To Infinity and Beyond: New Polls Show Americans Want Magical Government Benefits, Oppose All Spending Cuts

Posted: Apr 25, 2017 1:16 PM

Liberals are excitedly buzzing over two new poll results in which American voters say they favor both (a) a larger federal government that provides more benefits to its citizens, and (b) a healthcare solution under which Obamacare is "improved" and "fixed" as opposed to "repealed and replaced." Let's address them one at a time. First, on the expansion of government, the trendiness are pointed in one direction at the moment: An NBC/WSJ survey finds that 57 percent of respondents want the federal government "should do more to solve problems" and help people, with less than 40 percent saying that Uncle Sam is already trying to do too many things. The paradox is obvious -- in an age of widespread discontent and distrust of the government institutions, Americans still want government institutions to bite off even more than they're currently, inefficiently, and often harmfully chewing. Pew finds a closer split (48/45) on the question of whether the government should be larger and provide more services versus smaller and provide fewer.  But as Allahpundit notes, when asked about individual categories, the public favors increased spending on almost everything:

Pluralities want to increase spending on 11 of the 14 items listed, and there is not a single column in which voters favor a decrease in spending.  Not one.  Over to you, Jon Gabriel:

Of course, if you poll people about the national debt (which increased by a cool $9 trillion under the last president), they're against that, too. The government should deal with it, they say.  But don't cut spending on anything. And don't raise taxes on anyone except "the rich," who already pay an unfair burden, according to most Americans. That's the rub: People are almost always going to demand stable or increased spending on most big programs, but also want the debt stabilized, and also don't want to personally pay for a much more expensive government through higher taxes on themselves. They're looking for a magic solution that doesn't exist, especially when you consider the tens of trillions in unpaid-for promises -- known as unfunded liabilities -- that the feds have already jammed into the pipeline.  Not to mention that soaking the wealthiest Americans is both economically detrimental and also wouldn't raise nearly enough revenue to solve our problems, even if billionaires' entire net worths were confiscated.

The dirty secret that only a few liberals will admit is that to pay for an ever-expanding government, taxes must be substantially raised on middle- and working-class families.  Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how that would poll?  What America's balance sheet desperately needs is entitlement reform on big ticket programs for future seniors (which are going insolvent), and robust economic growth. That combination could work wonders, but it's unclear whether there's any political appetite to make it happen -- especially since the Republican president and Congressional Democrats have both staked out anti-reform positions.  (Then again, perhaps if Trump gets more vocal in his opposition, support for reform might rise).  Meanwhile, on Obamacare:

Conservatives have jumped all over this poll as offering up a false choice, with one GOP pollster tweeting that the question wording was designed to produce a pro-Obamacare result. After all, why would you want to see an entire program uprooted if that program could simply be "improved" and fixed?  Well, because the program was designed terribly, is getting worse, and will continue to deteriorate -- and the only proposed methods of "fixing" it are further bailing out insurance companies, throwing much more money at subsidies, and slapping significantly heavier tax fines on millions of people who can't afford its coverage in hopes of forcing them into the marketplaces. How would those "improvements" fare in a poll that doesn't merely offer "the law gets fixed by unicorns and butterflies" as an option?  Conservative activist and policy expert Phil Kerpen frames this outcome a bit differently:

Republicans are trying to fix the problem by repealing and replacing a failing, unsalvageable law.  Did I mention that it's going to get worse?  And if we're engineering poll questions to elicit partisan responses, why not go with: "Do you support keeping Obamacare in place, with fewer plans and double-digit rate increases, or would you prefer replacing the law with a better system that fixes its flaws and brings down costs for millions?"  I wonder how those results would look. I'll leave you with this nugget, which is something of an echo of yesterday's post:

Also, this chart demonstrates why debates over discretionary spending are missing the real issue: