Republicans Don't Want to Cut Spending Either


If you want to know why it's so hard for elected officials to make a deal that begins to close the federal budget gap, look no further than a new poll by McClatchy-Marist. The results of the poll show that while many respondents say they would like to see a budget deal, there's little support for any of the specific measures included in the survey. A majority of respondents opposed cuts to Medicare, changes to the program's eligibility age,  cuts to Social Security, letting the current payroll tax cut expire, letting the Bush tax cuts expire on everyone, eliminating the tax deduction for charitable contributions, cutting spending on Medicaid, reducing the home mortgage interest tax deduction. The only proposal supported by a majority is raising taxes on the wealthy. This tells you a lot about why the fiscal cliff negotiations are moving so slowly, and why it's so difficult to for Congress come to agreement on a budget deal. 

What's particularly revealing, though, is what you see when you single out the poll's self-identified Republicans. Unlike the overall polling sample, a majority of the poll's Republicans do not support raising taxes on the wealthy. But they don't support any of the  spending cuts mentioned in the poll either. Not to Medicare or Medicaid, and not to the tax loopholes surveyed either. Republicans, in other words, don't support much of anything except leaving things the way they are now. Which is exactly what we can't do.

Might there be some spending cuts that Republicans do support that just didn't get included in this poll? Probably. Polls suggest that most voters are open to cuts in foreign aid. Cutting subsidies for public broadcasting usually plays well with the GOP base. But polls also tell us that voters consistently overestimate how much of the budget is spent on those sorts of things by a large margin: Surveys have shown that respondents estimate that 10-25 percent of the federal budget goes to funding foreign aid, and about 5 percent goes to public broadcasting. The reality is that only about 1 percent funds foreign aid, and only about 0.1 percent is used to subsidize public broadcasting.

This confusion, and the unwillingness to face up to our actual long-term budgetary challenges, explains a lot about why the GOP's last presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, talked a big game about cutting deficits and reducing the debt, but when asked for specifics focused heavily on small-ball spending cuts. It also helps explain why Republicans now are so often wary of talking about overhauling the entitlement system. And it also speaks to a larger confusion within the party about what government should do and be: In theory, the GOP is the party of small government. But polls like this one suggest that it's really the party of the status quo.

NEXT: Twitter Responds to Pope's First Tweet

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Damn orange-line cosmos, always in the tank for the dumbocrats!

    1. Can we cut funding for JJ?

      1. Without comment funding, how would JJ afford a new monocle and top hat every year? Do you want him to die in the streets, cold, blind, and ungentlemanly?

        1. If I say yes, am I a bad person?

          1. Yes, but that’s regardless of your answer.

            1. The sad thing is that I knew that already.

          2. Ha, of course not! Duh, you’re an ancap, which is way past “bad person” on the relevant epithet spectrum.

            1. I AM NOT AN ANCAP. I am an individualist anarchist.

              1. I need to find the introductory post by one of Balko’s guest bloggers from this past summer. His attempt to label himself wound up in an indecipherable mess of a description.

                1. See if you can make sense of this, because when I read it, my brain went to mush:

                  I am a Hayekian thick libertarian who is increasingly agnostic on the question of philosophical anarchism

                  1. Well, I get the “Hayekian” and “thick libertarian” part at least.

                  2. By “thick libertarian”, she means she got a fine badonkadonk.

                    1. OMG I can be two kinds of thick libertarian AT THE SAME TIME. Sweet, HM.

              2. I AM NOT AN ANCAP. I am an individualist anarchist.

                Oh geez. You make it sound like she called you an Emacs user.

                1. You make it sound like she called you an Emacs user.
                  I lol’d.

              3. Seriously, don’t get smart with me. LIKE I DON’T ALREADY KNOW THAT.

            2. He’s the DJ, I’m the Ancap.

        1. I’m pissed that she’s not Ana Ivanovi?.

  2. Can’t cut spending, someone might not vote for you. Fucking freeloaders.

  3. But polls like this one suggest that it’s really the party of the status quo.

    “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”
    – G.K. Chesterton

  4. They’re open to cutting anything, just not that.

    1. Isn’t this a Meatloaf song?

  5. Why not, instead of some grand compromise, have the GOP pass a bill extending the Bush/Obama tax rates for everyone? Let the Dems be the ones to refuse to continue the middle class rates. Then introduce a series of bills cutting specific items of spending. That will smoke out both sides and, if no specific cuts get passed, then let’s all agree to live with huge deficits and start learning to speak Mandarin so we can communicate better with our eventual owners.

