Reuters released a poll today finding that Republicans and the Tea Party are “bearing the brunt of public blame” for the debt ceiling mess, after a period during which GOPers and conservatives refused to entertain any revenue hikes as part of the compromise. The Reuters poll also found that the public, in roughly equal numbers, wants to proceed with a mix of spending cuts (49 percent) and tax increases (46 percent).
That mirrors a new CNN poll that found that a strong majority, 63 percent, wants the new Congressional committee to reduce the deficit by raising taxes on the wealthy — more than the 57 percent who want spending cuts. And Gallup today found the same: Sixty six percent want the debt reduced with high-end tax hikes, versus 59 percent who want spending cuts.
All that seems pretty clear cut, right?
Well, today Republicans unveiled their choices for the “super committee,” and they are all conservative stalwarts. As Jed Lewison points out, all of them to a man have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge never to raise taxes.
That in and of itself is not surprising. It would be hard to field a slate of six Republicans who haven’t signed Norquist’s pledge. But consider the larger dynamic here.
Republicans announced super-committee picks who have pledged to hold firm on tax hikes on literally the same day that three polls came out showing solid public support for raising taxes as part of our fiscal solution. Meanwhile, last week, when Dems announced their choices, they explicitly cited public opinion as their reason for not appointing members who would draw a hard line on liberal priorities. Harry Reid lamented that he couldn’t understand why Republicans were not being more flexible about taxes; Nancy Pelosi confidently asserted that if Dems didn’t draw a hard line, they’d have an easier time persuading the public that Republicans were the ones being “obstructionists.”
As I’ve said before, I sympathize with Dem leaders here. If every person at the “supercommittee” table refused to budge on core demands, nothing could get done. And perhaps this difference won’t matter later: Perhaps Dems will simply refuse to cave on entitlements unless they get new revenues. But the differences between the two approaches border on the absurd. The GOP is telegraphing in advance that it won’t budge on its core priorities in total defiance of public opinion. Dems, by contrast, are signaling flexibility at the outset on their core priorities even though public opinion is on their side.