When actually asked what they'd be prepared to cut from government largesse, we get the usual answer - foreign aid - but, er, that's about it, according to the new Harris poll. There's even a national majority for farm subsidies! On where the real money is, Americans are the most adamant about retaining what they've got. On healthcare, 67 percent oppose any cuts; on social security, a whopping 81 percent want no change. Now for the really scary part: compare that to 1980, when 37 percent wanted cuts in government healthcare spending. That figure is now 12 percent. So as the explosion in healthcare costs have occurred, Americans have actually grown more resistant to doing anything about them. In fact, on almost ever measure
There's a reason for Obama's reluctance to speak specifically about what needs to be done. But it seems to me that this is why a major emphasis on saving us from fiscal collapse is necessary. If most Americans really believe cutting foreign aid and pork will balance the budget, they're delusional. Meanwhile, the GOP seems to be focusing entirely on discretionary spending that will damage some of the actually good things that government does, while ignoring the massive borrowing that healthcare entitlements, a neo-imperial defense structure and, to a lesser extent, social security require.
Bruce Bartlett thinks the GOP's current emphasis on big discretionary cuts - and always talking about having an adult conversation soon as if we were all children - could actually be counter-productive:
their strategy of front-loading spending cuts in the fiscal year 2011 is very ill-conceived. They are using up all the political capital they have for cutting spending in a way that is highly unlikely to be successful and that will not yield long-term savings. By the time they get around to doing something about entitlements, they may find that budget cutting exhaustion and frustration has set in and there is no support left for big budget cuts. It may be that they have one bite at the budget-cutting apple and they are squandering it.