    1. Mandarin so we can communicate better with our eventual owners.

      LOL I think I would rather owe 20 trillion dollars than be owed 20 trillion dollars. You know that old saying about owe a little and the bank owns you but owe enough and you own the bank.

  6. Of course they don’t want to cut anything. What did they do the last time they ran the government?

  7. This comes as a complete surprise to me.

  8. “Republicans Don’t Want to Cut Spending Either”

    The sky is blue today.
    Michael Jackson is dead.

    1. I saw Elvis and Spiderman outside of Bally’s last week though.

  9. Yes. Duh. Exactly why the cliffpocalypsemageddonacaust can’t come soon enough. A little reality goes a long ways.

  10. I think I need someone to explain the differences between TEAM Red and TEAM Blue to me because I seem to have forgotten already.

    1. Difference?

      You seem to be mistaken.

    2. The difference is that one is red on the left side, the other red on the right side.

    3. “You’re BLUE on one side and RED on the other.”

      “I am BLUE on the right side.”

      “I fail to see the significant difference.”

      “Lokai is RED on the right side. All of his people are RED on the right side.”

    4. We all make jokes about this, but you know there are some who say (yuk yuk) that since the Pauls are on Team Red, that means we should all support republicans.

      1. Well then obviously since I like sex, I should just sleep with every woman I see whether she’s willing or not.

        1. How else are you gonna get laid?

      2. Or, how about we support, I dunno, the Pauls and reject most of the rest as venal statists?

  11. I don’t want to predict that we have reached peak stupid, we probably haven’t. But I think we may have reached the point where every extra unit of stupid hurts us very little (more). So I guess that’s like the silver lining or something, right?

    1. Once you’ve filled up the inflatable life raft with enough boxes of rusty nails and sharp metal screws, one more box doesn’t much matter.

  12. The only proposal supported by a majority is raising taxes on the wealthy.

    This brings me back to my rant from yesterday. If government programs were accounted for honestly, it would be impossible for anybody with an IQ over 40 to delude themselves into thinking we just need to rob the rich to give to the poor HARDER.

    1. Instead of picking on the wealthy, some of whom think mutually, why not simply enslave a subset of the population that the majority really doesn’t like? In other words, a 100% tax on the disliked minority?

      1. I’m all for that, as long as the disliked minority is politicians.

      2. I think we would be that disliked minority.

        1. Probably. Certainly among the disliked minority.

        2. I thought we already were.

      3. In other words, a 100% tax on the disliked minority?

        That is pretty much what the Nazis did. The problem is when that minority’s money runs out, what then?

        That is what is so funny and pathetic about the whole thing. Do university faculties and unions and liberal foundations who are now screaming to loot the rich not understand that when the “rich’s” money runs out the mob will turn on them?

        1. No, John, they do not understand that. Class war is inevitably the upper middle class hating on the upper class, without the slightest bit of self-awareness or the realization that they are next.

          1. Pretty much. One of these days people are going to turn on the universities like they did on the monasteries.

            1. I think it’ll be the universities and big foundations (Pew-pew-pew, Ford, etc). NGOs with piles of money will also be targetted.

          2. And even some people who are aware that this has historically been the pattern are still un-self-aware enough to re?nact it themselves.

            1. Ooh, a diaresis mark! The turning on the clerisy remarks remind me of the following:

              William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
              Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
              William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
              Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

              1. Yay, you didn’t call it an umlaut!

          3. More like the upper class conspiring with the governing class to make sure that the upper-middle class pays a heck of a lot higher tax rates than the upper class does.

            Compare the top individual rates to the capital gains rates.

    2. we just need to rob the rich to give to the poor HARDER.

