow majorities of Republicans opposed those proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security, for what it’s worth.)

The polling makes clear why President Obama has, in the last several weeks, focused heavily on the idea that wealthy people, oil companies and, of course, “corporate jet owners” should be paying more in taxes as a way to shrink the nation’s debt. The public is very much behind that idea.

Of course, Obama has also floated the concept of — and continues to push for — a grand bargain that would put entitlement programs on the table.

Depending on what gets cut — and when — Obama could be sacrificing some (most? all?) of the political goodwill he gains by pushing tax reforms aimed at the affluent if a package gets done that alters Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. That’s only if you believe the idea of a grand bargain is still possible, however.

Viewed broadly, the polling suggests that most people are still taking a “not in my backyard” approach to solving the debt crisis.

The wealthy and oil/gas companies that continue to churn profits are an easy political target but won’t solve the debt problem alone.

Taking on entitlements is a tougher road for any politician to travel, since those changes cut across a much broader swath of the American electorate and remain deeply unpopular.

Bachmann, Perry up in new NBC poll: A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry rising nationally in the GOP presidential primary.

Former Massaachusetts governor Mitt Romney continues to lead at 30 percent, but Bachmann has climbed to 16 percent, and Perry, who isn’t in the race yet, is at 11 percent.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, are at just 2 percent, behind Rep. Ron Paul (9 percent), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (8 percent), businessman Herman Cain (5 percent) and former senator Rick Santorum.

It’s yet another example of a poll in which the relatively unknown Perry cracks double digits. That’s both a testament to his potential as a presidential candidate and the fact that Republican voters may be looking for alternatives.

West vs. Wasserman Schultz: Neighbors don’t always play nice.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) went after his South Florida colleague, Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), hard in a strongly worded e-mail he sent to the congresswoman that was leaked to Politico.

In the e-mail, West calls Wasserman Schultz “not a Lady” and “the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives.” (Typos are West’s.)

West appeared to be angry about Wasserman Schultz’s floor speech following his, in which she criticized him indirectly for supporting the Republican Medicare proposals. “Unbelievable for a member from South Florida,” she said.

In response, Wasserman Schultz’s spokesman said the “truth hurts,” while a West spokesman reiterated that Wasserman Schultz’s actions were “cowardly.”

Twitter debate today: Teaparty.net will hold its presidential debate on Twitter today, with Bachmann, Gingrich, Cain, Santorum and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson participating.

Users are supposed to submit questions by typing @140townhall in their tweets, and the candidates are allowed two or three tweets to respond.

Fixbits:

President Obama supports a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Pawlenty continues to question whether Bachmann has the requisite experience to be president.

After the first of nine state Senate recall elections in Wisconsin, Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen has easily survived.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), in the first ad of his primary, says Obama is “just wrong” on taxes and features video of Lugar walking with Ronald Reagan.

Romney is not raising as much money in Utah as in his last campaign.

Rep. Dan Burton’s (R-Ind.) primary is getting crowded again as former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks jumps in.

Former congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Nev.) says she will run in one of the Las Vegas-area districts that result from redistricting, joining state Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D) in that regard.

Five House Democrats joined Republicans in what amounts to a symbollic vote on “Cut, Cap and Balance.”

The Wisconsin GOP’s redistricting proposal, which shores up Reps. Sean Duffy (R) and Paul Ryan (R), passed in the state Senate and is headed to the state Assembly.

Must-reads:

Gang of Six plan: tax cut or tax increase?” — David Wessell, Wall Street Journal

Elizabeth Warren makes it personal” — Nancy Scola, the Atlantic

Is Obama against Romney a toss-up” — Nate Silver, New York Times

In debt limit fight, House GOP freshmen face competing political pressures.” — AP

More on PostPolitics.com

Post-ABC poll: GOP too dug in on debt talks; public fears default consequences

Lawmakers show off every “don’t” in the debt-limit books

Report: Rep. Allen West rants against Wasserman Schultz in personal e-mail

Tax subsidy for the Postal Service?

 
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