This Politico battleground poll is getting lots of attention today because it found solid public skepticism that the deficit supercommittee will reach a deal before the November 23rd deadline.
But the numbers in the poll that are more interesting are the ones that clearly display what the public wants the supercommittee to do to cut the deficit. There’s no mystery here. When it comes to the two most contentious items on the agenda, the public strongly backs tax hikes on the rich, and strongly opposes cuts to entitlements:
* The public opposes the supercommittee “making hundreds of millions of dollars in spending cuts to Medicare and Medicare through increasing beneficiary costs,” 76-19. A majority, 52 percent, strongly opposes these cuts.
* The public supports the supercommittee “increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations,” 66-31. A majority, 52 percent, strongly support these tax increases.
Democrats have agreed to the entitlements cuts, even though a majority of Americans strongly opposes them, on the condition that Republicans agree to the tax increases on the rich and corporations. Republicans have not agreed to those tax increases, even though a majority strongly supports them. There you have it.
By the way, on some of the other items, the polling is less conclusive. The public is split on cutting hundreds of millions of dollars out of federal programs, and supports the general idea of “reducing the size of the Federal work force.” But again, on the hot button issue of entitlements cuts, the public has said No. Indeed, the poll also finds opposition to changing the calculation of Social Security to lower benefits, 56-38.
I’m not sure how else to put this. The super committee is likely to fail. But it won’t be because the American people haven’t made their preferences on how to reduce the deficit very, very clear. They have. If deficit reduction comes down to a choice between who sacrifices — the wealthy and corporations on the one hand, or Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security beneficiaries on the other — Americans think the sacrifice should be made by the former, not the latter.
If the supercommittee does fail, I hope that what Americans wanted it to do — and the utter failure of Congress to carry out the will of the people yet again — will comprise a small part of the discussion.