What America Wants From The Super Committee – By The Numbers

Since the establishment of the congressional super committee to come up with a way to reduce the deficit by over $1.5 trillion over ten years, most of the focus has been on who will be appointed and how those individual personalities will affect the debate, or whether the hearings will be public. But over the past few days news organizations have released new polling data on what policy prescriptions Americans would actually prefer, mostly from a menu of traditional options (cuts to major programs, well known new tax options), to bridge the budget gap.

CNN, Gallup, and Marist all polled some of these options, and here’s a quick rundown of what might happen if you put the American people at the table.New Targeted Taxes On The Wealthy And Corporations

President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been hammering away at the need for a balanced approach (read: new revenues in addition to cuts) to the debt problem, and simply put, they have a lot of support on their side. In the CNN poll, 63% of Americans supported “increases in taxes on businesses and higher-income Americans,” vs. 36% opposed. 66% agreed with “raising taxes for upper-income Americans” in the Gallup survey, including 45% of Republicans and 37% of Tea Party supporters. The Marist poll showed support for two types of new revenues: increasing taxes on those making more than $250,000 got 68% approval, and eliminating subsidies for oil and gas companies got 60%.

Support For Cuts To Spending On Domestic Programs, Sans Entitlements

The Gallup poll showed that Americans support “cutting spending other than defense, social security, and medicare,” at a 59% clip, including the support of 49% of Democrats. 57% support “cuts to major domestic programs” in the CNN poll, but of course, that wording might cause some respondents to think that includes Social Security and Medicare, since those are major domestic programs.

Possible Cuts To Defense Spending

The closest split in the three polls is on the question of cuts to military spending. A slim majority opposed cuts to the Pentagon in the CNN poll, 53 – 47, and these cuts registered the same support in the Gallup poll: 47%. But in the Marist survey respondents actually approved defense cuts 50 – 46, which was outside the margin of error in the poll, and includes support from independent voters 53 – 45. Of course, there has already been a push by the Defense Department against any further budget reductions, and the White House hasn’t exactly disagreed.

Cuts To Entitlements Are Off The Table

The second highly conclusive position in these three polls is that looking for savings in Social Security or Medicare is out. Totally out. The highest rating of support for cutting entitlements is in the Gallup poll, where 42% of those polled said reductions would be ok. The only ideological majority within that number was the 53% of Tea Party supporters who approved of looking at possible reductions in the programs. Cuts to Social Security and Medicare only registered 35% support in the CNN poll, and the Marist survey showed extreme disagreement with the idea: only 15% supported cuts, against 83%.

In the end, there’s public support for a balanced approach, and it would probably be a political liability to go after defense spending in a major way. But Social Security and now Medicare remain the Third Rail of American politics.