      Oh P Brooks, you have it all wrong. We just need to ask the rich to pay more. Ask.

      1. damn that “ask” nonsense is infuriating.

        1. It’s a voluntary system, right?

          See “Aaron Russo talks with IRS Commissioner Sheldon Cohen” on Youtube

      2. YEah, don’t they all want to pay more already? Warren Buffet said so.

      3. nicole has it right. That’s the only way we can justify taking more money: when they refuse our “request”, it’ll show they’re bad people who don’t DESERVE the money they have since they won’t do what we want with it.

        1. Damn, strikethrough just doesn’t work with some things.

    3. It is already impossible for anyone with a trace of curiosity and an IQ over 40 to delude themselves.

      1. Someone with an IQ under 40 doesn’t have enough intellectual firepower to delude themselves. I think the IQ necessary for self-delusion is probably in the 110-150 range.

  13. Holy moley, looks like someone strapped a jetpack onto the gold price’s back. Did Bernanke open his mouth again?

    1. yes — Fed pledges to keep interest rates low until unemployment falls below 6.5 percent and inflation tops 2.5 percent.


      1. I like the AND in that. So when inflation goes to 14% and unemployment is 6.7%, we’ll still be printing cheap money. Fuckers. If they would’ve raised the rates in ’05, half our financial crisis would never have existed.

        Sometimes I optimistically think of this time as the end of the unsuccessful century long experiment in central banking. (No, I have no evidence to support the “end” part, but that which can’t go on forever must end.)

      2. until unemployment falls below 6.5 percent

        What does everyone stopping looking for work (the unemployment will not drop because anyone finds a job) have anything to do with determining when you let interest rates rise?

        For fucks sakes the drooling imbeciles may as well set their triggers by counting sun spots. Hell it would probably work better.

    2. I keep trying to explain to Shrieking Idiot that gold will never collapse as long as Easy Money Forever is going on, but I think he’s far too stupid to even understand the correlation there.

      1. He’s a sock puppet. He understands what you are saying but so long as you are willing to play his game, he won’t stop contradicting you.

  14. I understand that both parties and the media lie. But Jesus H. Christ people do bear some responsibility for their ignorance. There is no excuse for being so stupid that you think cutting foreign aid and PBS will balance the budget anymore than taxing the 1% will. The country really does get the government it deserves.

  15. Get what we deserve, good and hard.

    1. What do you mean “we”?

      I voted for G-Money.

  16. Asking about Medicare and SS in this context is a little dishonest, since those are mostly paid for by their own taxes. According to CBO they cost 1205B together while bringing in 819B in taxes. Compare that to defense which brings in zilch and costs 700B.

    1. Of course defense is an actual constitutionally mandated function of the federal government and the rest of that shit is not and is probably outright prohibited if you read the Constitution properly.

      1. Most of the defense stuff we’re doing now is also unconstitutional if you read that bit about “declaring war”.

        1. Outside of Libya, Congress approved all of it. That is “declaring war”.

          1. You mean Libya, Yemen, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, and soon Mali. Then places I have to look at a map to name.

      2. ANother good example of how the Constitution doesn’t really limit government spending, even when it’s followed.

    2. They’re not. I can’t speak to SS, but Medicare has a nice chuck of general tax revnues in it. 2010 numbers:

      Payroll taxes, $182 billion
      Premiums, $61 billion
      Taxation of benefits, $13.8 billion
      General revenue, $205 billion
      Transfers from states for prescription drug benefits, $4 billion

  17. Did Bernanke open his mouth again?


    1. How is Tarantino still the headline on Drudge with that announcement out there?

      Full Fed statement, confession, I skimmed: http://www.federalreserve.gov/…..21212a.htm

      BTW, I have never been able to warm up to Foxx so I don’t really plan to enjoy the latest from QT.

      1. Inglorious Basterdz of the South is going to be its own little culture war for weeks on end.

        1. I don’t think so. The movie is too boring to even get the culture warriors fighting about it. No one cares about Tarantino anymore. He made a movie about a Mexican White race war and no one cared. Why will they care about this one?

