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FD
03-02-2011, 07:53 PM
If you were wondering why the folks in Washington are arguing over a part of the budget that is ultimately meaningless with respect to our deficit problems (non-defense discretionary spending), here is your reason why:

Poll Finds Support Lacking for Entitlement Reductions
By NEIL KING JR. and SCOTT GREENBERG

WASHINGTON— Less than a quarter of Americans support making significant cuts to Social Security or Medicare to tackle the country's mounting deficit, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, illustrating the challenge facing lawmakers who want voter buy-in to alter entitlement programs.

In the poll, Americans across all age groups and ideologies said by large margins that it was "unacceptable'' to make significant cuts in entitlement programs in order to reduce the federal deficit. Even tea party supporters, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, declared significant cuts to Social Security "unacceptable."

At the same time, a majority supported two specific measures that lawmakers might employ to shore up the shaky finances of the main entitlement programs.

More than 60% of poll respondents supported reducing Social Security and Medicare payments to wealthier Americans. And more than half favored bumping the retirement age to 69 by 2075. The age to receive full benefits is 66 now and is scheduled to rise to 67 in 2027.

Depending on how they are structured, those two changes could eliminate as much as 60% of Social Security's underfunding, according to experts. Support for the two ideas in the poll is "impressive," said Chuck Blahous, one of the program's public trustees and a former Bush administration official. "I wonder if [public] receptivity is increasing."

The poll comes as Republican lawmakers, many elected on promises to slash federal spending, have focused mostly so far on cuts to non-defense, discretionary programs. But many political leaders say meaningful deficit reduction cannot be accomplished without making changes to entitlement programs.

A small group of senators in both parties has begun discussions that include changes to entitlement programs, as well as to the tax code. House Republicans say they will address entitlements in their next budget. And several likely 2012 GOP candidates have vowed to to shore up the finances of Social Security and Medicare as part of their campaigns.

But Republican Bill McInturff and Democrat Peter Hart, the pollsters who conducted the survey, said the poll raises warning signs for anyone proposing cuts to the three main entitlement programs, including Medicaid, that provide health and retirement benefits to seniors and the poor. The programs, which already make up 41% of federal spending, are expected to balloon in coming years.

Mr. McInturff called the poll "a huge flashing yellow sign for Republicans on how much preparation will be needed if they propose to change Social Security and Medicare."

Asked directly if they thought cuts to Medicare were necessary to "significantly reduce" the deficit, 18% of respondents said yes, while 54% said no; the rest were not sure or had no opinion. On Social Security, 22% said cuts would be needed, while 49% said they weren't.

The results cannot be compared easily to prior polling, but they suggest durability to the support for entitlement programs. In 1995, when Congress was considering cuts to Medicare, 36% said in a Journal/NBC poll that they supported a plan to cut Medicare spending and devote the money to deficit reduction. Some 52% called for maintaining Medicare at its existing level.

Overall, the new poll found deepening pessimism about the future of the economy and the country's direction. Only 29% thought the economy would get better over the next year, a dip of 11 points since last month and the lowest since August. "This is a country that refuses to feel better," said Mr. McInturff.

Mr. Obama's own job approval dipped to 48%, from 53% last month, but was still higher than at any time since last May. Some 46% disapproved of his job performance. Mr. Hart, the Democratic pollster, said that until the unemployment rate dips significantly, "it is always going to be a struggle for the president to get majority support."

As a snapshot of public opinion, the poll highlights some of the perils ahead for Republicans as their core voters and tea party supporters demand big reductions in federal spending to tame the deficit.

More than seven in 10 tea party backers feared GOP lawmakers would not go far enough in cutting spending. But at the same time, more than half of all Americans feared Republicans would go too far.

Among those most fearing spending cuts were younger voters, independents, seniors and suburban women—groups that include many swing voters in national elections, who potentially could turn against the GOP.

"It may be hard to understand why someone would try to jump off a cliff" to solve the debt crisis, Mr. McInturff said of his fellow Republicans, "unless you understand that they are being chased by a tiger, and that tiger is the tea party."

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican House whip, said his party needs "to have a conversation with people" before moving forward on jarring changes to federal entitlement programs.Don Dunlap, an 82-year-old writer and Republican in Sunnyvale, Calif., is one of many voters who need some convincing. "We're spending ourselves to oblivion—we haven't seen a comparable level of spending since the Roosevelt era," he said. "But Social Security is not the right place to trim the budget."

"You don't go out and lay out the solution without talking about the problem," he told reporters at a Bloomberg News breakfast Wednesday.

Assessing the president's position ahead of the 2012 election, the survey found Mr. Obama leading potential GOP challenger Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, 50% to 31%.

Mr. Obama led by a narrower 49% to 40% margin in a hypothetical match-up against Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and a Republican candidate in 2008. When tested against an unnamed Republican running for president, Mr. Obama led 45% to 40%. Mr. McInturff said the finding contained warning signs for the president: Voters who remained uncommitted might be tough for the president to win, he said, as those voters disapproved of Mr. Obama's job performance and believed the country was on the wrong track by large margins.

