Monday, January 03, 2011


Jon Chait:
The constituency for entitlement cuts -- which is the sine qua non of any serious reduction in the size of government -- is 7% of the population. Which is to say, actual small government conservatism -- as opposed to opposition to unspecified waste or a misunderstanding of the size of the foreign aid budget -- is essentially nonexistent at the popular level.

By contrast, raising taxes on the wealthy as a step towards deficit reduction carries with it the support of 61% of all Americans.


PG said...

That's genuinely a little surprising. I'm in favor of reducing Medicare and Social Security spending (in particular, raising the age of Social Security for people who work desk jobs), and I would think that most of my generation and those following mine would be as well. We know that these programs are unlikely to remain supportable by the time we'd be eligible, so we're probably going to get all the burden with very little of the benefit. I would have believed that we're only 7% of likely voters, but not only 7% of the entire U.S. population. Then again, we're probably systematically undercounted by telephone polls such as the CBS/VF one, since many of those are still catching up to the fact that young Americans often have only cellphones and no landlines.

Also, the fact that the majority thinks that the first step to balancing the budget should be increased taxes on the wealthy doesn't mean that (a) the majority actually knows how much those taxes are now; or (b) would be opposed to reducing entitlements once taxes had been raised somewhat (say a top marginal tax rate of 40%) and failed to bring enough revenues to pay for everything.

troll_dc2 said...

Like everyone else, I have read the warnings about Medicare's shaky financing for years without really understanding it. But an article in Monday's Washington Post ( has made it clear what the problem is: we beneficiaries did not pay enough in, and neither are the its future beneficiaries.

There are three types of alternatives: increasing contribution rates, cutting benefits, or using general government revenues. If nothing is done, the solution will occur anyway, since no one can repeal economics over the long run. It is just that the people who will be forced to do something will have less control over what happens.

sonicfrog said...

Personally, I prefer a means test on SS. One of the inherent problems with raising the age of retirement is that as people are forced to work for five more years, you lock up workplace turnover and exacerbate unemployment.

PG said...

The permanent problem with means-testing SS and Medicare is that conservatives will immediately declare them to be "welfare" and thus something to be demonized. Anything that a Koch brother isn't entitled to get = welfare.

N. Friedman said...

This is an example of doing exactly what Charlie Cook claims to be a serial offense error made by Democrats. To quote him: "One of the mistakes that Democrats seem to have repeatedly made is to poll specific issue questions, get their desired results, but then have their interpretation of the data lack context."

Source: "First, Admit You Have a Problem," by Charlie Cook, National Journal, December 6, 2010. [Note: I would post the URL but, from experience, know it sends posts into ether.]

In other words, this is basically a nonsense point raised by the very smart Jon Chait.

Anonymous said...

Yes. That definitely sounds like a serial offense error affecting only Democrats.