          1. You poor deluded fool.

  18. Maybe we should try cutting the rest of the budget so that current levels of public broadcasting funding actually do represent 5% of the budget. That would bring spending in line with everyone’s expectations 😉

  19. Yeah, who on Team Red dreamed up the idea of limiting deductions? Mitt Romney? Why are Republicans so keen on increasing the government’s take, as long as nominal rates don’t go up?

    Why not just cut spending?

  20. I think I understand how people overestimate the amount that goes into “public” broadcasting. One factor is among those who get their news mostly from TV. That news is mostly about activities of gov’t. Well, there’s an entire TV channel that is that, so it must be a big fraction of the whole!

    Another factor is that people, esp. radical libertarians, overestimate the proportion of tax funding of public broadcasting. Ironically it’s because they underestimate the power of voluntarism, and don’t think there could be that much coming in in donations!

    Finally, people overestimate the costs. As more people become familiar with producing video & distributing it via the Internet, they come to realize how cheap it is.

    1. so cutting it out would be no big deal then, right?

      1. It would probably improve it.

  21. How is Tarantino still the headline on Drudge with that announcement out there?

    How is it that Tarantino gets funding for his suckass movies?
    That’s what I cannot understand.

    1. Me either. We get it, you want to make updated, campy ultra violent versions of bad 70s B movies. Big fucking deal. It was okay once or twice. But we are now almost 20 years on from Pulp Fiction. And he is still making the same stupid shit.

  22. Part of the problem is that most people have a really unrealistic view of where government spending goes. I remember seeing a poll once that asked people to estimate what percentage of the budget gets spent on different things. It revealed things like Republicans, on average, thinking 5% of the federal budget goes to NPR.

    As a result, they think you can get major spending cuts solely within programs that make up tiny slivers of the actual spending pie.

    1. Yeah…but it is odd that this poll does not ask about military and discretionary spending cuts.

      They are not the whole budget but they could take substantial cuts that would make a difference.

      We know things no one wants to cut…how about we talk a little about the things that people would not care if it was cut?

      Instead of making the fib that that no one wants to cut anything.

      1. This makes sense if we’re talking cutting things because the government ought not be doing them at all, but this is within the context of a debate on how to deal with our Trillion per year deficit. As much as I’d like to see all funding for public broadcasting eliminated, you could cut that completely and the deficit wouldn’t even noticably change.

        At some point we have to discuss cutting things that are widely popular, because (not suprisingly) that’s what the government spends the most on.

  23. Do university faculties and unions and liberal foundations who are now screaming to loot the rich not understand that when the “rich’s” money runs out the mob will turn on them?

    It’s obvious to the most casual observer. Unlike the dreaded PlutocRattus Americanus the selfless nobility of the Thinking Class all earned their six figure salaries.


  24. But polls like this one suggest that it’s really the party of the status quo.


    Who the hell needs a poll to suggest that to me when we have the past 20 years of republican legislative history?

  25. Discretionary spending in 2011 was 699 billion for defense and 647 billion for non-defense.


    that stuff can be cut.

  26. So Republicans aren’t heartless after all as Obama and other Democrats have said repeatedly over the last several years? I’m sure most Republicans want to cut healthcare spending as it makes up a whopping quarter of the federal budget and that much or more of state and many local budgets. But the former CBO director said that he believed that a trillion dollars of Medicaid spending should be cut over the next decade. Federal Medicaid spending is about 275 billion dollars a year, which means that Medicaid would be cut by more than a third, which would put a great burden on many poor people. The same thing goes with Medicare. Medicare spending is about 500 billion dollars a year, which means that Medicare would be cut by about a fifth. According to Paul Ryan’s plan, Medicare would not be cut for at least 10 years. If health care spending is a quarter of the federal budget and total government healthcare spending is about 8% of U.S. GDP, which is roughly comparable to other industrialized countries then the United States should be able to come up with a free market solution to be able to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans. This would have been a great opening for Romney and other Republicans during the recent election, but for some reason Republicans wouldn’t talk about a realistic replacement for Obamacare. Instead, Romney said that half of the population are irresponsible moochers and and were bribed by Obama for their votes.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.