Four years after starting his effort to win national office, Mr. Romney is known by 80% of the public, with 25% saying they feel positively toward him and an equal 25% saying they have negative feelings toward him.

Amid the union protests in Wisconsin, the poll found that 62% of Americans oppose efforts to strip unionized government workers of their rights to collectively bargain, even as they want public employees to contribute more money to their retirement and health-care benefits.

The results suggest that public opinion may be tipping against Wisconsin Republican governor Scott Walker in his prolonged faceoff with the unions.

Emphasis added just to point out this isn't a partisan issue.

HonestChieffan
03-02-2011, 07:57 PM
SS can be fixed without cuts. Its always cool how SS polls refer to cuts, scare the hell out of the old folks and screw the entire process.

FD
03-02-2011, 07:59 PM
SS can be fixed without cuts. Its always cool how SS polls refer to cuts, scare the hell out of the old folks and screw the entire process.

A fix will probably be a mixture of benefit cuts and tax increases. The real problem is Medicare and Medicaid. For the long term deficit outlook, almost nothing else matters:

http://delong.typepad.com/.a/6a00e551f080038834014e861c52ab970d-pi

cdcox
03-02-2011, 09:33 PM
We either have to significantly cut entitlements and defense spending or raise taxes. There is absolutely no other way out of this mess.

If we had real leadership from either party they would tell us this.

chiefzilla1501
03-02-2011, 09:40 PM
We either have to significantly cut entitlements and defense spending or raise taxes. There is absolutely no other way out of this mess.

If we had real leadership from either party they would tell us this.

What frustrates me is that I feel like if we ran entitlements more efficiently, we could offer entitlements at a fraction of the cost.

We have abusers of entitlements and nobody tracking them.

And then because many of our public sector workers are entitled (ironic, right?), we're bleeding money because we have 3 people doing the job of one person.

Until we get more efficiencies, we have to choose between two poles that are not attractive.

mlyonsd
03-02-2011, 09:43 PM
Anyone over 50.5 years old should continue to be taxed at current levels and reap the benefits they were promised.

Anyone younger than that should have their FICA tax tripled and retirement age moved to 80.

Problem solved.

cdcox
03-02-2011, 09:45 PM
Anyone over 50.5 years old should continue to be taxed at current levels and reap the benefits they were promised.

Anyone younger than that should have their FICA tax tripled and retirement age moved to 80.

Problem solved.

As a 49.5 year old, I'd go nuclear. You need a graident of transitions, not a cliff.

mlyonsd
03-02-2011, 09:46 PM
As a 49.5 year old, I'd go nuclear. You need a graident of transitions, not a cliff.

I'll be 51 in June. ROFL

cdcox
03-02-2011, 09:47 PM
What frustrates me is that I feel like if we ran entitlements more efficiently, we could offer entitlements at a fraction of the cost.

We have abusers of entitlements and nobody tracking them.

And then because many of our public sector workers are entitled (ironic, right?), we're bleeding money because we have 3 people doing the job of one person.

Until we get more efficiencies, we have to choose between two poles that are not attractive.

It's a nice thought that we can fix things with efficiencies. We are way beyond efficiencies.

googlegoogle
03-02-2011, 09:51 PM
Poll finds support lacking for concept of gravity.

Poll finds support lacking for high gasoline prices.

Poll finds support lacking for evolution.

Poll finds support lacking for Obama.

Poll finds support lacking for polls.

cdcox
03-02-2011, 09:53 PM
I'll be 51 in June. ROFL

The bar has already moved for us a couple of times. For sure it will be moved again. I'm just hoping we'll get to a reasonable steady state that we can hang our hats on.

mlyonsd
03-02-2011, 10:03 PM
The bar has already moved for us a couple of times. For sure it will be moved again. I'm just hoping we'll get to a reasonable steady state that we can hang our hats on.

I'll fight at the ballot box to see we get our money back. As promised. Maybe we can split Kotter's money since he won't be using it.

AndChiefs
03-02-2011, 10:16 PM
Wait wait wait....you're telling me people don't want less "free" stuff? That's crazy.

banyon
03-02-2011, 10:22 PM
What frustrates me is that I feel like if we ran entitlements more efficiently, we could offer entitlements at a fraction of the cost.

We have abusers of entitlements and nobody tracking them.

And then because many of our public sector workers are entitled (ironic, right?), we're bleeding money because we have 3 people doing the job of one person.

Until we get more efficiencies, we have to choose between two poles that are not attractive.

What are the inefficiencies in Social Security that would lead to such cost savings?

There are no doubt fraudulent claims and there could be an office or two with maybe an extra staffperson more than they need, but the amount you save aggressively going after that stuff is on the level of millions when the problem is going from billions to trillions.

Also, ironically your point about public sector worker entitlements would probably result in higher SSA shortfalls since benefits are typically reduced by the amount you receive through a pension plan.