The Washington Post

What about the debt?

When President Obama was not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not working on a solution to the fiscal cliff and not trying to reach a deal to prevent defense cut sequestration earlier this week he was on David Letterman’s TV show. When it came to the gigantic debt, the president played dumb:

Even Letterman knows the debt was about $10 trillion when Obama came into office. It is now more than $16 trillion. Obama thinks it’s not a big deal, which certainly explains why his four budgets have each had a trillion-dollar deficit and why he never has made an effort to attack the main driver of the debt — namely, entitlement spending. The president’s lackadaiscial attitude does not match the sense of urgency expressed by every bipartisan panel that has looked at the debt, including the Simpson-Bowles debt commission.

Public Notice, a nonpartisan group focused on Americans’ financial well-being, is out with a new survey suggesting that voters don’t share Obama’s nonchalance about the debt.

In a memo on polling by the Tarrance Group, Public Notice states:

Voter concern over spending and the debt has increased by 10 points this year. In Public Notice’s January tracking poll 43 percent of those surveyed said they and their family were “very” or “extremely” impacted by the national debt. In August, that number was up ten points to 53 percent.

Two-thirds of voters see a link between the debt and the health of the economy. Almost two-thirds of voters (65 percent) think reducing the debt will improve the economy, according to a Suffolk poll. Sixty-seven percent of voters say the economy is extremely or very impacted by the debt, according to a recent Public Notice poll.

A majority of voters don’t see more government or more government spending as a solution to our economic problems. According to ABC and The Washington Post, 56 percent of Americans prefer a smaller government, and 53 percent believe government programs are more likely to interfere with their lives.

Neither presidential candidate has won voter confidence on spending and the debt. According to Public Notice’s August poll, only 44 percent of likely voters believe President Obama has a plan to lower the debt, while 49 percent believe Mitt Romney does.

This seems to be a fruitful line of attack for the Romney team. But Mitt Romney has not made mention of Obama’s remarks to Letterman nor spent much time explaining the connection between high debt and low growth, which a number of economic studies have documented.

If Romney is looking to pick up the pace, he’d do well to start making the case that, for all the president’s “stimulus”spending, he’s gotten precious little job growth and a big debt problem that is now a drag on the economy.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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