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Republicans Are Winning the Budget Debate

11:59 AM, Apr 27, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Recent polling shows that Americans think we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem, and that Republicans are the party they trust to deal with that problem. A USA Today/Gallup poll released this week shows that Americans trust Republicans over Democrats on the deficit issue by a whopping 12-point margin (48 to 36 percent). That margin is made possible in large part because independents trust Republicans over Democrats by a margin of 17 points (47 to 30 percent). 

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The poll shows a nearly dead even split on the question of who offers “the better long-term plan” for dealing with deficits: Paul Ryan (43 percent) or President Obama (44 percent). But that question is itself quite generous to the president, as it’s not at all clear that he even has a plan. He issued a budget, then gave a speech that rhetorically seemed to disavow his budget, yet hasn’t offered an actual second budget to complement his speech. The only plan, therefore, that is clear enough to have been the subject of attacks — from the man with the biggest microphone by far — is Ryan’s, and yet the two are in a dead heat. 

Moreover, every age group, including seniors, prefers Ryan’s approach by more than 5 percentage points — save the group made up of those under 30. This poll doesn’t screen for likely or even registered voters, and those under 30 are statistically least likely to vote.

The poll shows that, by a margin of more than 3 to 1, Americans think that our problem is too much spending, not too little taxing. That, of course, is Ryan’s claim, and his budget addresses it by calling for spending $6.2 trillion less ($620 billion less per year) than would be spent under President Obama’s budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And that’s even before Ryan's Medicare reforms would go into effect in 2022, thereby allowing us to turn lower deficits into actual surpluses that are necessary to pay down the debt. In contrast, the president’s speech advocated a vague blend of tax increases, further defense cuts, and more authority for Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, which would be empowered to make unilateral cuts in payments to Medicare providers.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll essentially echoes this support for the Republicans’ approach. That poll shows almost a dead even split in terms of which party respondents trust to find “the right balance” in cutting deficit spending (with 45 percent answering “Obama” and 44 percent answering “the Republicans in Congress”). But that split was registered even though 32 percent of those who were polled are Democrats, while only 22 percent are Republicans. 

A CBS News/New York Times poll asks even more specifically about Ryan’s approach. The poll asks, “In order to reduce the budget deficit, it has been proposed that Medicare should be changed from a program in which the government pays doctors and hospitals for treating seniors to a program in which the government helps seniors purchase private health insurance. Would you approve or disapprove of changing Medicare in this way?” By a tally of 47 to 41 percent, the polls’ respondents say they would approve—even though a third of them (33 percent) are Democrats and only a quarter (25 percent) are Republicans.

Lastly, a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll out this week shows that an eye opening 81 percent of Americans think that the deficit “is a major problem that must be addressed now,” up 11 points even since December. This does not bode well for a president who doesn’t have a serious deficit cutting plan, whose budget calls for ballooning the national debt from $14 trillion to $28 trillion over ten years, and whose track record on deficit spending is worse than any other president in American history.

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