Americans: Let the rich pay for the ‘fiscal cliff’

December 14, 2012

President Obama and House Republicans are still attempting to hammer out a deal on the so-called "fiscal cliff," and the American people have one message for them:

Let rich people pay for it.


Scrooge McDuck. (AP)

We've written for a while on this blog about how letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire is overwhelmingly popular.

But when it comes to other potential pieces of a "fiscal cliff" deal, that theme also holds true. Essentially all the popular ideas would have much more of an effect on rich people, while the ones that affect the country more equitably poll poorly (and often very poorly) basically without exception.

Besides raising taxes on the wealthy, other proposals that get majority support in a new Pew Research Center poll include reducing Medicare benefits for more wealthy recipients (51 percent support), reducing Social Security benefits for more wealthy recipients (51 percent), limiting tax deductions (54 percent), and raising the tax rate on investment income (52 percent).

(While deductions and investment income also affect the middle class, wealthy people tend to find and take more deductions -- not to mention the middle class would be less affected by capping them -- and rich people tend to have much more money invested.)

Meanwhile, no other proposal gets majority support, including reducing military spending (43 percent support), raising the eligibility age for Medicare (41 percent), raising the eligibility age for Social Security (42 percent), limiting the home mortgage interest deduction (41 percent), reducing federal funding for programs that help the poor (38 percent), reducing infrastructure spending (30 percent) and reducing education funding (21 percent).

These numbers are not at all surprising. After all, politics is the business that created an acronym for exactly this situation: NIMBY ("not in my back yard").

But it does create a very difficult situation for "fiscal cliff" negotiators.

Republicans are already wary of letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire, arguing that it will have a chilling effect on small businesses. Even if they do agree to that, it's hard to see them also agreeing to a whole bunch of other things that disproportionately affect the wealthy.

But when it comes to the stuff that affects everyone, basically everything is a political loser. As the Pew poll shows, cutting spending on specific programs, reforming entitlements (something Republicans are pushing for) and cutting the military are all non-starters for a strong majority of Americans.

Even if the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are allowed to expire, any "fiscal cliff" deal seems likely to include one or several of these more unpopular items.

And that means there will be a premium on selling it to an American public that would much rather just have the rich foot the bill.

Rice strikes back at GOP: Susan Rice, who withdrew her name from consideration as the next secretary of state on Thursday, hit back at her GOP critics during an interview that aired Thursday night on NBC News.

“We’re in a sad place, frankly, when national security -- national security officials who are sitting in their jobs serving the American people every day and potential candidates for secretary of state get caught up in a political vortex," Rice said. "And my greatest regret, to be honest, is that Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was a valued colleague of mine, and our three other colleagues -- what happened to them and why has been lost in this debate over talking points and over me."

Rice maintained that what she said in the aftermath of the attacks in Benghazi included sufficient caveats. 

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t mislead. I didn’t misrepresent," she said. "I did the best with the information the United States government had at the time.”

Meanwhile, Democrats continued to try to save some face over the matter. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) went so far as to assert that Rice could have been confirmed by the Senate, despite her problems.

"The politically motivated attacks on her character from some of my Republican colleagues were shameful," Reid said in a statement. "Based on her impressive career and accomplishments as a Rhodes Scholar, a top official in the State Department and our Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Rice deserved far more respect than she was shown by certain Senate Republicans."

Fixbits:

Conservative groups start to speak out, urging the GOP not to agree to tax increases.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) wants Obama to meet with Republican governors on Medicaid.

The campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calls a Democratic poll that showed McConnell with very poor approval ratings "laughable."

Your TV ads will soon be a little quieter, thanks to Congress.

Must-reads:

"Obama decided that political capital better spent elsewhere than on battle over Rice" -- Scott Wilson, Washington Post

"Will record number of women in Senate mean less gridlock?" -- Emily Heil, Washington Post

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Sean Sullivan · December 13, 2012